Saudi Arabia: Cleric in hot seat after calling for women to give men breast milk to avoid illicit mixing

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A Saudi cleric finds himself in the hot seat after issuing a decree permitting unrelated women and men mingle so long as the guy drinks the woman’s breast milk.

Sheik Abdel Mohsen Obeikan, a scholar and a consultant at Saudi Arabia’s royal court, has called for women to give men breast milk to establish maternal relations and get around the ultra-conservative kingdom’s ban on mixing between men and women who are unrelated.

“The man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman,” UAE-based Gulf News quoted Obeikan as saying in local media reports. “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.”

Some Islamic scholars frown on the mixing of unmarried men and women. Islamic tradition, or hadith, stipulates that breastfeeding establishes a degree of maternal bond, even if a woman breast feeds a child who is not her own.

Egyptian scholar Izzat Attiyah caused a stir and raised many eyebrows when he issued a 2007 Islamic ruling urging women to breastfeed their male colleagues to avoid illicit mixing between men and women at work. The act, the scholar argued, would establish a symbolic maternal bond between the men and women and would inhibit any sexual relations.

As in the case of the Egyptian fatwa, Obeikan’s ruling has raised concerns over the need to apply stricter regulations about how and by whom fatwas can be issued. Attiyah’s infamous 2007 breastfeeding fatwa did not make it far, attracting heavy criticism — as well as ridicule — throughout the Arab world. The scholar himself retracted the fatwa and eventually was disciplined by Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, one of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institutions.
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This post was last updated: Nov. 21, 2013