The case of the male breastfeeding fatwa, or religious ruling, just took another strange turn as the scholar who issued the controversial opinion was rehired after being fired by Egypt’s al-Azhar University.
The Cairo Administrative Court overturned the decision by al-Azhar's disciplinary committee to expel Ezzat Attiya, the president of the hadith department, for issuing a fatwa condoning the symbolic breastfeeding of grown men in 2007.
The court annulled the university’s decision to expel Attiya after he issued a fatwa permitting symbolic breastfeeding of men as a way to loosen the customs of segregation between the sexes in Egypt.
"No one can argue with a court order,” Sheikh Fawzy el-Zefzaf, head of religion and dialogue committee at al-Azhar, said in a statement Monday. “We respect the Administrative Court and follow its orders without thinking twice.”
Some students at al Azhar University who disagreed with the fatwa nonetheless endorsed the court's deicision, saying that no Azhar teacher should be expelled.
"I am glad the Attiya is back at Azhar because no sheikh should be expelled from his job for his opinions," Abdul Qader Ramadan, 23, told Al Arabiya.
Islam prohibits sexual relations between a man and the woman who breastfed him in infancy. Attiya said that if a woman were to symbolically breastfeed a male colleague, she could be alone with him since he would no longer be considered a potential mate.
Attiya's unusual opinion was widely publicized by Arabic language satellite channels and largely ridiculed in the Western press. It was even discussed in the Egyptian parliament.
In 2007 Attiya made his statement on Al Arabiya, saying that after five breastfeedings the man and woman could be alone together without violating Islamic law because the man becomes a symbolic relative of the woman, and therefore they could be alone and the woman could remove her headscarf to reveal her hair.
He later retracted his statement and apologized saying his interpretation war reserved for exceptional cases.