A British Muslim body has ruled that a blind student can take a guide dog with him to his local mosque, a judgment Muslim and blind advocacy groups are hailing as a breakthrough.
The Muslim Law Council (Shariah) UK issued a fatwa allowing 18-year-old Mahomed-Abraar Khatri to take his dog with him to the Bilal Jamia Mosque in the English city of Leicester, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of London.
"I hope it will should open up some doors and let other people to get a dog and not be worried of any religious aspects behind it," Khatri told British Broadcasting Corp. television in an interview broadcast Wednesday.
Observant Muslims generally regard dogs as unclean and they are not allowed in mosques. It was not immediately clear whether this was the first time a dog has been allowed in a British mosque — or whether the move had any precedent elsewhere.
Ahmed Rehab, a spokesman for the U.S.-based Council on American Islamic Relations, said he had never heard of a guide dog being allowed into or turned away from a mosque in the United States.
"I suspect that most people with dogs will self-police, and won't go to the mosque with a dog," he said.
Under the British fatwa, Khatri's dog still cannot go into the prayer hall. Instead, Khatri leaves it in a gated area in the entryway near where the shoes are kept.
BBC television footage showed Khatri ushering his yellow Labrador, Vargo, into the enclosure.
The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group of U.K. Muslim organizations, said it was pleased with the ruling.
"The scholars who have deliberated this ruling have explored the issue from all angles and we are delighted with their fatwa," MCB Assistant Secretary-General Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra said.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association described the decision as "a massive step forward for other blind and partially sighted Muslims."