Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Different Look at the Issue of Breastfeeding in the Workplace

Even in the disgusting mess of roiling hatreds that is the Middle East, every so often something happens that is so utterly silly that you just have to stop and laugh. It happened yesterday, when I read an article posted to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) website on May 25th. Visit MEMRI by clicking the link in my link list, and then check report number 355: "Al Azhar Lecturer Suspended after Issuing Controversial Fatwa (religious ruling) Recommending Breastfeeding of Men by Women in the Workplace."

Yes, you read correctly.

Dr Izzat Atiyya, the head of the Hadith (sayings of Mohammed) Department of Al Azhar University in Cairo, was attempting to solve a difficult problem for business people: how can two good Muslims, an unmarried man and a woman, have a business relationship which may require them to work together unchaperoned - a situation forbiden within Islam? Dr Atiyya's elegant solution: the woman should breastfeed the man, which would "...transform the bestial relationship between [two people] into a religious relationship based on [religious] duties..." He went on to explain in the interview documented by MEMRI that, "I also insist that the breastfeeding relationship be officially documented in writing...The contract will state that this woman has suckled this man...After this, the woman may remove her hijab and expose her hair in the man's [presence]..."

While I would certainly agree that we in the West could use a little more restraint in sexual relationships between adults, the sexual pendulum has obviously swung far in the other direction in Islamic culture when the need for such a silly fatwa is perceived.

It should be noted that Dr Atiyya's fatwa was not universally supported. In fact, it generated a storm of controversy and resulted in his being suspended from his position at the university.

With all the misery and suffering in the Middle East, with all the religious bigotry and political stupidity that makes the region such a snakepit and threatens the peace of the entire world, it's good to know that responsible Islamic scholars are concerned with critical issues like allowing a man and woman to work together if she documents that she has breastfed him, thereby (according to Islamic law) turning him into a member of her family.

You just have to shake your head at the idiocy.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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