THE ISSUE IN...

Islamic expert milks an idea for co-ed staff

CATHY GULLI June 4 2007
THE ISSUE IN...

Islamic expert milks an idea for co-ed staff

CATHY GULLI June 4 2007

Islamic expert milks an idea for co-ed staff

CATHY GULLI

At one of Egypt’s most prestigious universities, the head of the department that studies the Prophet Muhammad has been suspended for proposing a controversial way of getting around the ancient Islamic law forbidding men and women from being alone and working with one another: adult breastfeeding.

Lecturer Ezzat Atiya of al-Azhar Islamic University in Cairo recently suggested issuing a fatwa, or religious decree, that men ritually suckle the breasts of women who would

like to become their colleagues. After five feedings, Atiya reportedly asserted on a Dubai television network, the man and woman could work together with no fear of breaking the Islamic commandment. Only then, continued Atiya, could the woman remove her head covering and show her hair to the man. This process would, in essence, render the man and woman’s relationship similar to that of a mother and son.

The comments, which aired in Arabic on satellite television across the Middle East, and were even discussed in the Egyptian parliament, caused an uproar. An al-Azhar committee pronounced the recommendation blasphemous. The group declared it to be in direct opposition to Islamic morality. In accordance with that opinion, Islamic University president Ahmed el-Tayeb removed Atiya last Monday from the school until an investigation reveals his motivation, according to Egyptian state media.

Atiya has explained that he developed the proposition after examining and analyzing medieval text and theology. He has since withdrawn the suggestion, saying that it was not widely endorsed by scholars. It may be just as well for Atiya to have retracted his recommendation; now that he is indefinitely out of a job, some might argue Atiya doesn’t have much to gain from a new religious decree such as this one. M