Friday, June 18, 2010

On a New Fatwa

Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast-Feeding

June 05, 2010

(June 5) -- Women in Saudi Arabia should give their breast milk to male colleagues and acquaintances in order to avoid breaking strict Islamic law forbidding mixing between the sexes, two powerful Saudi clerics have said. They are at odds, however, over precisely how the milk should be conveyed.

A fatwa issued recently about adult breast-feeding to establish "maternal relations" and preclude the possibility of sexual contact has resulted in a week's worth of newspaper headlines in Saudi Arabia. Some have found the debate so bizarre that they're calling for stricter regulations about how and when fatwas should be issued.

Sheikh Al Obeikan, an adviser to the royal court and consultant to the Ministry of Justice, set off a firestorm of controversy recently when he said on TV that women who come into regular contact with men who aren't related to them ought to give them their breast milk so they will be considered relatives.

"The man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman," Al Obeikan said, according to Gulf News. "He should drink it and then becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam's rules about mixing."

Obeikan said the fatwa applied to men who live in the same house or come into contact with women on a regular basis, except for drivers.

Al Obeikan, who made the statement after being asked on TV about a 2007 fatwa issued by an Egyptian scholar about adult breast-feeding, said that the breast milk ought to be pumped out and given to men in a glass.

But his remarks were followed by an announcement by another high-profile sheik, Abi Ishaq Al Huwaini, who said that men should suckle the breast milk directly from a woman's breast.

Shortly after the two sheiks weighed in on the matter, a bus driver in the country's Eastern Region reportedly told one of the female teachers whom he drives regularly that he wanted to suckle milk from her breast. The teacher has threaten to file a lawsuit against him.

The fatwa stems from the tenets of the strict Wahhabi version of Islam that governs modern Saudi Arabia and forbids women from mixing with men who are not relatives. They are also not allowed to vote, drive or even leave the country without the consent of a male "guardian."

Under Islamic law, women are encouraged to breast-feed their children until the age of 2. It is not uncommon for sisters, for example, to breast-feed their nephews so they and their daughters will not have to cover their faces in front of them later in life. The custom is called being a "breast milk sibling."

But under Islamic law, breast milk siblings have to be breastfed before the age of 2 in five "fulfilling" sessions. Islam prohibits sexual relations between a man and any woman who breastfed him in infancy. They are then allowed to be alone together when the man is an adult because he is not considered a potential mate.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ON What PCVs Do

What Do We Do?
by Chris W. –ENV 09-11

It can be difficult trying to explain to family and friends in America about Peace Corps and our roles as volunteers. With the help of some useful Peace Corps acronyms, the explanation is clear:

During PST, PCTs live in HS with HFs in CBT sites. We study the TL (which may be Tash, Tam or Darija, but not MSA) with the help of LCFs to prepare for our work in either the YD, SBD, ENV or HE program. Throughout PST, we meet with the CD, our APCD/PM and APM, the PCMOs, the PTM, the SSC and SSA, the PTO (who is the PCPP coordinator), and learn about the IRC. We also learn about things such as ET, IOS, Med Evac, Med Sep, Ad Sep, and to report to the DO when we are OOC. When PST is done, we SI and become PCVs and leave for our sites, but meet again at PPST, IST and MSM. During service we work closely with HCNs and NGOs on projects such as SIDA, WID, which is a GAD activity, EE with the WFD, or get involved in WWS. We can even write a SPA! At COS, they give us an R and we become RPCVs. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Morocco in the News: June 7th - 13th

WB Grants Morocco $60m Loan to Support Implementation of 'Education Emergency Program 2009-12'.
Washington - The World Bank's Board of Directors has approved a US$60 million Development Policy Loan (DPL) to Morocco to support it in the implementation of the "Education Emergency Program 2009-12", the Bank said on Thursday.
   "Through this loan, the World Bank is committed to working with the Government (of Morocco) and other donors to support the implementation of an ambitious program that aims at increasing access further and raising the overall quality of services," a press release quoted Françoise Clottes, Acting Country Director for the Maghreb countries, as saying.
    The press release added that improving the quality of outcomes in the education sector is a key priority for Morocco and that the Kingdom embarked on a comprehensive reform of the education and training system to overcome the challenges faced by the education sector.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On Consolidation

Part of Peace Corps service is knowing that at any time political circumstances may require your immediate evacuation. Peace Corps volunteers have walked onto waiting military transports and found themselves unexpectedly back in America on a number of occasions. In Morocco PCVs were most recently evacuated at the start of the Iraq War when anti-American sentiment in the region was at a peak. Because of these realities and the political nature of Peace Corps life, Volunteers practice for this eventuality. 

Last week Volunteers gathered together as part of a drill at a very fancy hotel in a town that can’t be named for security reasons. Surrounded by very high walls and apparently frequented only by Americans practicing emergency procedures and Germans on holiday, this hotel was a world apart from the day-to-day Morocco. For starters it had a pool. Moreover there were girls there wearing bikinis and drinking alcohol. Which made the whole experience rather surreal.

Who knew political crises come with nudity and a bar?


The Cascades de Ozude, 10 miles downstream from my village.

The wheat fields behind the my village souk.

Wildflowers in a fallow olive orchard. 

Sunset in the valley.

Dusk settles on the southern slopes of my valley.

Me talking to my Host Father Aziz. Patricia my Couch Surfer.

My Valley from the pass at Ait Izzim

Word of the Week: June 9th - 14th

Wizarat – (n)
Moroccan Arabic
  1. Ministry. In order to get a spring camp in my province I will have to speak to the Wizarat. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Buying Bread

Buying bread is one of the few jaunts that I can manage to pull off. Generally leaving my house is no small thing. As soon as I walk out the front door I am bombarded with ‘Brahim, Brahim, how are you? Come drink tea.’ and the small social niceties that make up the day. The bakery, however, is close enough along back alleys that I can usually get there and back without too much delay. Today I went to get some bread for lunch. Out the door, forty feet there, buy two loaves, forty feet back. It took about ten minuets. I had to say hi in Berber to the old man who owns the store across from my house. I had to talk about the weather with Mohammed my grocer in his funny patios. I had to wave a general hello to a group of about five teenagers who saw me cross the street. I had to actually buy the bread. And lastly I had to sit down to a cup of tea with the men on my street who watched for my return and asked me about the World Cup.

In the end, I’ve had quicker bread buying experiences. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Word of the Week: June 1st - 8th

Swimmin’ – (v)
  1. English vernacular – to propel the body through water. I am swimmin’ because it is hot.
  2. Tamazight -  Sw imin (Sew Amen), sw – to drink, imin – water. “I’m drowning” the boy called. “Sw imin” the Tamazight speaking lifeguard replied thinking of his thirst. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Morocco in the News: June 1st - 6th

Morocco is open for business
By SALIM MANSUR, QMI AGENCY Last Updated: June 5, 2010
The massively towering Hassan II mosque in Casablanca sits on the edge of Africa, looking serenely across the waters to the new world beyond. This impressive architecture — as I watch from its terrace the sun sink into the Atlantic — stands for the newly confident Morocco as the westernmost anchor of Islam.
Here in Casablanca, the north and south, the west and east intersect in a burst of sound and colour that speaks for fusion rather than clash of civilizations.
I am surprised by the overflow of energy of some 6 million people in this city that by name will remain associated with Hollywood’s all-time favourite 1942 Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca. And Rick’s Cafe — the saloon made famous in the movie — which opened in 2004, a short walking distance from the grand mosque and a popular meeting place for Moroccans and tourists with a love for music and fine food.
Morocco, unlike its North African neighbours Algeria and Libya, has no petroleum or natural gas. Ironically the relative success of the Moroccan economy is related to this fact, making it Africa’s largest agricultural producer.
The country is open for business and eager for investment from abroad. The construction boom in Casablanca and Rabat, the capital, is indicative of the flow of offshore money into the economy.
Tourism is a huge part of the success story of Morocco. It reflects the openness of the people to foreigners and their instinctive understanding of how closely tied their well-being is with the world outside.
Morocco is a blend of the traditional and the modern. The relative success of the Moroccan economy and society — compared to the recent violent history of Islamist terrorism in Algeria or the repressive one-man demagogic rule of Libya’s strongman Moammar Gadhafi ­— is in part the story of monarchical rule providing for stability and tolerance in a country of mixed races, Arabs and Berbers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On Ice

Near the Cascades de Ozude there is a remote Berber village. A forty-minuet walk along a scattered path down to the canyon floor and back up takes you to the interconnected mud houses that climb the hillside. There is something classical about the hike through red soil almond groves and lush river bottom foliage, from a time when all human settlements could only be accessed in such a way. It feels like a local outpost of the Inca Empire or something similarly prelapsarian. 

In the village lives a man named Mohammed who, lord only knows what the authorities make up so that he can, at least on paper, have a last name. Mohammed, like almost all Moroccans, will invite any foreigner he sees into his home for tea. There in the quiet of the second floor of the mud house Mohammed will show off something he is rather proud of, a bottle of solid ice. The implications of having a bottle of ice in such a place are clear, power and wealth. Such a bottle was either brought in that day from town, showing an ability to get things with ease, or it was made there, showing the ability to afford to run a freezer in May, not the hottest or most necessary of months for refrigeration.

Of course, amongst those who know, Mohammed and his village has something to be far more proud of, some of the best olive oil in Morocco. This traditionally extracted, flavorful oil is a high mountain rarity, scratched out of steep cliffs moistened by the falls of the cascades. And yet this oil is insignificant, passé, compared to the awe inspiring sight of ice.