Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kill The Pastor, Milk The Mother, and What's New In got to be kidding!

In a highly unusual article in the Saudi daily Al-Wiam, Saudi columnist Ahmad 'Adnan called for the secularization of Saudi Arabia and for the separation of religion and state. He said that there is no contradiction between secular and Islamic values, and that secularization in the country would prevent the Islamists from imposing their views and would ensure equal treatment for all Saudi citizens. He also discussed the conflict between the liberals and the Islamists in Saudi Arabia, which has been widely covered by the media, particularly on the issue of mixing of the genders.  See Item 3 below

Item 1

Source: MEMRI

An Internet Message to American Muslims: Kill Florida Pastor Terry Jones

No. 3226 - September 12, 2010

On September 10, 2010, a jihadist web forum posted a call to American Muslims to kill pastor Terry Jones. The call was posted on Al-Tahadi jihadist web forum by Abu Suleiman Al-Nassir, about whom not much is known. Following are excerpts from his message posted in English, and a response by one of the website's users (lightly edited for clarity): "In the name of Allah, the most gracious and the most merciful: "To all Muslims in America... This is a message to you... [A message asking you] to do your duty to defend Islam and the Quran... You did see all what… Terry Jones called for [burning of the Quran]." Note to media and government: For the full report and for a copy of the clip, send an email with "An Internet Message to American Muslims" in the subject line to
Item 2 
Saudi Arabia's Brave New World

Controversy in Saudi Arabia over Fatwa Permitting Breastfeeding of Adults
By: Y. Admon*
Sheikh 'Abd Al-Muhsin Al-'Obikan, an advisor at the Saudi Justice Ministry, recently issued a fatwa allowing the breastfeeding of adults. The fatwa is aimed at enabling an unrelated man and woman to be secluded in the same room, a situation which Islam considers forbidden gender mixing. The rationale behind the fatwa is that breastfeeding creates a bond of kinship between the man and woman, rendering the man her mahram,[1] thus making it acceptable for them to be together in seclusion.
The fatwa created a stir in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab media at large, arousing a wave of criticism from clerics and columnists alike. Clerics claimed that breastfeeding could not create a bond of kinship between a female and an unrelated male over two years of age, and some claimed that the fatwa contradicted the shari'a. Columnists argued that such grotesque fatwas are insulting to women, and also tarnish the Muslims' image. One columnist pointed to a paradox, namely that the fear of gender-mixing is prompting clerics to encourage lewd behaviors like women breastfeeding grown men.
Despite this criticism, Al-'Obikan has stood his ground, and even reiterated his position in greater detail.
It should be noted that this issue first arose in Egypt in May 2007, following a similar fatwa issued by Dr. 'Izzat 'Atiyya, formerly head of the Hadith Department at Al-Azhar University, which permitted a woman to breastfeed a man with whom she must work in private. This fatwa led to 'Atiyya's dismissal from his post at Al-Azhar.
The following document presents the fatwa issued by Al-'Obikan and several reactions to it.
Al-'Obikan: Adult Breastfeeding Permissible in Two Specific Cases
In a May 21, 2010 interview for the Al-Arabiya website, Al-'Obikan said it is permissible for a woman to breastfeed a man who is not a family member: "If a family [employs] an outsider who visits the home frequently, and [this man] has no relatives besides this family – and his presence burdens the members of the household, especially when women are present – it is permissible for a woman to breastfeed him." Al-'Obikan based his argument on a hadith attributed to Muhammad's wife, 'Aisha, which relates that Salem, the adopted son of Abu Hudheifa, was breastfed by Abu-Hudheifa's wife when he was already a grown man with a beard, by the Prophet's decree. Al-'Obikan stressed that the principle represented by this hadith is not limited to a specific time or place, but is universally applicable. He added, however, that a man should not be breastfed directly from a woman's breast, but should be given milk which has been breast pumped.
In a communiqué he posted to his website, Al-'Obikan claimed that the breastfeeding of an unrelated male is also permissible in cases where a family decides to adopt an orphan child, who is likely to find himself in seclusion with the women of the household. According to the communiqué, one of the women in the family must pump milk for the orphan – enough for five mouthfuls – and this renders him the woman's son, thereby solving the problem of seclusion.[4]
Al-'Obikan's statements met with severe censure in the Saudi press. A number of articles in the daily Al-Riyadh presented readers' comments on the issue. Some of the readers argued that only moral education could address the issue of male and female seclusion. Others called for the establishment of a body that would prevent the issuing of strange fatwas such as these, or publish a clear response to any such fatwa issued.[5] Al-'Obikan's statements were also disapproved of by Saudi clerics and columnists.
In response to this criticism, Al-'Obikan clarified that his fatwa is not meant to permit women to breastfeed men in their workplace – hinting at the Egyptian fatwa, which did permit this – because such a permission was improper and extreme.
[6] He added: "It is regrettable that there are those who are hasty to react to religious rulings, and misinterpret [them] without verifying them... Some understood my fatwa to apply to drivers, servants, and other 'outsiders,' but this is only permissible in rare cases."[7] In an interview with the Saudi government daily 'Okaz, Al-'Obikan reiterated his previous statements in greater detail, explaining that by "outsider" he did not mean a non-Saudi, but a Saudi who was not considered the woman's mahram. In another interview, Al-'Obikan said that his ruling is based on shari'a proofs, and that he does not therefore intend to reconsider it.[8]
Saudi Mufti: Adult Breastfeeding Goes against Shari'a
Saudi Mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bin 'Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh said that adult breastfeeding contradicts Islamic law and the norms shared by Muslims. According to Al-Sheikh, this kind of breastfeeding is permissible only when the male in question is a baby under two years of age. Otherwise, it does not render him the woman's mahram. The mufti added that adult breastfeeding has negative and undesirable results, and has been rejected by the majority of Muslims.
Similarly, Dr. Muhammad Al-Nujeimi, a civics professor and member of the Islamic law faculty at King Fahd University, called on Al-'Obikan to rescind his ruling, as "adult breastfeeding is not [a way to turn a man into the woman's mahram] and whoever permits it is wide of the truth... There are caveats in the shari'a regarding adult breastfeeding: How should the adult breastfeed? [Should he nurse directly] from the woman's breasts, or should she pump the milk into a cup for him? How can he nurse from her breasts if he has reached the age of reason and is not her mahram? Even if he drinks the milk from a cup, we are talking about a grown man... who has no need for [mother's] milk..."[10]
In a June 25, 2010 sermon, Sheikh 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, imam of the Al-Harram Mosque in Mecca, denounced the fatwa, demanding an end to the phenomenon of people "who invade the domain of shari'a ruling" while ignoring the ramifications of their rulings on society and on the Muslim ummah. In his sermon, Al-Sudayyis referred to Al-'Obikan's fatwa specifically, and to other fatwas that had recently been issued by various Saudi clerics, cautioning against opinions that deceive the ummah and cause confusion and conflict, and form the basis for strange and aberrant fatwas.[11]
Conversely, Sheikh Dr. Saleh Al-Sadlan, professor at the Imam Mohammad Bin Saud Islamic University, expressed his support for the fatwa, which he said applies only in specific cases. He said the fatwa should not be regarded with disdain, as it is in line with the Sunna and the opinions of numerous clerics. Al-Sadlan also said that since the fatwa seems strange to the public, it behooves the mufti or the Senior Clerics Council – the Saudi Arabia's supreme religious authority – to examine the fatwa and issue their endorsement of it.[12] A particularly unusual reaction came from Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hashem, a senior cleric in the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments., who said he expects the fatwa to meet with significant resistance "because a woman is not [entitled to] market her milk, which is not her property but her husband's, with whose sole authority she nurses her baby."[13]
Saudi Columnists: Fear of Gender Mixing Is Leading Clerics to Issue Ridiculous Fatwas
In an article titled "To Legitimate Gender Mixing – Women, Breastfeed the Men!" that appeared in the Saudi daily Al-Watan, liberal columnist Halima Muzaffar wrote: "...It is strange that Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Obikan should issue such a fatwa... as if it were a solution to [the problem of] an unrelated man mixing with women in their home, or with his [female] colleagues at the workplace... Will the honorable religious police punish a woman for breastfeeding her driver?... Will she be judged guilty of infidelity and adultery when her husband comes home and finds her implementing the fatwa, and breastfeeding one of her relatives who is not her mahram, or one of her co-workers, in order to prevent gender mixing between them at the workplace?! We must do away with this phobia of gender mixing, which afflicts numerous Saudis..."
Columnist Layla Ahmad Al-Ahdab also expressed a similar view in Al-Watan: "...This fatwa does not suit the times or the place, [which is why] several Saudi clerics have criticized it... Someone who lives with his brother because he has no [relatives] besides him and his wife – this is a rare situation... What is to be done if his brother's wife is not nursing and neither are her sisters? What if the woman is a widow or divorcee and has no milk in her breasts?... How long will the 'gender mixing phobia' serve as a source for fatwas that cause the world to laugh at us?"[15]
Saudi Journalist: The Fatwa Is Offensive to Women
In an article for the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Nadine Al-Budair, a Saudi journalist and presenter for the U.S. Arabic-language TV station Al-Hurra, wrote: "...[A senior employee] will breastfeed her clerks; a [common] employee will breastfeed her colleagues; we will all begin breastfeeding: mothers, sons, brothers, and sisters. The extremism of several clerics has led... to something unacceptable, which is foreign even to the Western societies... The issue is rare and fascinating, but [its implementation] in reality is repugnant. [The fatwa] is a frightening public pronouncement... meant to ensure individual freedoms in a way that is beyond primitive.
"Do not be surprised if this fatwa is implemented, since everything in the Islamic world is being made permissible. Proof of this is that we are witnessing new types of marriage [that only] yesterday were forbidden.
[16] Today or tomorrow perhaps they will announce a new form of breastfeeding. All this [is due to the fact that] most fatwas deal with the same domain, namely with male-female relations. Therefore, the woman is consistently targeted: in one instance she is required to conceal her body, in another to expose it or to unabashedly pump [milk] from it, without any right to voice her opinion or interfere [in issues that concern] her body and personal needs. The fatwa-issuing thugs give orders, pass judgment, and make decisions: love is forbidden; looking [at a man] is a sin; expressions of love are contemptible – [but] as for breastfeeding, that is permissible, permissible, permissible."[17]
Cartoon in Saudi Daily
Woman's Clothing Store Sign Reads: "New! Abaya with Opening for Breastfeeding!"

Al-Jazeera (Saudi Arabia), June 3, 2010. Cartoonist: Hajed.
* Y. Admon is a Research Fellow at MEMRI

[1] A man whom a woman is forbidden to marry due to blood kinship – i.e. a father, grandfather, brother, or son – in which case there is no prohibition against seclusion.
[2] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Report No. 355, "Al-Azhar Lecturer Suspended after Issuing Controversial Fatwa Recommending Breastfeeding of Men by Women in the Workplace," May 25, 2007,
[5] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 26, 2010.
[6] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010.
[8] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 17, 2010.
[9] Al-Sho'la (Saudi Arabia), June 13, 2010.
[10] Al-Wiam (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010. It should be noted that additional clerics opposed Al-'Obikan's fatwa. Among them, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Hassan Al-Dari'i, a member of the teaching faculty at the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University. He said that had the fatwa been issued under the previous Saudi mufti, Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bin Baz, the mufti would have demanded that Al-'Obikan be imprisoned and his tongue cut out. Sabq (Saudi Arabia), May 28, 2010.
[11], June 26, 2010. Saudi cleric Dr. Hamoud 'Ubah called Al-'Okiban's fatwa aberrant and loathsome. He said its author was relying on a specific case whose circumstances could not be applied to other situations. Dr. Muhammad Al-Harfi, a lecturer and columnist, was of the same opinion, and said that clerics needed to limit the age during which breastfeeding was permissible to two years. He added that it was improper for Al-'Obikan to issue such a fatwa, knowing it to be unusual. Al-Harfi also said that the ruling was too general, allowing people to apply it as they see fit, and that this could eventually devalue the shari'a in people's eyes. Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010.
[12] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 10, 2010.
[13] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010.
[14] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2010.
[15] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 31, 2010.
[16] This refers to various types of marriage that are permitted in Islam. Mut'a ("pleasure") marriage, permitted in Shi'ite Islam, is contracted for a limited period of time, and divorce is not needed to end it. 'Urf ("custom") marriage is an arrangement that does not require an official contract and grants the woman no rights. It is considered legal matrimony as long as they meet the legal criteria for marriage. In a "friend" marriage, the girl remains at her family's home, and she and the man do not maintain a shared household, but meet whenever and wherever they want. This type of marriage is aimed primarily at meeting the needs of young Muslims in the West, who wish to have a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship as is customary in Western society, but with religious legitimacy.  Misyaf marriage is practiced among rich men from the Gulf who go on summer vacation in Yemen and marry local girls for a particular period of time – a fortnight to two months – without the brides being aware of the time limitation. Misyar is a marriage in which the woman relinquishes some of the rights that Islam grants her, such as the right to a home and to financial support from her husband, and, if he has other wives, the right to an equal share of his time and attention.
[17] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 11, 2010. Al-Budair has written extensively against the persecution of women in the Muslim world. In one article on the issue, she asked why only men were allowed to practice polygamy. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2773, "Saudi Journalist: Why Is Polygamy Only for Men?" January 27, 2010.

Item 3

"The Modern State, by Its Very Essence, Cannot be Anything but Secular"

"The discussion of secularization in Saudi Arabia sometimes looks like a type of madness; many fatwas accuse secularists of unbelief, and ban secularism, claiming that it is a regime that does not act in accordance with shari'a, or that it is a satanic regime. They do so because the sites holy to Islam are within the borders [of this country], and because the establishment of the [Saudi] state was based on an alliance between the religious institution and the political institution. But in the present circumstances, and considering the uncertainty of Saudi future, the cultural and political elite in the country may find that this madness [i.e. secularism] has, with time, become a necessity of reality... 
"Thee elements have served as catalysts in the discussion on secularism as a necessity in Saudi Arabia: a) [Saudi] Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal's March 2010 statement to The New York Times that Saudi Arabia is 'breaking away from the shackles of the past,' and 'moving in the direction of a liberal society'; b) a media report about a Saudi citizen who was granted political asylum in New Zealand after he converted to Christianity; and c) the ongoing struggle between liberals and Islamists in the Saudi press and media...
"The discourse about the secular option means the following: advancing the political and religious institutions' independence from each other, and differentiating between religious standards and political standards... The modern state, by its very essence, cannot be anything but secular. The talk about completing [the process of] building the state and its institutions, or instituting reforms, means drawing closer to secularism. Drawing away from intentions for reform and for building [the appropriate] institutions means drawing away from secularism... which aims to free the social structure from its bonds but not from its values, and to ensure justice and equality for all citizens."

Saudi Arabia Must be a State with Religious Sites, but Not a Religious State

"In Saudi Arabia, where the political regime is based on the implementation of the Koran and the Sunna, secularism is aimed at actualizing values that are drawn from the Koran and the Sunna, or that [at least] do not contradict them – that is, justice, guarantees of citizen's freedom, and civil and security rights. The basis of the regime's legitimacy is the satisfaction of the citizen and his acceptance of its authority. Accordingly, secularizing [this regime's] foundation will form the basis for a real social compact between the political regime and the citizens.
"Saudi Arabia should be referred to as Al-Harmain [that is, the land of the two holy places, Mecca and Medina] from a religious perspective [only], not from a political perspective. That is, Saudi Arabia [as a state] is not the Al-Harmain state, but a [state] in which Al-Harmain existsand within that state, the Al-Harmain is subject to special laws that must not be applied to other areas...
"If the Saudis are charged with spiritual responsibility because Al-Harmain are within its boundaries, then they must emphasize the tolerance of Islam and its culture, [Islam's] interaction with the zeitgeist; its integration with human rights and women's rights, and its alliance with democracy and civil [values]. Unfortunately, however, we see that the religious institution in Saudi Arabia plays the opposite role – and there are all too many examples of this. This is a negative reflection on the image of Islam in the world, and it holds back progress, modernization, and openness in the country."

"Secularization … will be Implemented when We Give the Concept of the Law Preference Over the Concept of the Fatwa"

"Secularization of the Saudi judicial system will be implemented when we give the concept of the law preference over the concept of the fatwa. If we set aside the limitations and instructions appearing in the Koran, we will find that most of the rules implemented in Saudi Arabia are man-made, or do not appear in the Koran or in the Hadith... Some are cunning and say that this or that [state] law does [in fact] appear in the Koran and Sunna, or that it does not contradict them. They do not understand that law – [which is anchored] in supreme values [that stem from] the principles of truth and justice – will never contradict the Koran and the Sunna. It is inconceivable for a state to be run only by the implementation of Koranic punishments...
"Religious jurisprudence is ultimately a human effort [that can be] either right or misguided, and it is amendable. The structure of the state institutions and the complexity of their function forces them to turn to man-made laws that need to be legislated by experts, and must satisfy the citizen. [This is done] with respect for the laws of Islam concerning personal status... and with consideration for the requirements of reality and its innovations... 
"The secularization of Saudi education means giving the citizen the freedom, and the right, to determine what kind of religious education his children will receive, and at what level [of piety]. Thus, the regime is freed from conflicts with minorities, [such as] Ismailis and Shi'ites, and from conflict with the Sunni schools of thought that do not follow the practices of the official Hanbali school..."

The Role of the Elite in Advancing Secularism

"Most unfortunately, the Saudi elite is being swept away by the populist tendency to condemn and renounce secularism. Therefore, this elite is asked to correct its misconceptions regarding secularism, particularly because secularism is not [totally] absent from Saudi public life. It [made inroads] via the pan-Arab movement and the leftist movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and today it has considerable influence through... the liberal movement. 
"One result of the renunciation of secularism is the media-cultural battle currently underway among the [various] streams of thought in Saudi Arabia. Its most recent manifestations are the liberals' and Islamists' reciprocal attacks over the issue of the call for gender mixing; over the issue of [Saudi cleric] Dr. Muhammad Al-'Arifi's declaration of his intention to visit Jerusalem; over the issue of [the call by Saudi] preacher Yousuf Al-Ahmad [to raze the Mecca mosque in order to rebuild it so men and women are separated]... These wars have been dominated on both sides by sordid, hostile language, because of each side's fear that the political establishment will heed the calls of the other side.
"The propaganda in favor of the idea of secularization in Saudi Arabia does not mean a desire to repress the conservative or Islamist movements. It is a solution [aimed at] preventing the conservatives from forcing their views on others. The secular state is a state that serves as arbiter [between two sides], and is not biased towards a particular side. At the same time, it bans any movement from forcing its position on the other. This demands two fundamental things: a) freedom for the individual to choose his belief and to exercise his rights unmolested, and b) equal rights and obligations for all citizens under the law. Neutrality does not mean a policy of appeasement... It is the state's commitment to assure its citizens the right to live, believe, and express their opinion...
"The negative image of secularism that is widespread in Saudi Arabia is obvious, and stems from the circumstances in which the state was established, and from its clerics' social, cultural, and political standing. This image must be handled with a research approach, not [by way of] preaching. In order to arrive at the desired development, the reform program must be completed, the Islamic religious discourse must be renewed, towards genuine reconciliation with [such concepts as] the state, citizenship, rule of law, freedom, and human and women's rights, and advocacy for the values of common sense and the scientific doctrine..."

[1] For a long time in Saudi Arabia there has been an ongoing jurisprudential dispute over whether a man and a woman can be in close proximity without them being considered "alone together," which is banned by shari'a. Many fatwas on this matter have been issued; some have been perceived in the country as bizarre or extremist: for example, a fatwa by senior Saudi sheikh 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Barak permitting the killing of anyone allowing mixing of the genders (, February 22, 2010); a fatwa issued following the allowing of gender mixing at King 'Abdallah University for Science and Technology (KAUST); and Sheikh 'Abd Al-Mohsin Al-'Obikan's fatwa permitting a woman to breastfeed a man who is not a close relative so that they can work together or be in close proximity for other reasons (, May 21, 2010; see also MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 626, " Controversy in Saudi Arabia over Fatwa Permitting Breastfeeding of Adults," July 28, 2010,
[2] Al-Wiam (Saudi Arabia), May 5, 2010.


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