Culturally, there is a plethora of differences between Americans and Arabs. Many of these are just normal differences between any two cultures like the culture of celebrating the Halloween. Few others I can’t figure out like why men take showers in front of each others TOTALLY NAKED in the Gym.
Here is one that I also couldn’t figure out; Americans LOVE of dogs. This love relationship is not just a love between a pet and his owner. In some cases, dogs are treated, or may be considered, like humans. Some dog owners pay ten of thousands of dollars to cure their dogs. A professor in my former university paid a huge sum of money for his dog psychiatrists.
Here is another example how dogs are not just pets here. Guess what was the first mission of the White House when President Obama won the presidency back in 2008? Yes, finding the president’s family a dog. I still remember the media coverage over this story until Bo is finally found. This shows how for the president to be close to the citizens he must own a dog, like any other American family.
In my 10 years in the U.S. I don’t think I have met any American who doesn’t own a dog. I have seen people here who get offended when someone says something bad about their dog, like he is loud or she misbehaves. Similar when a mother is told that her child misbehaved or something.
It is very often that dogs are referred to as a member of the family. Many times I heard someone say “I don’t have kids but I have two dogs” or “I have two girls and a dog.”
So, for a society that has such fond of dogs you have to expect to see them everywhere you go. I have seen dogs in many private businesses as well. This is a big problem for some new comer Muslims. Dog owners expect others to pat their dogs and act like when an adult sees a baby. Dogs here are nice and friendly. Unlike cats, dogs like to play with strangers. So, you can imagine the reaction of an Arab when he enters an office and a dog jumps and licks him.
As you may or may not know Muslims don’t have such fond for dogs. Mainly, because in Islam dogs’ saliva is considered not clean. This is an important issue since Muslims pray five times a day and they have to be clean before praying. Having a dog at home would be a problem for Muslims.
There are some different opinions about dogs. Some Muslims, mistakenly, think that touching dogs nullifies one’s Wudu’. And many Muslims also don’t like dogs thinking they are not clean. But many Muslim scholars agree that it is the dog’s saliva that is not clean not his body. And for this reason owning dogs are not haram in Islam. Can you imagine a bedouin or a shepherd without a dog? But here is the thing that might be shocking for Americans, dogs can’t stay inside the house. There are many Muslims who love their dogs but they are not allowed inside.
Here is a funny true story told by a friend who was on the phone with a customer service rep:
American Customer Service Rep: D as in dog?
Arab Customer: NO! D AS IN David!
My friend laughed at his reaction but he was convinced that saying “D as in David” is better than saying “D as in dog.”
When an Arab calls someone a dog it is a big insult. Americans say “You dog.” But I don’t think it means what Arabs mean, it is not an obscene or a big insult.