Saudi clerics have trouble with whole concept of “purity laws”

You know, sometimes the Jewish press covers really bizarre arguments between Talmudic scholars. But, as this story proves, those Wahhabis can give any yeshiva boy a run for his money:

Women in Saudi Arabia should give their breast milk to male colleagues and acquaintances in order to avoid breaking strict Islamic law forbidding mixing between the sexes, two powerful Saudi clerics have said. They are at odds, however, over precisely how the milk should be conveyed.

A fatwa issued recently about adult breast-feeding to establish “maternal relations” and preclude the possibility of sexual contact has resulted in a week’s worth of newspaper headlines in Saudi Arabia. Some have found the debate so bizarre that they’re calling for stricter regulations about how and when fatwas should be issued.

Sheikh Al Obeikan, an adviser to the royal court and consultant to the Ministry of Justice, set off a firestorm of controversy recently when he said on TV that women who come into regular contact with men who aren’t related to them ought to give them their breast milk so they will be considered relatives.

“The man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman,” Al Obeikan said, according to Gulf News. “He should drink it and then becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam’s rules about mixing.”

Obeikan said the fatwa applied to men who live in the same house or come into contact with women on a regular basis, except for drivers.

Al Obeikan, who made the statement after being asked on TV about a 2007 fatwa issued by an Egyptian scholar about adult breast-feeding, said that the breast milk ought to be pumped out and given to men in a glass.

But his remarks were followed by an announcement by another high-profile sheik, Abi Ishaq Al Huwaini, who said that men should suckle the breast milk directly from a woman’s breast.

Shortly after the two sheiks weighed in on the matter, a bus driver in the country’s Eastern Region reportedly told one of the female teachers whom he drives regularly that he wanted to suckle milk from her breast. The teacher has threaten to file a lawsuit against him.

A good slap would be more like it, although the Saudi legal system might look askance at that. It seems you just can’t get good bus drivers these days…

The fatwa stems from the tenets of the strict Wahhabi version of Islam that governs modern Saudi Arabia and forbids women from mixing with men who are not relatives. They are also not allowed to vote, drive or even leave the country without the consent of a male “guardian.”

Under Islamic law, women are encouraged to breast-feed their children until the age of 2. It is not uncommon for sisters, for example, to breast-feed their nephews so they and their daughters will not have to cover their faces in front of them later in life. The custom is called being a “breast milk sibling.”

But under Islamic law, breast milk siblings have to be breastfed before the age of 2 in five “fulfilling” sessions. Islam prohibits sexual relations between a man and any woman who breastfed him in infancy. They are then allowed to be alone together when the man is an adult because he is not considered a potential mate.

Hmm. I get the general concept, and presumably the idea is to extend this relationship to adults so as to circumvent those tricky purity laws. But hold on, aren’t we lacking a female perspective?

“The whole issue just shows how clueless men are,” blogger Eman Al Nafjan wrote on her website. “All this back and forth between sheiks and not one bothers to ask a woman if it’s logical, let alone possible to breastfeed a grown man five fulfilling breast milk meals.

“Moreover, the thought of a huge hairy face at a woman’s breast does not evoke motherly or even brotherly feelings. It could go from the grotesque to the erotic but definitely not maternal.”

You said it, sister. Read the whole story here.

5 Comments

  1. June 9, 2010 at 8:41 am

    a friend recently told me, that there are heated discussions in russian orthodox webforums on the topic if an orthodox christian can be a vegetarian … the majority there denies it, because this would destroy the concept of lent fastingūüėČ

  2. robert said,

    June 9, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Not to mention God gave Adam dominion over the beasts of the field and the fish of the sea and the fowls of the air, so there can’t be any theological reason why fluffy bunnies shouldn’t be on the menu

  3. splinteredsunrise said,

    June 9, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    That’s probably true. Actually, in the Orthodox calendar the majority of days are fast days, but you still need some way of distinguishing them from those that aren’t.

  4. June 10, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Many Muslims think similarly, in that the Qur’an pretty much encourages the faithful to eat and drink anything that’s not alcoholic, pig-related or roadkill. However, in the West many Muslims live vegetarian if they can’t get halal meat.

    • June 10, 2010 at 8:48 am

      more do of cause do not bother about halal stuff … but it is also my experience that not eating pork (or beef) is probably the religious commandment most prevalent among atheist people from jewish or islamic (or hindu) background


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