Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saudi Breasts: Political Weapons

On a fateful day in May of 2007, Dr Izzat Atiya of Egypt's al-Azhar University issued a fatwa offering a way around the segregation of sexes in the workplace. Some say it came to him in a dream:
"A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed."
Suckling at the teat of a woman "at least five times a day" would, according to Dr. Atiya, make any man into a son in the eyes of Allah, and such a familial bond would allow them to work together harmoniously.

Noting the obvious sexual temptation that the naked breasts of a co-worker may stir, he offered that "the man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman." This did little to calm the swelling of disapprobation from the ranks of Islamic legal scholars at the time. Realizing his error, the good Dr. issued a full retraction and the swelling subsided... until this month.

Shaikh Abdul Mohsin Bin Nasser Al Obaikan, a member of Saudi Council of Senior Scholars and advisor to the king, issued the same fatwa in early June. This time, he claimed, it would be useful to allow woman to travel alone in cars with foreign drivers.

One anonymous Saudi woman put it quite succinctly:
"Does Islam allow me to breastfeed a foreign man and prevent me from driving my own car? I have not breastfed my own children. How do you expect me to do this with a foreign man? What is this nonsense?"
Now the men of Saudi Arabia are in a little more than a handful of trouble. Not only do they face mountains of opposition from their female counterparts but also a righteous and opportunistic group of Saudi women are using the fatwa to their advantage. Unless all women are permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia they will breastfeed men all over the place. The campaign will be launched under the slogan "We either be allowed to drive or breastfeed foreigners." Nice tactics.

I hear there has been a shortfall of drivers in Saudi Arabia lately. One way or the other that won't last long.

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