Thursday, September 9, 2010

Milk Sheikh

Here is one incredible sheikh, Mr. Abdel Mohsen Obeikan, Saudi’s Vice Minister of Justice, who came out with new a ruling this summer: Women in Saudi Arabia should breastfeed their cab drivers.

Let me back up a minute and say that when people talk about “rulings” in Saudi, they generally mean fatwas, which technically fall into the category of suggestion, not law. Although certain fatwas can turn into law, or become so well accepted that they might as well BE law, they are still suggestions.

So here’s the back story. In the Hadith – the traditional collection of stories concerning the Prophet Mohammed – it is widely known that if a woman breastfeeds a child, she forms a maternal bond with the baby, whether or not it’s actually her own. This is more than just some fanciful spiritual commerce, this bond is practical. Let’s say a woman breastfeeds a young boy. Years later, when that boy is grown and technically no longer allowed to be in the company of women he’s not related to, he is still allowed to be around the women who breastfed him. She’s like his mother.

So this clever scholar, Mr. Obeikan, presumably advocating for women’s rights, suggested that women pump their breast milk and feed it to their cab drivers, or for that matter, to any man they might have to come into contact with. Think about it. This way women are allowed to interact with strange men! And no law is broken! No suggestion ignored! It works for everyone. The women are happy, and the men are... – can you just see some Filipino cab driver picking a woman up on a street corner, and she’s like: “Um, I’m sorry, I can’t get in your car until you drink my breast milk. I’ve got it right here in a little bottle. You can suck on it while we drive.”

The reaction was an appropriate lambast. A woman’s group who advocates for driving started using the slogan “Either let us drive or breastfeed foreigners.” Some women, aggravated with problems at work, have started threatening to breast-feed their male colleagues. The censors removed Milk Sheikh’s radio program, “Fatwas on Air”. And the Saudi government issued a statement saying only sheikhs approved by the King could issue fatwas from now on. In one way it’s too bad, because Milk was one of the staunchly anti-al-Qaeda guys.

The fiasco inspired this hilarious little poem that includes the word “pornistan.” 

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