Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 17:56 UK

Ruling allows guide dog in mosque

Mohammed Abraar Khatri and his guide dog Vargo
Mohammed Abraar Khatri's confidence is said to be growing

An 18-year-old blind Muslim student in Leicester is the first to be allowed to take his guide dog into a UK mosque.

In Islam dogs are regarded as unclean and are not allowed in mosques.

However, the Muslim Law (Shari'ah) Council UK has now issued a fatwa which allows guide dogs inside mosques but not into prayer rooms.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the Muslim Council of Britain worked together to support Mohammed Abraar Khatri's request.

Guide Dogs for the Blind said it was "a massive step forward for other blind and partially-sighted Muslims".

Such a facility will highlight the Islamic attitude of helping disabled people
Mohammad Shahid Raza
Imams and Mosques Council UK
An association spokesman said: "It is also hoped that mosque leaders both in the UK and internationally will now make similar adjustments to enable Muslim guide dog owners to enter their mosque."

Mr Khatri, who owns a guide dog called Vargo, said the religious authorities felt they had a duty to help him.

"They were actually very good and they were the ones who were willing to help because they said it is their duty to accommodate.

"He does just lie down and relax there and sit here. Being a guide dog, their whole manner is to be calm and relaxed and just out of the way."

A special rest area has been set up in the entrance of the Bilal Jamia Mosque for Vargo to stay in while his owner is praying.

The decision was made after lengthy discussions with Muslim leaders

"Mohammad Shahid Raza, director of the Imams and Mosques Council UK, said: "I believe that in all new mosques such facilities for disabled people will be an essential part of their design.

The Bilal Mosque is going to provide special provision for such guide dogs to be kept safely and securely within the mosque complex during such visits.

"Such a facility will highlight the Islamic attitude of helping disabled people and enhance the services we provide to the Muslim community."

Mohammed's father Gafar Khatri said: "Now instead of being dependent on other people to take him places he can now go where ever he wants when he wants.

"Obviously it is early days but his confidence is growing daily."

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