Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The breast-feeding fatwa

CAIRO -- First came the breast-feeding fatwa. It declared that the Islamic restriction on unmarried men and women being together could be lifted at work if the woman breast-fed her male colleagues five times, to establish family ties. Then came the urine fatwa. It said that drinking the urine of the Prophet Muhammad was deemed a blessing.

For the past few weeks, the breast-feeding and urine fatwas have proved a source of national embarrassment in Egypt, not least because they were issued by representatives of the highest religious authorities in the land.

Issued by religious scholars, fatwas are supposed to provide Muslims a road map for transforming the values of the Quran to societal mores. Famous proclamations include the order for Muslims to boycott American and Israeli products and the bounty put on Salman Rushdie's head after he wrote The Satanic Verses in the late '80s.

In Egypt alone, thousands are issued every month, according to The New York Times. Most are mundane and without controversy. But it seems some Islamic jurists are going overboard, and in the past few weeks have issued a few embarrassing religious edicts like the breast-feeding and urine fatwas, or fatawa.

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