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Driving on Breast Milk

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During my first week in undergraduate school, a bunch of fraternities "rushed" me, but went dead silent after they asked me what church I went to: They learned I was Jewish. It was like turning off a light switch.

Still looking for some extra-curricular activities, I volunteered for the weekly newspaper, The Reporter. I should explain that my college, Stetson University, was a strict Southern Baptist institution endowed by the Stetson hat fortune.

I got to be editor of the Reporter and one of the problems I faced was the list of "can't use" words and phrases I got from a super Scrooge-faced Dean of Students after I wrote a column containing one of the verboten words.  The word was "dancing." Nobody could print that word in the Reporter. The junior prom, for example, had to be described as a "frolic."

This was the view not only of the Dean of Students, but of most of the Southern Baptist Convention back in the late 1940s. Millions of people frolicking all across the American South but never ever you know what.

The rationale for all this was simple: Dancing resulted in pregnancy, unwanted children, and an end to virgins.  That was the entire non-explanation. No reference to what must have been at least a few steps between dancing and pregnancy. These steps apparently never happened when a couple was frolicking.

I hadn't thought of all this in more than half a century. But a small story in the L.A. Times sent me careening back through time to my misspent youth.

It was a story about women in Saudi Arabia who wanted to drive their own cars, which is illegal in the desert Kingdom.

The story explained that if women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, the result would be catastrophic and lead to "no more virgins," according to clerics from the Majlis al-Ifta al-Aala, the country's highest religious council.

It warned that allowing women to drive would "provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce." Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, it claimed, there would be "no more virgins" in the Islamic nation.

Women who disobeyed the rule faced public lashings, jail and ostracism.

And indeed, a few women were discovered driving. It was a kind of campaign they started to let the public in on the secret and get the rules changed. They could find no reason why Saudi Arabia should be the only country in the world to ban women drivers.

One of the campaigners got herself arrested, but a lot of international publicity for the "driving while woman" campaign got her freed. No lashes this time.

No change in the rules either.

But not to worry. A Saudi cleric and consultant to the Royal family came up with a solution. The L.A. Times reported that he issued a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, calling on women to give their breast milk to their male colleagues or men they come into regular contact with so as to avoid illicit mixing between the sexes. That would give men and women a maternal connection,
thus circumventing the prohibition on unrelated men and women mingling.

But the Saudi women campaigners took the fatwa a step further. They say if they're not granted the right to drive, they will breastfeed their drivers to establish a symbolic maternal bond.

"Is this is all that is left to us to do: to give our breasts to the foreign drivers?" a Saudi woman named Fatima Shammary was quoted as saying by Gulf News.

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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