Leaflets calling for a ban on dogs in public places were distributed in the Cheetham Hill and Salford areas of Greater Manchester, England, in the name of a reputed pro-Muslim group called "For Public Purity."
Prominently emblazoned with a "no dogs allowed" graphic and the Arabic word for "purity" (which, as a reader has pointed out, also resembles the Internet slang expression "lolz" when flipped horizontally), the gaudy red and green leaflets entreated residents to limit the presence of dogs in public out of "respect" for followers of Islam, who supposedly consider dogs "impure":
This area is home to a large Muslim community. Please have respect for us and for our children and limit the presence of dogs in the public sphere.
Keeping the purity of the public space enables the Muslims remain [sic] untainted and without blemish.
As part of this effort, we have chosen to address one of the aspects that can have a detrimental effect on the purity of the public space, with the aspect being the presence of dogs who are considered impure in Islam.
The leaflets included the URLs of a web site, 4publicpurity.org and a For Public Purity Facebook page featuring Islamic texts and videos of Islamic scholars discussing the "uncleanliness" of dogs.
Predictably, the material has raised both hackles and skepticism on social media, with some users calling for a retaliatory ban on Muslims:
When muslims hate dogs and Christians so much,why do they come to a Christian dog loving country,apart from the benefits?Go home.
— Dewi (@canofwormstwo) July 14, 2016
— and others arguing that the fliers were distributed by anti-Islam activists hoping to sow divisiveness in the community:
So I've been reading about some group calling themselves 'For Public Purity'
Surely this is some sick hoax conjured up by far-right dicks?
— Reece Hughes (@TheMadMidlander) July 13, 2016
Still others are convinced it's just a prank. Regardless of the intent, there are several reasons to doubt the authenticity of the group and its stated mission:
- There is no evidence of the existence of an organization called For Public Purity prior to March 2016, when the Facebook page and web site were first created.
- None of the group's materials offer contact information beyond a web address and a social media presence.
- For Public Purity has no discernible association with any real-world Islamic organizations.
- Though it's true that there are Islamic writings suggesting that dogs are unclean and their saliva, in particular, should be avoided, it is neither an issue on which all Muslims agree, nor, judging from the dearth of previous calls for banning dogs from public spaces, one that most Muslims find critical to their faith. Many Muslims are, in fact, dog owners.
A popular theory attributes the entire campaign to 4chan, the notorious den of online pranksters, but such evidence as there is (namely a single thread on the 4chan Politics board) is self-contradictory and inconclusive.
The incident resembles a similar event in May 2014, when a homemade sign posted near a park in east London advised, "Do not walk your dog here! Muslims do not like dogs. This is an islamic [sic] area."