Many were stunned when Saudi cleric Sheik Abdel Mohsen Obeikan recently issued a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, calling on women to give breast milk to their male colleagues or men they come into regular contact with so as to avoid illicit mixing between the sexes.
But a group of Saudi women has taken the controversial decree a step further in a new campaign to gain the right to drive in the ultra-conservative kingdom, media reports say.
If they’re not granted the right to drive, the women are threatening to breastfeed their drivers to establish a symbolic maternal bond.
“Is this is all that is left to us to do: to give our breasts to the foreign drivers?” a Saudi woman named Fatima Shammary was quoted as saying by Gulf News.
Obeikan argued in his decree that if the women give their drivers their breast milk, the chauffeurs would be able to mingle with all members of the family without having to worry about violating Islamic law.
Some Islamic scholars frown on the mixing of unmarried men and women. Islamic tradition, or hadith, stipulates that breastfeeding establishes a maternal bond, even if a woman breastfeeds a child who is not her own.
Drawing from the cleric’s advocacy, the women have reportedly chosen a slogan for their campaign that translates to, “We either be allowed to drive or breastfeed foreigners.”
The controversial fatwa, which was regarded as both funny and weird, issued recently by Shaikh Abdul Mohsin Bin Nasser Al Obaikan, member of Saudi Council of Senior Scholars and adviser to the king, has sparked a debate in society.
The renowned scholar said Saudi women can breastfeed their foreign drivers for them to be become their sons and brothers to their daughters.
Under this relationship, foreign drivers can mix freely with all members of the family without breaking the Islamic rule which does not allow mixing of genders.
Breast milk kinship is considered to be as good as a blood relationship in Islam.
“A woman can breastfeed a mature man so that he becomes her son. In this way, he can mix with her and her daughters without violating the teachings of Islam,” the scholar said.
Al Obaikan based his fatwa on a Hadith (saying) of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) which was narrated by Salim, the servant of Abu Huzaifa.
Later, Al Obaikan clarified that his fatwa was being distorted by the local media which ignored the condition that the milk should be drawn out of the woman and given to the man in a cup to drink.
Speaking to Gulf News, a number of Saudi women condemned the fatwa. Fatima Al Shammary was quoted by the local Arabic daily Al Watan as saying the fatwa was “ridiculous and weird”.
Saudi writer Suzan Al Mashhadi sarcastically asked Al Obaikan: “Do the women have to breastfeed the driver in the presence of their husbands or can they do this alone?”
“Who will protect the wife if the husband entered the house unexpectedly and found his wife breastfeeding the driver?” she asked.