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Insight into the Mentality of Saudi Wahhabism
June 9, 2010 5:06 AM   Subscribe

Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast Feeding to circumvent the hanbali law in Saudi Arabia enforcing strict segregation of the sexes. There is some confusion between the clerics regarding whether women should pump or allow adult men to suckle directly from the breast. Such fatwas emanating from Saudi Arabia provide insight into the mentality of the powerful clergy that has been instrumental in spreading Wahhabi thought, throughout the Muslim world.
posted by Azaadistani (111 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
What?
A fatwa issued recently about adult breast-feeding to establish "maternal relations" and preclude the possibility of sexual contact
I think they are, in fact, doing it wrong.

Furthermore do these guys even realize that women only lactate for a short while after having children? I would imagine that so much sexual segregation would lead to a lot of ignorance about the opposite sex.
posted by delmoi at 5:10 AM on June 9, 2010


This is so bizarre I couldn't even figure out what it was trying to say at first. This is the key sentence (fragment), I think:
...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.
lolreligion
posted by DU at 5:16 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bitty? (SLYT)
posted by Blacksun at 5:17 AM on June 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


"Wahhabi sauce". Heh.

No word from the clerics as to whether Saudi men are allowed to say "hubba hubba" as they latch onto a teat and don't get at all sexual not one goodly bit no sirree as the Burka'd belle bares her bosoms.

Good lord. It's not only in Louisiana that oil is corrupting the landscape.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:21 AM on June 9, 2010


Well, I guess it's okay as long as they don't do it in public.
posted by Shohn at 5:25 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


In other news, people who worry more about the letter of the law than the spirit of the law are wacked.

And now here's Dave with the weather.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:28 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I guess it's okay as long as they don't do it in public.

Yes, but the 78 year old couldn't satisfactorily prove that she'd breastfed one of the men, so I think in public is the best place.
posted by doublehappy at 5:29 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is the spirit of the law "women can only consort with men they are related to" that they should be sticking to?
posted by DU at 5:30 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this goes both ways...
posted by kaibutsu at 5:31 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was wondering what Imam Quagmire was up to. Giggidy.
posted by ryoshu at 5:35 AM on June 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


This is unfiltered LOLMUSLIMS.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:35 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not only in Louisiana that oil is corrupting the landscape.

After all both largely operate under some bizarre conservative tribal code roughly and vaguely supported by cherry-picked verses from centuries old religious tomes. The difference is in Saudi Arabia you have morality squads while in Louisiana you have the junior league.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:36 AM on June 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


so....what if she's not lactating?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:38 AM on June 9, 2010


Now someone post a cartoon of Muhammed breastfeeding Obama with black milk and we'll have ourselves a controversy.
posted by doublehappy at 5:41 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is unfiltered LOLMUSLIMS.

Seriously. 'This falls outside my cultural understanding of the world and therefore I must mock it!'
posted by shakespeherian at 5:41 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously. 'This falls outside my cultural understanding of the world and therefore I must mock it!'

I think most people understand it. They just think it's f**ked up.

It's like the view that shagging virgins cures AIDS or ghostly beings apparently looking kindly on hour long marriages so religious johns get a free pass. Curiously there never seem to be any laws in which toothless old crones get to jump the bones of young men.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:49 AM on June 9, 2010 [26 favorites]


*goes digging for breastbands and voluminous burkha*
posted by infini at 5:52 AM on June 9, 2010


No laws, MuffinMan, but I can lend you some magazines.
posted by doublehappy at 5:52 AM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Seriously. 'This falls outside my cultural understanding of the world and therefore I must mock it!'

What's your interpretation of this, then?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:53 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


What's your interpretation of this, then?

why mother's advice all so many decades ago to be careful around men from certain religious backgrounds now makes perfect sense
posted by infini at 5:56 AM on June 9, 2010


"They really aren't so different. They just oppress their women differently is all."
posted by DU at 5:57 AM on June 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


I don't know... as someone who falls into the Muslim Spectrum, I don't see this as LOLMUSLIM, but more LOLSAUDI. Maybe LOLRELIGION, but I'd like to think most people know that Muslims aren't some monolithic group, and themselves have a working understanding of batshitinsane when it comes to some people who also share the very large umbrella that is called "Islam."
posted by raztaj at 6:01 AM on June 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


Forgot the batshitinsane tag.
posted by zardoz at 6:03 AM on June 9, 2010


This is unfiltered LOLMUSLIMS.

Seriously. 'This falls outside my cultural understanding of the world and therefore I must mock it!'


I was aiming more for LOLWAHHABIS or LOLSAUDIS. I am from a non-Wahhabi and non-Saudi part of the Muslim world, but we are all facing an onslaught of wahhabi ideology because the Saudis' petrodollars and the unholy alliance between the House of Saud (the monarchy), and their retrogressive clerics who provide them the moral authority to rule.

There is nothing 'cultural' or 'Islamic' about this retrogressive interpretation of the religion. In a tradition where women led men into battle (Mohammed's wife Ayesha, to state one example), the notion of such strict segregation has little to do with the religion, than the customs and twisted views of those who are promoting a completely nonsensical version of it.

And this slide into ever-more restrictive beliefs ripples throughout the Muslim world, not least because the Saudi monarchs are viewed as guardians of the Holy shrines in Mecca and Medina. For instance, the restrictions imposed on Muslim women who travel to Mecca and Medina during the Haj have increased noticeably in just the last few decades. Such increasing restrictions are the result of the distasteful temporal law of Saudi Arabia, not any divine decree. In turn, the aggressive promotion of such retrogressive beliefs by the Saudi state in the rest of the world (which include Muslim communities in places where Muslims are a minority) is worrisome and real.
posted by Azaadistani at 6:10 AM on June 9, 2010 [81 favorites]


MuffinMan:
Seriously. 'This falls outside my cultural understanding of the world and therefore I must mock it!'

I think most people understand it. They just think it's f**ked up.

It's like the view that shagging virgins cures AIDS or ghostly beings apparently looking kindly on hour long marriages so religious johns get a free pass.


Agreed, but in regards to LOLshitUnlikeMyExperience, 3 wrongs don't make a right/good post/point of discussion, even if it's about stuff we think is wrong.

Curiously there never seem to be any laws in which toothless old crones get to jump the bones of young men.

Really avoiding my LOLSexInTheCity2 joke here.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:19 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Furthermore do these guys even realize that women only lactate for a short while after having children

Not true. So long as there is a demand for the milk, a woman's body will continue to produce milk. This is how women nurse children into toddlerhood. A good friend lactated for 12 years (through five children), and now that her youngest is four she continues to pump to donate milk to a milk bank.

"If you use it, you won't lose it."
posted by anastasiav at 6:26 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "This is unfiltered LOLMUSLIMS."

Yay religion?
posted by charred husk at 6:28 AM on June 9, 2010


3 wrongs don't make a right/good post/point of discussion, even if it's about stuff we think is wrong

So the OP shouldn't have posted this (not even in the non-lulzy way he did), because people may not only find it wrong but also funny?
posted by cronholio at 6:31 AM on June 9, 2010


@anastasiav: Right, but those clerics seem to think that any woman can start lactating at will even if she is not currently breastfeeding a kid.
posted by cronholio at 6:33 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It must rock to have your crazy-ass craziness funded by giant pools of oil.
posted by chunking express at 6:36 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I, uh, might have sampled my wife's breast milk. Does this mean that we're, like, cousins now? Shit, shit, shit! I don't want my daughter to end up a Banjo Boy. Tell me there's a way to reverse it! Shit.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:39 AM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


These guys would make awesome wikipedia editors.
posted by Artw at 6:40 AM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Here's the original article from 3 years ago. It sounds like nobody is actually seriously considering this and the media coverage is just the West doing their best LOLSAUDIS.
Dr Izzat Atiya of Egypt's al-Azhar University said it offered a way around segregation of the sexes at work.

His fatwa stated the act would make the man symbolically related to the woman and preclude any sexual relations.

The president of al-Azhar denounced the fatwa, which Dr Atiya has since retracted, as defamatory to Islam.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:40 AM on June 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


So the OP shouldn't have posted this (not even in the non-lulzy way he did), because people may not only find it wrong but also funny?

I was talking about the thread, myself.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:41 AM on June 9, 2010


Can't wait to see the new Middle East ad-campaign for 'Got Milk?'
posted by mannequito at 6:42 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Curiously there never seem to be any laws in which toothless old crones get to jump the bones of young men.

Never say never in cultural anthropology:

Among human societies the most advanced orgasmically are purported to be the women of Mangaia, a southern Cook Island in central Polynesia. Mangaian females reach orgasm two or three times during intercourse. Upon entering puberty at thirteen or fourteen years of age, Mangaian boys go through a series of initiation rites into adulthood. Part of the initiation includes being instructed in methods of stimulating women to maximum sexual pleasure. Indeed, Mangaian women are expected to attain orgasm during intercourse each time; if not, the Mangaian man who fails to please her loses his status in the island’s society. Two weeks after a manhood initiation ritual involving penile mutilation, an experienced older woman begins to practice boys in the arts of conferring female sexual pleasure. According to their ethnographer, D.S. Marshall, Mangaians probably know more about female anatomy than most European physicians. The Mangaians, with no semblance of a Puritan heritage, do not consider female sexual pleasure an indulgence. They consider it a necessity. High cultural expectations for female orgasm have led to high rates of female orgasm. (Margulis, L. & Sagan, D. (1991) Mystery Dance, On the Evolution of Human Sexuality: Summit Books, New York, p. 62)
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:43 AM on June 9, 2010 [41 favorites]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: I take it back. I should add thought that nowhere in that abstract does it mention toothless crones. I read it more as Mrs Robinson Goes To The Cook Islands.

Also, what gives with the mutilation? Is there no such thing as a free lunch these days?
posted by MuffinMan at 6:53 AM on June 9, 2010


The Wahhabis don't have a monopoly on ignorant nonsense. The Shi'as have Mut'ah. This is where a man can marry a woman and then divorce her soon after. It was used by travelers who were in need of female companionship on the road.

You'd roll into town, get a mut'ah, do your thingy thing, and then give the woman a gift appropriate to your economic status before leaving.
posted by reenum at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


And to think I got kicked out of the Clinton Hill (Brooklyn) Library for nursing my son back in 1990--"We don't allow food of any kind, Ma'am," said the librarian. "Would it be okay if I were feeding him with a bottle?" I asked. "Oh, of course. That wouldn't be a problem." I still have the letters (paper) following that experience.

Silly Saudis, nursing is for kids!

posted by emhutchinson at 6:56 AM on June 9, 2010


Some have found the debate so bizarre that they're calling for stricter regulations about how and when fatwas should be issued.

*snort* yeah, I should say so. It seems like Islam has a few flies in its Imam soup, if you know what I mean. One too many bats in the ol' minaret.

EXCUSE ME YOU GOT SOME CRAZY IN YOUR ISLAM and now it tastes funny. That's what I'm trying to say.

World War I & II really did a number on the Islamic empire.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:58 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]




Actually, as raztaj points out, they got some crazy in their Saudi Wahhabi Islam. I was a bit to general there. Plenty of normal Muslims out there, just like not all Christians are Hutarees.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:01 AM on June 9, 2010


a bit *too general
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:02 AM on June 9, 2010


Agreed, but in regards to LOLshitUnlikeMyExperience, 3 wrongs don't make a right/good post/point of discussion, even if it's about stuff we think is wrong.

Fallacy abuse.
posted by Brian B. at 7:03 AM on June 9, 2010


Yay religion?

Even I find this distasteful.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:10 AM on June 9, 2010


(derail, just curious, but are we just tripping over highly sensitive PC meters?)
posted by infini at 7:19 AM on June 9, 2010


(derail, just curious, but are we just tripping over highly sensitive PC meters?)

In the interests of balanced crazy here's a highly disrepectful article on the worst popes ever.
posted by Artw at 7:22 AM on June 9, 2010


(derail, just curious, but are we just tripping over highly sensitive PC meters?)

Yes.

If there's a Metafilter post that's at all critical of something happening within a Muslim country (not affecting the US or Europe), it's going to be called out as lacking cultural sensitivity. That's just how it goes.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:30 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Seriously. 'This falls outside my cultural understanding of the world and therefore I must mock it!'

Well, I'm a pretty strict Muslim and I find this to be totally whacked. The Magic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is basically a huge vortex of neuroses stitched together by traditional tribal customs and a really shitty interpretation of Islam. It needs sunlight.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:33 AM on June 9, 2010 [20 favorites]


Whoa.
posted by zarq at 7:45 AM on June 9, 2010


Oooh, perhaps the Saudi Women can drag a bottle of milk to the lingerie shop now, be-family the salesmen, and be allowed to try on the bra's they are considering buying in the modern invention knowns as a fitting room. Reem Asaad can call off the underwear shopping strike, the clerks have found a solution.
posted by dabitch at 7:47 AM on June 9, 2010


Oh, Burhanistan, "the magic kingdom" is so sarcastically fitting I'm going to steal that.
posted by dabitch at 7:49 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If there's a Metafilter post that's at all critical of something happening within a Muslim country (not affecting the US or Europe), it's going to be called out as lacking cultural sensitivity. That's just how it goes.

You don't need the qualifier. The site is big enough people will complain about most anything and everything. To pretend Muslims are getting some sort of special pass is ridonkulous.
posted by chunking express at 8:01 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't read everyone else's comments yet.

This is a ridiculous fatwa. Given that breastfeeding is forbidden after a child is 24 months old (at least in mainstream Islam), there's no way for me to wrap my head around this one. Total sickos.
posted by bardophile at 8:06 AM on June 9, 2010


Well if you absolutely insist I take a side, I'll take the cleric who says it has to be suckled directly from the breast. Only because that's what Mohammed would've wanted and I know this from studying the Hadiths. NORLY!!!!
posted by symbioid at 8:07 AM on June 9, 2010


> Well if you absolutely insist I take a side, I'll take the cleric who says it has to be suckled directly from the breast. Only because that's what Mohammed would've wanted and I know this from studying the Hadiths. NORLY!!!!

what?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:09 AM on June 9, 2010


God is the ultimate Dungeon Master and He hates rules lawyers. Either abide by less literal interpretations of the players handbook (whatever edition your local DM decrees) or prepare thyself to fail thy saving throw.
posted by klangklangston at 8:11 AM on June 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


I kind of read this as LOLMINDVIRUSCREATESBIZARRECULTURALPRESCRIPTIONS, but then I read just about everything that way these days.
posted by Aquaman at 8:34 AM on June 9, 2010


God is the ultimate Dungeon Master and He hates rules lawyers.

I put on my robe and papal hat.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:41 AM on June 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


Many have been the long and lonseome nights that I've walked alone through the corridors of ancient dungeons. I've been accused of having a death wish, told that I deserve whatever comes to me, endured all manner of doubts, insults, aspersions. And while many have died in the dark belly of the world, there are certain advantages to working alone. I have no need to argue with my companions, and can sneak past most dangers as silent as a shadow. I've killed dozens of orcs in their sleep, convinced zombies that I was one of their own, and even crept past dragons clutching the largest diamond in their cache close to my chest, not even daring to breathe as I stole past those fearful wyrms. It would be foolish - is foolish - to think that mere stealth and good fortune will carry me alive through these trials. But in truth, I am never alone.

If you follow my tracks, look in the unsettled dust, you will see that there are two sets of feet that enter, two sets that leave. For the Prophet walks by my side, helping me in all adventures. Many doubt that He is real, but I have proof, for his footprints are right there beside my own.

When I am confronted with grave danger, and my heart beats loud enough to give away my hiding place, the thought of Him beside me calms me. The guards walk past unknowing. When I follow my own tail, lost in a maze of twisty passages, all alike, He points the way out. Amongst the sleeping Sphynxes, who guarded the passage to Neveryonia against all intruders, He pointed to one with bared breast, from which I nursed. Considered a Sphynx myself after that, I was allowed to pass unmolested.

Many doubt my claims, for He does not make himself obvious, though He is always here beside me, stealthier than any thief, silent as the new moon. Indeed, even I have doubted from time to time. At times, when the way has been hardest and the dangers nigh unsurmountable, I have looked back at the way we came and observed that only one pair of feet had made their way through some desolate catacomb, betwixt the caskets of blooless vampires. And when I asked him about this instance, why he would abandon me in such a trying time, he answered.
"Lo, my son, it only seems that you were abandoned. In fact I protecting you all the time, devising and then hurriedly publishing errata to the rules concerning grapple checks. I was watching for your safety, ensuring that should you be caught, you would gain sufficient bonuses to your escape artist check to evade the vicious claws and gnashing fangs of your captors."

And it was true: from that day on, it seemed far easier to escape the clutches of any vile beast that managed to lay hands on me. But this night I was full of doubts, so I questioned Him again.
"Where, then, were you on that night the foul dragon Gorgik blew its firey breath upon me? I, singed and barely able to stand, limped away that night and it took a full year for the skin on my face to grow back!"

And verily, he had stood silent for so many years answered once again.
"On that night I stood between you and the dragon, and took the full force of its breath. But with my greater reflex save, I was able to avert the damage and stay alive myself, where surely you would have been killed."
Then I looked upon my words in shame, knowing that I had doubted this immortal being who had supported and aided me through so many crises. And I swore that I would never doubt Him again, and that we would always walk together.

For indeed, that night under the volcano, Jesus had indeed saved me, and taken half-damage.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:48 AM on June 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sorry burhanistan - I was making a poorly thought out joke (mostly the idea of using religious texts to justify/reinforce our own thoughts)... I won't try to defend it. It was a bad idea. :(

That said, you guys hear about the recent uprisings by Saudi women against the Mutaween (religious police)? There've been a few instances lately where women are fighting back with physical force. I think this is great :)
posted by symbioid at 8:59 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]




The mutta'wah are among the most annoying people I've ever had the displeasure of coming across. I was never personally accosted by them, but their very presence at the holy sites is a stain.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:17 AM on June 9, 2010


The Saudis have been pouring billions of petrodollars into setting up scientific research institutes for national prestige (according to the supercomputers-of-the-world treemap that was floating around recently, they own a good number of the world's most powerful supercomputers). One wonders what sort of scientific research would be compatible with strict Wahhabiism. Now we know: a programme to develop a drug to induce lactation in non-nursing women so that they can fulfil their religious duty.
posted by acb at 9:25 AM on June 9, 2010


I'm sorry to put this so bluntly, but...

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!

Oh, and has anyone considered the food handling/sanitation implications of Maryam's first day at the office?
posted by Samizdata at 9:37 AM on June 9, 2010


I don't really understand this at all. I read the NYT article and looked at the supplemental links and I'm just plain old confuzzle.

Is this something addressing a particular fetish? Is it already a legitimate cultural practice and this is getting around the laws of another culture to keep it? Are adult men in certain cultures supposed to breastfeed or drink breastmilk after the birth of a baby for celebration or health or something?

Really, I don't even understand the premise, let alone what premise is being addressed. Someone please explain!
posted by zizzle at 10:12 AM on June 9, 2010


Men can lactate too, a breast pump or strong suckling can stimulate milk in most men. They won't produce as much as women (and babies may have difficulty latching onto a flat chest), but they can lactate all the same.

Just imagine, disagreements, tribal strifes, maybe even wars, settled by men sitting across a table and exchanging frosty glasses of milk.
posted by fontophilic at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Really, I don't even understand the premise, let alone what premise is being addressed. Someone please explain!

Briefly, in many affluent Saudi (and other Arabian peninsula) homes, there are many non-family residents such as bodyguards, drivers, servants, etc who are in close company with females.

As an example for this silly fatwa: technically, it's illegal under the strict Wahhabi interpretation of the sharia for a non-family male to be alone in the car with a woman. So, in looking for creative way to still have the driver drive a non-family woman around, she should become his milk mother so he can then be considered legally a mahram. Problem solved! Apply that to other instances where non-family men would be alone with women.

It's head-up-the-arse style thinking, and generally laughed at and discouraged by decent Islamic scholars.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:28 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wahhabists are not most Muslims, some might even debate whether they're Muslims at all, and Saudi Arabia is a spiritual wasteland of epic-type proportions. Taking the words of Saudi clerics as speaking for Islam at large is like taking the words of Ted Haggard as being representative of Christianity. Given that Muslims the world over know this and will say the same thing, how is it we keep ignoring them and focusing on the most idiotic things any Saudi religious person happens to say?

I get the feeling a lot of this just stems from simple cultural ignorance, although the haste to see Islam as worrisome or weird doesn't help. For those among us who continue to speak grandly of "fatwas emanating from Saudi Arabia" and of "powerful clerics" – fatwas sometimes (usually) don't amount to a hill a beans, every "cleric" is not "powerful," and Muslims are capable of rolling their eyes at inane silliness just like everybody else.

Finally, while I don't hold any special favor for Saudi Arabia personally (that decadent and corrupt nation is hardly Muslim anyhow) the generalization in this post veers into frankly insulting territory. "Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast Feeding"? Really? Two minor clerics mentioned this silly stuff. Saying "Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast Feeding" at such news is like announcing: "American religious people advocate stabbing Irish people in the eyes with sharp sticks." Sure, I'll bet you could find two who would; does that make all of them pointy-stick-stabbers?
posted by koeselitz at 10:50 AM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


> "Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast Feeding"? Really? Two minor clerics mentioned this silly stuff.

Yep, it would be "news" if the grand mufti of Medina or Mecca made the fatwa. As it is, you can "fatwa shop" for just about any silly thing nowadays given the sorry state of Islamic scholarship and lack of rigor in Salafi/Wahhabi circles.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:53 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yep, it would be "news" if the grand mufti of Medina or Mecca made the fatwa. As it is, you can "fatwa shop" for just about any silly thing nowadays given the sorry state of Islamic scholarship and lack of rigor in Salafi/Wahhabi circles.

Quoted for truth.
posted by bardophile at 11:19 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously. 'This falls outside my cultural understanding of the world and therefore I must mock it!'
posted by shakespeherian at 5:41 AM on June 9


No, this is actually, really, objectively stupid. This is not a cultural misunderstanding. This is not a mocking LOLNOTXTIAN.

This is ignorance and stupidity. The notion may have arisen out of ignorance, but was pursued due to stupidity. Awash in a flood of misogyny.

I keep wondering how absurd one of these fatwas would have to be before even the most devout member of that community would say "What? No. No no no. This is it. The final breaking point".

I would have thought yesterday "have strangers drink your breast milk to become pseudo-family" would have been over that line. I'm wrong again.

Also, koeselitz, are you suggesting that these 2 clerics are the only people in Saudi Arabia that hold this viewpoint, and that they have no followers or adherents of any kind? Because even if it is a minority viewpoint, it is still outrageous, ridiculous, and worthy of mocking.

Why would it being a minority viewpoint somehow insulate it from being ridiculed?

Also, I would be happy to mock Ted Haggard for almost anything he might recommend. Notice that he still has adherents and followers.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


To continue from what koeselitz is saying: I don't know how many people are aware that a fatwa isn't really binding on anyone. A fatwa is not the parallel of a ruling from the Vatican, even if it were to come from the grand mufti of Medina or Mecca. It is a formal statement of a legal opinion, the quality of which varies just as much as the intelligence and scholarship of all human beings can. Unfortunately, our off-their-rocker pseudo-scholars seem to be getting a lot more air time than anyone with any measured opinion.
posted by bardophile at 11:24 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I absolutely understand why people would mock these clerics and anyone who believes that they are talking anything even vaguely resembling sense. I just hope (and my limited experience of MeFi suggests that I needn't really worry on this score) that people understand that the vast majority of Muslims who hear about this will also be mocking these clerics and their adherents...
posted by bardophile at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw this a few days ago, and briefly considered posting it, but desisted, because ultimately the only reason this is a story, is because of the possible sexual aspect. Yes, it's absurd, but really, so many religious rules are absurd, so why pick on this? Take for example the "creative" ways around the commandment not to work on Sabbath, ways thought up by various rabbinical authorities - self activating light switches, asking strangers to carry your stuff when you are a few minutes late after sunset (I live in WeHo and had an orthodox guy ask me to carry his bag, because he was late and the sunset caught him - he offered to open up the bag so I'd see there is no bomb there "you can't be too careful with the terrorists these days").

You want to find absurdity and absurd ways around the absurdity? It's all around you. Wahhabism Smahhabism - it's everywhere. This is not a worthy post.
posted by VikingSword at 11:49 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


discountfortunecookie: “I keep wondering how absurd one of these fatwas would have to be before even the most devout member of that community would say ‘What? No. No no no. This is it. The final breaking point.’”

The problem here is that I get the feeling you don't understand what Fatwas are. Read bardophile's comment.

Look, if I need to say it plainly, I will: Fatwas are not decrees on pain of death. Fatwas are religious, scholarly opinions. They aren't necessarily binding, they don't point up any path that anybody is necessarily expected to follow unless you're a Shi'ite who's a direct follower of the person giving the Fatwa. Heck, in most quarters, a Fatwa is sort of like an essay or a lecture or something; sometimes it's hardly even a teaching, it's just sort of "here are some interesting thoughts about this particular aspect of Islam." I don't want to demean or belittle Fatwas, but honestly that's the perspective on them in general, and it gets irritating to hear us Westerners talk as though every time we hear the word "Fatwa" we picture a beardy dude in a turban wielding a scabbard and invoking curses.

Finally, plenty of people in Saudi Arabia are certainly rolling their eyes at this violently as we speak. Why do you assume they're not? Just because it's not reported here?
posted by koeselitz at 12:05 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


discountfortunecookie: &lquo;Also, koeselitz, are you suggesting that these 2 clerics are the only people in Saudi Arabia that hold this viewpoint, and that they have no followers or adherents of any kind?”

I don't know the particulars, but yes, that's what I'm suggesting. "Clerics" is another funny word to us Westerners, because every time we hear it we assume that the "cleric" commands armies of thousands of believers. Sometimes "cleric" really just means "religious student at a mosque."
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The more I thin kabout this thread, the more this thing (the fatwa, not the thread) makes my blood boil. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "jaahil maulvi" (jaahil=ignorant, benighted, unenlightened, as far from reasonable as you can imagine and then further). Maulvi= someone who says they're a scholar of Islam, essentially. The phrase is commonly used in Pakistan when discussing "yet another idiotic thing" the next schmuck has come up with.
posted by bardophile at 12:33 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


> "Clerics" is another funny word to us Westerners, because every time we hear it we assume that the "cleric" commands armies of thousands of believers.

Yes again. Scholars are referred to by Muslims as 'ulema, which is the plural form of 'alim (one who has knowledge). They are generally respected, but are not a requirement for any kind of Islamic services like a priest would be. Any Muslim can lead the prayers, and there is usually an established way of determining who should do so (some say whoever knows the basics the best, others say it should be who has memorized the most of the Quran, and so on).

It's also unfortunate that "cleric" is usually paired with "radical" enough that the two are mostly conjoined in the casual newsmedia consumer's mind. But in fact, Muslims love to argue and debate these clerics just as much as they agree with them.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:49 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Religion = lunacy
posted by A189Nut at 12:49 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm having this really disturbing vision of Sara Palin taking this up as a good idea, and lactating in a frenzy so as to aid the Tea Party mission of whatever the fuck they think they're doing
posted by angrycat at 12:49 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


A189Nut: Well, strictly speaking, lunacy would imply being 'abnormal' which would in turn imply deviating from the norm. If you look at the world as a whole, being religious in some way is very much the norm... :)
posted by bardophile at 12:53 PM on June 9, 2010


> Religion = lunacy
posted by A189Nut


Eh, good for you.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:53 PM on June 9, 2010


koeselitz: Thank you for the response and I appreciate (in both meanings of the term) what you are saying. However, I still don't understand why it being a minority, even fringe, even unique, belief would insulate it from mockery.

If a Baptist minister made a published statement that "God says women should all have one ear sewn shut" there would be clear, and immediate, rebuke from everyone, everywhere, of every stripe, because it would be ridiculous and absurd. But that does not appear to be the case with these absurd fatwas. Why would it be ok, actually expected, to mock the Baptist minister but not these 2 "clerics"?

People in this very thread want to rebuke us for even daring to mock it. Why? How is it culturally sensitive to abide idiots just because they have a different belief system?
posted by discountfortunecookie at 1:40 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


...the media coverage is just the West doing their best LOLSAUDIS.

Perhaps, but they also seem to be reporting on something that was actually major news in Saudi Arabia. From the post by Saudi blogger interviewed for the story linked in the OP,
This was given major coverage in both AlWatan Newspaper and AlRiyadh Newspaper.
So since we're talking about this having a distinctly Wahhabi bent, does anyone know if the scholar at Al Azhar who issued the original opinion is a Wahhabi? Because Al Azhar is just generally Sunni, right?

From a strictly pedantic point of view this actually seems to me like a kinda innovative way of finding a loophole in the rules. But I suppose you would expect that, and the rigorously academic disregard for the squickyness of the idea, from a thousand-year-old university.
posted by XMLicious at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2010


"Clerics" is another funny word to us Westerners, because every time we hear it we assume that the "cleric" commands armies of thousands of believers.

Not to mention the ability to Turn Undead. Khatami must be able to destroy low-HD undead by now.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:18 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Turn.... Or rebuke?
posted by kaibutsu at 2:21 PM on June 9, 2010


> does anyone know if the scholar at Al Azhar who issued the original opinion is a Wahhabi? Because Al Azhar is just generally Sunni, right?


Strictly speaking, I would say that Wahhabist are Sunni, but just really bad at it. AL Azhar runs the gamut from sufi friendly Sunnis to more hard line Salafi. But, they've really lost the plot a number of times in the past decade, and seem to not have any sense of irony in how they approach touchy subjects that sometimes it is hard for outsiders and Westerners to understand how to measure their decrees.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:26 PM on June 9, 2010


Strictly speaking, I would say that Wahhabist are Sunni, but just really bad at it. AL Azhar runs the gamut from sufi friendly Sunnis to more hard line Salafi.

Isn't "Wahhabi" essentially an informal and/or mildly disrespectful term for Salafists, one which they themselves don't like much, much in the way that "Mormons" is for LDS or "Clams" for Scientologists?
posted by acb at 3:06 PM on June 9, 2010


> Isn't "Wahhabi" essentially an informal and/or mildly disrespectful term for Salafists, one which they themselves don't like much, much in the way that "Mormons" is for LDS or "Clams" for Scientologists?

Pretty much. Salafis do not refer to themselves as "Wahhabis" and the whole idea of dividing them from mainstream Islam is a fitnah. However, given their tendency to dismiss well-preserved forms of Islam (ie. the four traditional madhabs or schools of practice), bulldozing of historical sites, power brokering with the Saudi rulers, banning of perfectly normal activities like sufi chanting sessions, believing God to be something that sits on a literal throne and is subject to space constraints, and generally being dry, bitter pills about religion in general they have earned themselves a special dismissive category.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:14 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


discountfortunecookie: “koeselitz: Thank you for the response and I appreciate (in both meanings of the term) what you are saying. However, I still don't understand why it being a minority, even fringe, even unique, belief would insulate it from mockery.”

Oh, it certainly doesn't. I didn't say it did. Please feel free to mock away. My only point is that it's false to say that this has any bearing on mainstream Islam as it is; and it's presented here as representative of Saudi Muslims. That's wrong. Saudi Muslims probably mock this just as much as we do.

“If a Baptist minister made a published statement that "God says women should all have one ear sewn shut" there would be clear, and immediate, rebuke from everyone, everywhere, of every stripe, because it would be ridiculous and absurd. But that does not appear to be the case with these absurd fatwas. Why would it be ok, actually expected, to mock the Baptist minister but not these 2 "clerics"? ¶ People in this very thread want to rebuke us for even daring to mock it. Why? How is it culturally sensitive to abide idiots just because they have a different belief system?”

No - taking your example, people in this thread want to rebuke the post for seeing that a Baptist minister said that and saying: "Baptists hate women! They want to sew their ears shut!"
posted by koeselitz at 3:24 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Breastfeeding or no breastfeeding, what I took from the article was that a 75 year old widow was lashed 40 times and imprisoned because 2 non-related men were in her house. That is so disgusting I can hardly wrap my head around it. What if she was 95? Would she get a pass then? Let us put the worst possible spin on the story of the widow-- let us pretend she was having hot, hot sex with those men, So. The. Fuck. What? She's a widow, so it can't hurt her husband, and she is long past child-bearing years so there won't be any bastards born. Christ, these people are barbaric and I don't give a fuck what country or what religion we are talking about.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:27 PM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


> Breastfeeding or no breastfeeding, what I took from the article was that a 75 year old widow was lashed 40 times and imprisoned because 2 non-related men were in her house.

And, more saner interpretations of Islam would classify a post-menopausal grandmotherly figure differently than a young, unmarried woman and it would not even be an issue of any sort.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:29 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The really cool thing is that both of the clerics involved in this were awarded first place in the National Science Fair competition - judged by Al Gore.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:54 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What the....hey?
posted by agregoli at 4:05 PM on June 9, 2010


And, more saner interpretations of Islam would classify a post-menopausal grandmotherly figure differently than a young, unmarried woman and it would not even be an issue of any sort.

Would a more saner interpretation of Islam have a young, unmarried woman lashed and imprisoned for having two unrelated men in her house?
posted by 6550 at 4:16 PM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


> The really cool thing is that both of the clerics involved in this were awarded first place in the National Science Fair competition - judged by Al Gore.

Just like in all those lame right-wing chain emails.


> Would a more saner interpretation of Islam have a young, unmarried woman lashed and imprisoned for having two unrelated men in her house?

Is that a serious question?
posted by Burhanistan at 4:22 PM on June 9, 2010


Actually, it was. Or I guess I can imagine some framework that says hey, it's okay if she's old and grandmotherly, but still takes serious, corporal punishment-type offense if she were young and unmarried.
posted by 6550 at 4:31 PM on June 9, 2010


Ah, ok. No, "sane" is the operative wording here. The tradtional qadi system prior to Wahhabism was loath to dole out punishments for incidental contact, especially since they would be required to actually ask everyone's side of the story. Under Saudi rule, the mere fact of proximity is enough.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:35 PM on June 9, 2010


People in this very thread want to rebuke us for even daring to mock it.

It is fair to assume that these punishments make sense to them, unless they specify otherwise.
posted by Brian B. at 6:20 PM on June 9, 2010


The 10th Regiment of Foot: "...Among human societies the most advanced orgasmically are purported to be the women of Mangaia, a southern Cook Island in central Polynesia. ...

Well, I know where *I* want to retire.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:40 PM on June 9, 2010


""Clerics" is another funny word to us Westerners, because every time we hear it we assume that the "cleric" commands armies of thousands of believers."

No, it's the dude that heals your party and can't use edged weapons!
posted by klangklangston at 7:21 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


On further reflection, I'm thinking this whole business is grossly exaggerated. I haven't actually seen any written fatwa on this. Usually, a fatwa is written in a more or less standard format: it begins with an invocation, contextualizes the issue, uses verses from the Quran and selections from the hadiths to give basis to the fatwa and proof for it, and then concludes with another invocation. There doesn't seem to be any of that here.

What it more likely seems to me to be is an aborted process of kalam, or debate. Scholars will bring up all kinds of crazy scenarios when trying to test the validity of a ruling or examine all of its ramifications. They've done it for centuries, and it's more like a big whiteboard session where they work out all the loose ends by taking things to extremes. This seems to be a result of that, and not really intended for actual consumption. I could be wrong, but that's more what it smells like to me when I try to give the scholars in question the benefit of the doubt. Very little of any of the news articles give much solid information other than SUCKING BOOBIES.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:34 PM on June 9, 2010


> No, it's the dude that heals your party and can't use edged weapons!

Funnily enough, the process of kalam is very much like hashing out rules for D&D. I say that with respect for the process.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:36 PM on June 9, 2010


Ah, my apologies. Kalam is really more for higher level theological questions. Ijtihad is more descriptive of the kinds of debates where scholars can throw out all kinds of odd scenarios when trying to determine the limits of a particular sharia question.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:40 PM on June 9, 2010


Well I'm giving up finding more info about Ezzat Atiya / Izzat Atiya because I can't read Arabic. But I did find out that his name in Arabic is عزت عطية, that he is a Sufi (or at least was in 2000), and that his position was president of the Hadith Department at Al-Azhar before the breastfeeding thing blew up. It seems like he might be a not-so-extreme guy looking at an excerpt from this interview with him in 2000:
Ezzat Atiya, Professor of Hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s tradition) at the Faculty of Religious Fundamentals Al Azhar University, and himself a Sufi, defined Sufism as a “way to get nearer to God, depending on continued remembrance of God and performing rituals.

“The main condition for Sufism was its agreement with the outward features of Islamic Sharia [Islamic law] in rituals and dealings with people. It should not contradict the teachings of the Holy Quran or the Sunna (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad),” he said.

Atiya said anyone claiming special circumstances crossing the boundaries of Islam and its teachings would not be considered a Sufi but a believer in “polytheism.”

As for followers, Atiya said they should know and resort to knowledgeable sheikhs to gain a clear understanding of things they were confused about. But he said they should not leave all their thinking to one sheikh, in order not to be led astray.

The cleric added that in Islam, people should not imitate anyone except the Prophet Muhammad, since “he is considered to have the wisdom, vision and sight due to his transfer of orders from God and because he was safeguarded from committing wrong." But sheikhs do make mistakes, Atiya said "and the layman has to ask more than one sheikh to arrive at the right understanding of religion.”
posted by XMLicious at 10:03 PM on June 9, 2010


While I appreciate that many on the blue feel protective towards Islam, I'm assuming, because of the prejudice in the media and pretty much throughout the West against Muslims and the Muslim world, we cannot ignore that such 'opinions' and views emanate from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia--which incidentally, is viewed by many as an outpost of the West in the Muslim world. The House of Saud is a monarchy that dates back to the advent of the British in Arabia, a mere 85 years ago, and is given military protection by the US to this day. Intimate relations between Westminster, DC and Riyadh are well-documented, thus there is no reason for me to comment further in the matter.

However, I don't see how any of this is at all defensible. As someone said above, that there is such strict segregation in the first place is what is so outrageous. As I said above, if the Prophet's wife could lead men into battle, how does that jive with the law in Saudi Arabia today that mandates that women need permission from their father or husband to travel? How is imposing such strict separation between the sexes justifiable, whether by humanist norms or Islamic ones?

All of this retrograde thinking is due to the petrodollars given to the Kingdom by the oil companies than 'Islam'. It is only because Saudis can afford to import all their domestic and industrial labour from overseas that their women can afford not to mix with men unless they are relatives, or employees. Note, that such strict segregation never existed in Arabia before the emergence of the Sauds, and has no connection with early Islam.

Furthermore, this strict segragation is a bit like the notion that only eunuchs were allowed in the Forbidden City. Would we consider that humane today? Why does not everyone condemn it? Ought all the men in the Bundestag today be castrated so that Angela Merkel's virtue is beyond reproach? ;-)

Furthermore, in this unholy Kingdom, women are not allowed to drive. Yet, it is the only Muslim country with such a law ... nowhere else does such a prohibition exist (because there were no cars back in the day, and the Quran is silent on the matter!). Thus, the consensus in the Muslim world is that women should be able to drive, yet the Guardians of the Holy Shrines disagree. Clearly, this indicates that they are out of touch with mainstream interpretation in a more liberal world of Islam, and what is so dangerous is that they are spending billions of dollars trying to spread their radically conservative ideology throughout the Muslim world. Given this danger, and the fact that they are so behind the mainstream, tells us is that what that Kingdom needs is a lobotomy, with the existing brain (the monarchy and their collaborators in the clergy) excised from the skull.

But no such lobotomy will be permitted by its protectors in Washington and Westminster, because the concessions given to ARAMCO, Exxon, BP, etc. could be jeopardized. This resentment festers, and one outgrowth of it has manifested itself in the form of Al-Qaeda, whose initial primary aim was to 'liberate' Arabia of the Sauds and their American overlords.

Therefore, we need to focus and galvanize opinion for a better solution with respect to Saudi Arabia. The news we get from there indicates that there are liberal bloggers and women fighting back, but that the state and religious police remains deeply conservative and they are the organs supported by the Western capitals and the oil companies. Until such a solution is found, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will continue to wreak havoc by promoting more barbarism and intolerance wherever their tentacles can reach.
posted by Azaadistani at 10:43 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Saudis have been pouring billions of petrodollars into setting up scientific research institutes for national prestige (according to the supercomputers-of-the-world treemap that was floating around recently, they own a good number of the world's most powerful supercomputers). One wonders what sort of scientific research would be compatible with strict Wahhabiism. Now we know: a programme to develop a drug to induce lactation in non-nursing women so that they can fulfil their religious duty.

Well the conservatives hate KAUST which is the new state of the art science focused university in Saudi, partially because the campus is not segregated.
posted by atrazine at 1:21 AM on June 10, 2010


There is nothing 'cultural' or 'Islamic' about this retrogressive interpretation of the religion. In a tradition where women led men into battle (Mohammed's wife Ayesha, to state one example), the notion of such strict segregation has little to do with the religion, than the customs and twisted views of those who are promoting a completely nonsensical version of it.

And this slide into ever-more restrictive beliefs ripples throughout the Muslim world, not least because the Saudi monarchs are viewed as guardians of the Holy shrines in Mecca and Medina.


Yup. One of the finer points in William Darlymple's excellent White Mughals that stuck with me was how educated women were in the northern and southern Sultanates and in the Mughal-era courts; I believe half the buildings in Shahjahanabad were designed by women. The most ferocious of all battalions in the (Hyderabad) Nizam's army was the Amazon brigade, which was tasked with not just protecting the zenana, but also frequently saw military action.
posted by the cydonian at 8:13 PM on June 10, 2010


according to the supercomputers-of-the-world treemap that was floating around recently, they own a good number of the world's most powerful supercomputers

Actually, they own one 222 TeraFLOP/s supercomputer, which is among the 25 fastest in the world. US export control prevents Saudi Arabia from owning a bigger one, as they are considered a critical technology for the development of nuclear weapons. For KAUST, it's a small step towards joining the world's first-tier research institutions, and we are doing legitimate science on it in partnership with universities like MIT and Cambridge.
posted by onalark at 2:51 AM on June 13, 2010




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