Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Here - Drink This!

Warning: Please go to the bathroom to relieve yourself BEFORE reading this post. I don't want to be responsible for you wetting yourself... don't say I didn't warn you.

Just when you thought some things couldn't get any more bizarre in this part of the world than they already are, a learned Saudi cleric, Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obeikan, is doing some quick backpedaling after publicly supporting a fatwa (religious ruling) which basically says that it's okay for working women to breastfeed male co-workers, as this would be a legitimate way of getting around gender segregation in the workplace here in Saudi Arabia.

Three years ago, an Egyptian sheikh caused quite an international ruckus when he was asked in a televised interview about whether it was acceptable for an adult male to drink the milk from a lactating female co-worker in order to establish a maternal bond of sorts, thereby precluding the strict gender segregation rule in the workplace. As if the question itself wasn't bizarre enough, the fact that he answered a resounding "YES!" was enough to provoke widespread shock and disbelief, as well as plenty of head shaking and hair pulling.

According to Islam, if a nursing mother breastfeeds an infant who is not her own on five separate occasions, a legally recognized familial bond is established between the two of them, plus the nursing donor's immediate family. This means that if the child is a male, when he grows up, the gender segregation issue does not come into play - meaning that the woman and her daughters would not have to cover up around him and they can socialize together. Apparently this is done frequently in Saudi families between sisters so that gender segregation won't affect the families getting together once their children are grown, since all the cousins would then be considered "milk siblings." At the same time, it also means that these cousins would not be allowed to marry each other, as is often done within Saudi families. This also implies that there would logically be no chance of any illicit sexual relations between any of them since that would be incest.

75-yr-old Syrian widow Khamisa Mohammed SawadiThis milking bond came into question last year when 75-year-old Syrian widow, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, who was living in Saudi Arabia, was arrested and sentenced to 4 months in prison and 40 lashes because two young men (one of them her "milk" son) entered her residence bearing several loaves of bread. The two young men were also arrested and sentenced to about the same punishment as the old woman. The last I read about this case was in December 2009 stating that all appeals were denied for all three and that the sentences stand. I have to admit that at 50-something, it might be hard to believe that the woman actually breastfed her husband's nephew. But why on earth would it be a crime in the first place to be kind and considerate to an elderly woman? Something is seriously wrong for this to be a crime.

Saudi Sheikh Al-ObiekanSheikh Al-Obiekan seemed to think that drinking a woman's pumped breastmilk out of a glass and not suckling directly from the woman's breast is a perfectly reasonable and acceptable way to skirt around and avoid the strict religious ban on gender mixing in this society. But in a bizarre twist to this already unbelievable story, another equally intelligent and enlightened religious scholar and voice of reason disagreed with that (don't get too excited just yet!). This other guy said that the milk should be suckled right from the woman's breast! Forget the fact that Islam also says that nursing should be done during the first two years of a child's life and mentions nothing at all about the ridiculous notion of woman nursing a grown man.

I'm just trying to imagine a prim and proper Saudi woman here covered in black from head to toe whipping out her breast - five separate times, mind you - and offering it to an unrelated man just so she can legally work with him! The whole image is just so absurd. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Don’t these religious scholars have more important issues to worry about than to continually fantasize about womens' breasts? And what exactly are they trying to do to Muslim women? And how is the woman's husband supposed to take all of this?

SaudiWoman wrote a great post which documents the Arabic newspaper articles covering this story.


  1. As a Saudi, I would say may God help Saudi Arabia from those people!

    So many of us are ashamed of what those shakhs are saying! I am glad that no body listen to them anymore.

    I used to work at a mixed environment in Jeddah and we were like brothers and sisters because we have self respect!

    The magic word is respect not Brest-feeding!

  2. yiiii! this is just odd! i would not even whip my breast out for a male to see, would he not be my husband.
    i cant imagine a male allowing his wife to submit such an act for a job...

  3. Great post Susie, what a waste of brain energy.

  4. It's always just So totally Bizarre.

  5. Another absurd and off the charts idea. It is beyond pathetic and I can't imagine why anyone with a brain would fall for this CRAP! It ticks me off so much, to think about how women are treated over there I could scream. "How high can I make you jump?" Very, very sad.

  6. Susie! Once again thank you for a wonderful and insightful post. I also appreciate the warning. I laughed sooo loud, I scared the dogs! Outrageous. Hilarious. Love it!

  7. OMG, I can't stoplaughing after reading this post. For the lack of anything better to do. I am having a laughing fit orwait should I be crying over this ?

  8. This wouldnt make sense and is stil considered sinful in Islam, there is a specific requirement to when you can do something like breast feed e.g. if you are looking/adopted a kid and you dont want to constantly treat him as a stranger as he gets older, and two if you looking after some disabled person etc, not random people you want to work with
    this is just some deranged man
    im sick of people making Islam look so weird due to their own denrangedness
    ok Salaamz

  9. Wow, I think the sheikhs got the wrong idea about the concept of 'team-bonding exercises' :S This is the weirdest thing I've ever heard. If somebody was to suggest male coworkers to breastfeed from their female coworkers here in North America, there would be accusations of sexual harassment and what have you. The very stuff that apparently is the reason why the genders are separated in the KSA. I don't get it.

  10. G'Day Susie, compliments on your blog.

    I read this same article earlier this week and toyed with the idea of sending it to you but wasn't sure you would care to post it.

    I must say I admire you more and more.

    As I said in earlier comments on previous posts why do the people of KSA allow such idiots to rule their lives. It is beyond my reason.

    Just read about the Hamas in Gaza mass wedding ceremony for 450men and their child brides under 10years old.

    Once again it is beyond my reason.

    Kindest regards...Aussie Lady

  11. Hi again Susie

    I just read that the little girls at the hamas wedding ceremony were the nieces and just playing dressups and that the real brides had not appeared as yet. Do you know what the actual truth is in this matter.

    Regards Aussie Lady

  12. stupid stupid stupid..... this is it...... my last straw with this religious scholars...!!!!!!!!!! they are sick sick men.....

  13. Just when you think these crazy sheikhs have exhausted their limits for stupidity, narrow mindedness and plain nastiness, they reach previously unknown heights!

    Milk-brothers/sisters are pretty common in the arab world.. but one thing that struck me, especially in the case of the old widow in saudi, is how do you prove it? There is no testable link like there is with DNA.

    The saudi idea of deliberately creating more milk/brothers/sisters in order to loosen segregation rules seems to me like it may backfire. While most close milk-relations are reguarded as family, I do wonder if
    people may fall into a situation where they know in their head that they are 'sisters & brothers' but are still attracted to one another? Especially in closed saudi society?

    Great post Susie!

  14. Does anyone if this really is true? Or does anyone know more about this incident? ">>> Location: Main Entrance Mamlaka/Kingdom Tower
    >>> When: Less than 2 weeks ago.
    >>> Who: Ladies – Kingdom Compound Shopping Bus
    >>> The ladies were dropped off at the main entrance (not at the bottom of
    the steps), as the bus left the ramp and the ladies were gathering
    themselves to go inside, an expensive four wheel drive stopped at the main
    entrance. A youth hung out of the sun roof of the vehicle and pelted the
    ladies with rocks (not small stones or pebbles … very large rocks), as they
    threw the rocks they kept shouting “Get out of Arabia”. At least one of
    head and she fell to the floor. Whilst this was happening NOT ONE SINGLE
    person came to their assistance. The car drove down the ramp with the
    women shouting for someone to stop them. Unfortunately they escaped, but more
    because there was no attempt by security to stop the car. The incident did
    not last much more than about 15 seconds apparently, but enough to throw a
    large number of rocks. The lady was on the floor and soaked in blood, and NO Kingdom mall
    security came to assist and call for a car to take her to hospital and no
    Police were called. The compound bus had to return to take the lady to
    hospital for stitches. The only thing that was done by the Mall security
    was to pick up all the rocks and throw water over the marble floor to
    clear the blood! I would add a footnote: that my wife was harassed
    outside Kingdom about 3 weeks back. So much so, that she had to stop the
    Police who luckily for her just happened to be passing, whereupon the guy
    ran like the bloody devil to get away."

  15. yahhhaaaaa....hoooo. I am laughing my head off at this one. How stupid is this? the last paragraph. I would never nurse a grown man just of the work place. hahahah!

  16. I don't know what to say. This is unbelievable.

    I'm literally speechless.


  18. It's been a long time since I've commented because i can't get your blog anymore at work, sorry.
    I'm answering from home.
    This whole country is full of wrong, evil worldly things! Shame on you Saudi! You claim to be soooo righteous and following the law of Allah, what does gold, money, greed, disrespect to women, etc. have to do with eternal life. Things of this world are
    temporary. You just don't get it!! Pathetic!

  19. OOOMMMGGG! I'm speechless... I don't even know what to say... except for...

  20. I don't know how the sheikh could say that to begin with. Logically speaking, if a woman is alone with a non male relative in Saudi Arabia wouldn't she be arrested for that? And then..if the police caught her wouldn't the fact that she was indecent be another case against her? Lashings and jail? And of course then there is her in such a culture such as Saudi Arabia would he look the other way or divorce her on the spot?

  21. When I lived in Riyadh, I heard that this was how some Conservative families got around the issue of having their woman in the car with an unrelated driver - the driver was fed by the woman 5 x and thus became a milk-son...

  22. This must be exaggeration.

  23. Off-topic comment :
    Susie, is the email on the contact page a valid one ? I would like to send u something .

  24. Thanks to all the commenters - forgive me for not addressing each one individually...

    Hi Tarabulsi - Self respect and self control are all that's needed in gender mixing and so many people around the world are capable of this. Why the citizens of KSA aren't trusted to be able to control themselves is something I cannot understand.

    Hi Lori - On another blog, a commenter said to not condemn these poor sheikhs until a "scholarly opinion" is handed down. These ARE scholars who said this! People need to use their own brains - what's really scary is that many of them don't and just follow blindly.

    Hi Hijabi - Good point about adoption. There are valid reasons for "wet-nursing" a child not one's own. But this flimsy excuse is just sick, sick, sick.

    Hi Anon/Aussie Lady - That story about the mass wedding of child brides is totally a lie. I investigated it when I first heard about it months ago. The girls are young family members of either the bride or the groom. Traditionally young girls dress up to play a role in the celebrations in a way similar to how flower girls are used in Western weddings. They are NOT the ones who got married.

  25. Hi MissChatterbox - In order to prove that someone is your "milk" relative, I would think that several men would have to actually witness a woman breastfeeding another child five times - because the word of a woman here in this society isn't good enough. If someone knows how this is actually proven, please help me out here.

    Hi Anon @ 10:24Pm - I have read about this on several sites and forums. There are some sketchy and questionable items in this story so I don't know the authenticity of it. I find it hard to believe that no one came to woman's aid or seemed concerned about her welfare. The claim that the youths were shouting "Get out of Arabia" is another red flag - as most Saudis do not call their country "Arabia."

    Hi Nasser - It's a wonderful video - I'm going to be posting it soon.

    Hi Anon @ 8:47AM - There is absolutely no logic in this whole idea - none at all.

    Hi Anon @ 3:15PM - That just doesn't sound credible that women in Riyadh breastfeed their drivers...

    Hi Anon @ 3:43PM - I wish it were...

    Hi Anon @ 4:04PM - Yes, the email address is correct.

  26. Susie, you and I are North Americans and have been taught not to breast feed other women's infants for health reasons but it's quite common in some countries. Don't forget that years ago baby formula and baby bottles were unheard of in some areas (still are) so it was a common practice. I totally understand how that comes to be. Sometimes a woman needs a babysitter and the baby has to be fed. I met my husband's milk mother and siblings in Saudi this winter and it was quite touching actually.

  27. So not only will the female worker have to whip out a (convieniantly lactating) breast and feed her male co-worker, but furthermore the other men in the office will have to gather round and watch, so that it may later be verified??!!!

    And the crazy thing is, this is to promote 'modesty' and prevent inappropriate sexual activity/feelings between non mahram men and female colleagues! So a man who is sexually attracted to a colleague will be rendered mahram by being breastfed.. several times.. and instantly all relations will become platonic... Does this sheikh not see anything wrong with this picture?!

  28. Hi Wendy - Breastfeeding someone else's baby, I'm okay with. But breastfeeding a grown man to legitimize the purpose of co-mingling with him is totally counter-productive to why men and women are forbidden from co-mingling in the first place.

    Hi Miss Chatterbox - You get it and I get it - unfortunately these nutty religious scholars don't.

  29. Marrying their cousins already sound so weird to me, although I know that this also happen in other parts of the world, but this one is just over the top. Hhmm...
    I'm wondering what could next?

  30. Ugh. As Hijabis on Ranting Tour said, I am so sick of these random people making Islam look so weird/backward/sex-obsessed. I am hoping to adopt children someday Insha'Allah, and Alhamdulillah the breastfeeding rule would make the children my mahrams. However, breastfeeding GROWN MEN just so you can be seen without hijab in front of them is disgusting and totally unnecessary. If Muslims just followed the rules of hijab (in clothing and in manners) and treated the opposite sex with respect, with pure intentions and without exceeding boundaries, then these problems (and solutions) wouldn't come up.

  31. What I don't get Susie, is how they could conveniently do away with basic human anatomy?! Or do they think women are truly from Venus?!

    Then they compound it by 'conveniently' suspending the part of a woman's breast being arwah. To which they now would attach witnesses to make it 'formal and legal'.

    But one blogger did point out as he said he was ducking, that maybe what we might have to question is where in Islam such 'loopholes and technicalities' could even become pronounceable!?

    These guys should have left it at being lawyers for petty thieves, because they truly suck at being "Scholars"...

  32. Hello Susie,

    Having breastfed myself for a year after my daughter was born, nothing in regard to breastfeeding could be more repulsive than the thought of a grown man, especially a work-mate trying to breastfeed.

    Given the strict segregation in KSA, it is remarkable that such a suggestion could be made to insult women's dignity in such a way.

    Breastfeeding is a special sort of nurturing which really is reserved for small infants and mothers and if culturally appropriate, very close friends and family.



  33. Oh hahaha! This is hilarious and sad at the same time!

  34. Alobaikan isn't a scholar - he is a talkative person who wants fame and only fame !

    Ignore such things - they won't add anything and they won't even influence anything either!

    People in Saudia don't bother hearing him- he's always like that ! He he he

  35. @ Susie - I just wanted to be sure about the baby thing.

    You know this whole stupid issue wouldn't be an issue if there wasn't this stupid KSA male/female segregation. Certainly it is not followed by many of the royal family princes.

  36. Hey Susie, FINALLY commenting on your blog (it's your favorite Niece) - feel free to edit (can you edit?), I'm not even sure if I've clicked the correct buttons below...I want my name to show as '2Shea'...what an idiot, I can rant and rave, but don't know how to post a comment on a here goes, if I get cut off, let me know and I’ll resend or do what I need to so it all displays (you'll probably want to remove this first paragraph/run-on sentence)-or maybe you’ll think the whole thing is too ‘out there’ to publish and you can just keep it for your personal enjoyment - I’ll love ya anyways...

    When I first read this story I was outraged, but then later found the humor and have many questions...

    First all, does this not presume the woman must be pregnant, or have a nursing child? What if she (or her husband) is sterile? What if she is past child-bearing age? What if she has had a mastectomy? Maybe this is yet another way to radically reduce women in the workplace. I know there are medications/hormones women can take to cause them to lactate - I see this as a big boost for pharmaceuticals in Saudi. Or maybe women could opt for prosthetic breasts that can be filled with milk…offer assorted flavors and such.

    We all know coworkers are not static. So every time a new employee is hired, this ritual will have to occur. Working women would basically have to be continually lactating, and I predict a drastic increase in job turnover occurring.

    Since women must be covered, at least until the 5 nursings are completed, I guess she would have to have panels/flaps on her abaya, like a Nursing Bra. This could become a sign of prestige in Saudi. Whenever you see a woman wearing one of these with breast flaps, you’ll think to yourself, “Wow, that woman is a PROFESSIONAL!”

    Does this follow for women who may want to work in a services industry, like a sales clerk, or waitress/cashier? Will men have to carry punch-cards with the various female employees names? Every time they nurse, they get their card punched? I guarantee the McDonald’s with the female cashier will have way more business than the one without. They would probably have to start charging a restaurant entrance fee, because very likely a man would not be hungry after nursing from several women. It might be common to send your husband out to pick up dinner and he comes back empty-handed because ‘he’s full’. Saudi’s would come to understand the “But Hooter’s has the best wings!” defense that American men use. And women would know why their husband insists on driving to the Pizza Hut 20 miles away rather than the one down the block…

    Let’s go beyond co-workers…Does this open the door for women to freely interact in society? Could a woman set a chair at the entrance to a mosque for a month or so, and once she has fed all the male attendees (5 times), have free access to the mosque? Would you be allowed to go to the grocery store or run errands by yourself once you have nursed the male workers at the stores and other places you frequent? Once you have nursed all the men in your area - the workers, the neighbors, the homeless people - a woman could freely walk about her community. Maybe a special day could be set aside for a ‘Nursing Holiday’ (kind of like Halloween) in which the men go door to door and nurse from women at their residences. This holiday would probably have to occur once a week in heavily populated areas.

    It seems to me, Saudi Arabia would become awash in breast milk. Maybe the men would become so tired of breastfeeding that they would choose to stay in, and thereby turn the tables. All the men would stay indoors and women could walk about freely. This would end up still complying with the segregation laws, but the roles would be reversed.

  37. Hi Pepe - Yes, marrying cousins is common in many cultures, but I agree - this idea is just too far out there.

    Hi BananaAnne - I agree that merely treating others with due respect and exercising self-control is all that's required for civilizations to peacefully exist.

    Hi Inal - Thanks for your comment - It's all just too absurd to try to figure out the mechanics that would be involved in this crazy idea...

    Hi Anon/Kristina - It IS a pretty repulsive thought, isn't it? Yuk!!!

    Hi Suroor - I know!!!

    Hi Hamdah - I find this really confusing. You are saying that Saudis don't really listen to what he has to say, but I've read articles where he has been described as "Adviser to the Royal Court," "member of the Saudi Shura Council and a judicial counselor," "vice-minister of Justice of Saudi Arabia," "A writer, a lecturer, and a speaker, he is a prominent figure who actively defends Islam against the fundamental and militant ideologies of groups such as al Qaeda who have been gaining popularity in Saudi Arabia in the last few years," "a top religious scholar and an advisor in the court of King Abdullah," etc etc etc. So apparently what he says must carry some weight if he advises the King, no?

  38. Hi Wendy - I personally feel that the gender segregation here causes more social problems than it tries to prevent. The way it is set up, men are relieved of all responsibility if they cannot control themselves because it is all the woman's fault for tempting him. Having respect and self- control are the keys, but obsession and awkwardness is what the segregation creates.

    Ah 2Shea!!! I can't believe it. Adam and I were rolling on the floor as we read what you had to say. I'm thinking of making a post out of what your wrote!

  39. This breastfeeding report was absolutely scandalous. As you said, nobody would ever believe it if it weren't true. Thanks for the info.

  40. @2Shea! LOL!!!

    My husband is saudi. He doesn't like abaya or hijab, he doesn't like restrictions on women. He likes for me to do what I want. To meet and work with whom I want.
    But he is very much against me letting other men lick my breast!!!!!

    And so am i!

    Tooooooo sickening!
    Thes scholars prove that the issue is not weather women are to mingle with men. But that segregation makes men into sick perverts.
    Segregation has finally fried these scholar's brains!

  41. Hi Betty Ann - I like that word "scandalous!"

    Hi CuratorOfDreams - You are so lucky to have such a liberal Saudi husband. Mine was a long time ago, but the older he gets, the more he regresses back to being very conservative. Glad to hear your hubby would draw the line at having co-workers nibbling on your breast!!!

  42. A Canadian ReaderJun 2, 2010, 3:33:00 AM

    I didn't find this post funny at all--especially when you talked about the elderly woman who is going to be lashed.

    When it comes to women's rights, the only way to describe SA is "backward".

    I'm sorry, though not surprised, to hear how your husband is returning to his conservative (dare I say backward?) roots.