Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”

Sunday February 19, 2017 was an unseasonably warm day and frankly an exhilarating relief from the past couple of months of bitter cold and very rough storms across Lebanon. Consequently, approximately two thousand Syrian refugees, roughly two-thirds being children from all of Syria’s 14 governorates, from Daraa in the Southwest to al-Hasaka in the Northeast, enjoyed Aleppo Park last weekend.

Meals for Syrian Refugee Children: Lebanon (MSCRL) is thrilled to have been able to arrange for what will hopefully be a regular water delivery to the park. Scores of containers were filled from the truck shown below. What we need to do now is to acquire a large plastic water tank like what are used around Lebanon on the tops of apartment buildings and fit it with two faucets and attached sink.

Aleppo Park also needs 12 portable toilets … six for women and six for men.

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The above family is from al-Hasaka in far northeastern Syria and has become friends with MSRCL. Many refugee families build campfires and cook a meal often followed with smoking from an argileh (hookah) water pipe. One can imagine the wafting mouthwatering smell of lamb meat or chicken being grilled on an open fire in Aleppo Park on a pleasant afternoon .

Last week a lovely neighborhood Sheik who regularly drops by from a nearby Mosque asked MSRCL why we allow dogs into Aleppo Park where they might have contact with children. A couple of other people have also asked.

For we dog lovers it’s obvious why– but it’s a fact that plenty of people claim to be bound by Koranic injunctions condemning dogs and the Muslim community is sometimes blamed for abuse, cruelty and/or neglect of animals generally.

Our neighborhood Sheik instructed MSRCL recently that traditionally dogs have been seen as impure, and the Islamic legal tradition has developed several injunctions that warn Muslims against most contact with dogs. Unfortunately, many Muslims have used this view to justify the abuse and neglect of dogs, even though cruelty contradicts the Qur’an’s view that all animals form “communities like you.”

The Sheik explained that in the Hadith, which is a collection of traditions containing sayings of the prophet Muhammad, and that along with Muhammad’s accounts of his daily practice (the Sunna) constitutes the major source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Koran, dogs are essentially Haram.

Hadith Book 024 has a sections asserting that in the day of Mohammad, A’isha, Mohammad’s third and youngest wife, reported that Archangel Gabriel made a promise with Allah’s Messenger to come at a definite hour; that hour came but he did not visit him.

And that Mohammad was holding a staff and became angry and threw it down and reportedly said to A’isha, “Never has Allah or His messengers ever broken their promise. “Then he looked around and by chance found a puppy under his bed and said: ‘A’isha, when did this dog enter here?” She reportedly replied: “I swear to Allah, I don’t know!” (Some have suggested that it was Aisha’s secret pet). Mohammad then commanded that the puppy be taken away. Then Archangel Gabriel came by and Prophet Mohammad said to him: “You promised me and I waited for you. But you did not come!” Whereupon Archangel Gabriel replied: “It was the dog in your house which prevented me from coming, we angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog.”

On that same morning according to the Hadith, Mohammad commanded the killing of dogs, including the dog kept for guarding the orchards. But he spared the dog that protected the fields or large gardens.

The Koran mentions dogs used for hunting and many Muslims believe the animals can be kept, if used for a specific purpose. According to Islam Questions and Answers, “It is not permissible for a Muslim to keep a dog, unless he needs this dog for hunting, guarding livestock or guarding crops.” Many in Lebanon appear to agree and dogs one sees around this country are in pretty bad shape. Once in a while one hears of cab drivers who will not pick up a blind person with a guide dog.

Unfortunately some Muslims still mistreat in the name of Islam. This contributes to propaganda against Islam. When a non-Muslim is cruel to an animal, it is considered an individual’s action, but when a Muslim does it, non-Muslims see it as an Islamic practice.

Many in Lebanon believe the Hadith excerpts and there is still a phenomenon of some reported cases of Muslims taking their dogs and cats to an animal hospitals or mobile clinic during Ramadan, to have them put to death by lethal injection. Healthy, happy animals belonging to Muslims are also brought in to be put to death. The reason given by the majority of these Muslims was that Islam forbids them to keep a dog while others will claim that it is not even permissible to touch a dog.

The Sheik further explained that Muhammad believed that “Black dogs” were demonic and should be killed. Well, this makes it a bit tough for Aleppo Park’s new mascot puppy who the kids have named; you guessed it, Aleppo. As chance would have it Aleppo, shown below, is rather Black. One lovely seven year old boy from Homs, after listening to the Sheik suggested that we color Aleppo’s hair like his mother does hers. MSRCL is not sure the Sheik would go along with the lads interesting suggestion but perhaps it warrants consideration.

Seriously though, the Sheik is a good fellow and as long as there are no ISIS/Daesh wannabes lurking in the shadows, Puppy Aleppo should have a good life in his park with his scores of new Syrian friends. The kids plan to get him a dog house with a blanket to sleep on and to bring him food.

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A student from Damascus objected to what the Sheik explained and told our small gathering that all animals including dogs and pigs are a part of Allah’s creation and belong to Allah. Muslims she said are custodians of this planet. How we care for animals and what we use them for we will be judged by Allah. The young lady insisted that all of creation is Muslim, submitting to Allah’s will–only man and Angels (Ginn) are granted a freedom of choice. This being the case she insisted that even animals are Muslim.

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Children are sometimes shy and even apprehensive around strange dogs. That’s understandable. But in nearly every case, when a dog now comes into Aleppo Park it does not take long before these Syrian children flock to pet it and even teach it to chase balls.

This observer swears that last weekend he even eye witnessed the Sheik smiling at puppy Aleppo and the gentleman actually started to reach out his hand to pet him! But he apparently thought better of it and quickly withdrew his hand as he looked over his shoulder and out of the corner of his eye saw two chador donned women watching him.

Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Lebanon, France, and USA based Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children in Lebanon. He is reachable c/o