Saudi Arabia's religious police, normally tasked with chiding women to cover themselves and ensuring men attend mosque prayers, are turning to a new target: cats and dogs.
The police have issued a decree banning the sale of the pets, seen as a sign of Western influence.
The prohibition on dogs may be less of a surprise, since conservative Muslims despise dogs as unclean. But the cat ban befuddled many, since Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad loved cats, even in one instance letting a cat drink from his ablutions water before washing himself for prayers.
The decree _ which applies to the Red Sea port city of Jiddah and the holy city of Mecca, bans the sale of cats and dogs because "some youths have been buying them and parading them in public," according to a memo from the Municipal Affairs Ministry to Jiddah's city government.
"One bad habit spreading among our youths is the acquisition of dogs and showing them off in the streets and malls," wrote Aleetha al-Jihani in a letter to Al-Madina newspaper. "There's no doubt that such a matter makes one shudder."
"Then what's the point of dragging a dog behind you?" he added. "This is blind emulation of the infidels."