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Defying taboos, Shiite cleric in Iran takes in street dogs and nurses them back to health

by Madison Thomas
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Shiite cleric

Title: Shiite Cleric in Iran Defies Taboos, Rescues and Cares for Street Dogs

Introduction

QOM, Iran (BBN) — Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei, a Shiite cleric in Iran, has defied local taboos by rescuing and nurturing street dogs. Despite the negative perception of dogs in some parts of the Muslim world and Iran’s ruling theocracy’s opposition to keeping them as pets, Tabatabaei has opened a shelter in Qom, where he provides care and treatment for abused and neglected dogs.

A Unique Instagram Following

Tabatabaei has attracted a large following of over 80,000 adoring young fans on Instagram. Through regular posts, he shares heart-wrenching stories of the dogs he rescues and updates his followers on their progress. His young supporters leave hundreds of comments expressing well wishes and seeking updates on the rescued dogs.

Challenging Local Taboos

In parts of the Muslim world, dogs are considered unclean and are often mistreated or harmed. Iran’s clerical establishment, influenced by the ruling theocracy, views dog ownership as a symbol of Western decadence. Hard-liners have even advocated for laws to prohibit walking dogs in public. However, Tabatabaei has opened a shelter in Qom, a city known for its religious schools and shrines, where he takes in street dogs and strays, providing them with care and rehabilitation.

A Voice for Animal Rights

Despite societal divisions regarding the role of religion in public life, Tabatabaei has become an unlikely advocate for animal rights in Iran. Islam prohibits animal cruelty and promotes compassion towards animals in need. While feeding stray cats is common in the Middle East, dogs are often shunned, and local authorities resort to shooting or poisoning them. Tabatabaei’s efforts to protect and care for dogs challenge prevailing beliefs and highlight the importance of treating animals with kindness.

Challenges and Appeals for Support

Tabatabaei relies on donations from animal lovers both in Iran and abroad to sustain his shelter. However, economic sanctions imposed on Iran due to its disputed nuclear program have severely limited his access to funds. The country’s banking system is isolated from the international community, making it difficult to receive financial support. Tabatabaei appeals to Western governments, particularly the United States, to consider making exceptions for humanitarian organizations like his, allowing them to receive assistance without violating sanctions.

Longing for Change in Iran

In addition to external support, Tabatabaei hopes for change within Iran itself. He advocates for lifting the ban on dog-walking in parks and emphasizes the need for laws and regulations to protect animal rights and prevent animal cruelty. Despite frustrations with clerical rule expressed by many Iranians, Tabatabaei remains a beloved figure, admired for his compassion and dedication to animal welfare.

Inspiring Acts of Kindness

Tabatabaei’s work has touched the lives of many Iranians, especially the younger generation. People like Zahra Hojabri, who found a dying puppy on the roadside, turn to Tabatabaei for help and see him as an angelic figure. His compassionate actions resonate deeply, creating a sense of kindness, peace, and friendship among those who follow his journey.

What is the significance of Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei’s work as a Shiite cleric in Iran?

Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei’s work as a Shiite cleric in Iran is significant because he defies local taboos and advocates for animal rights. In a society where dogs are considered unclean and keeping them as pets is seen as a sign of Western decadence, Tabatabaei’s efforts to rescue and care for street dogs challenge prevailing beliefs and promote compassion towards animals.

How does Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei attract followers and support for his cause?

Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei attracts followers and support for his cause through his Instagram account. With over 80,000 followers, he regularly shares heartbreaking stories of abused and neglected dogs that he rescues and nurtures in his shelter. His young fans show their support by leaving comments, seeking updates on the rescued dogs, and expressing well wishes.

What challenges does Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei face in his work?

Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei faces several challenges in his work. One major challenge is the opposition from fellow clerics and religious institutions. His actions have led to controversy, and there have been attempts to defrock him for tending to dogs while wearing his clerical robes. Additionally, he struggles with limited funds due to economic sanctions imposed on Iran, making it difficult to sustain his shelter and provide proper care for the dogs.

How can Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei’s cause be supported?

Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei’s cause can be supported through various means. One way is by donating funds to help sustain his shelter and provide for the dogs’ needs. He appeals to Western governments, particularly the United States, to consider making exceptions for humanitarian organizations like his, allowing them to receive financial assistance without violating sanctions. Spreading awareness about his work and advocating for animal rights in Iran can also contribute to his cause.

How is Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei viewed by the Iranian society?

Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei is viewed differently by different segments of Iranian society. While he has faced opposition from fellow clerics and religious institutions, many Iranians, especially the younger generation, admire him for his compassion and dedication to animal welfare. His work has touched the lives of those who appreciate his efforts to challenge societal norms and promote kindness towards animals.

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