Breastfeeding Mom Ousted From Building Over Fear of Offending Muslims

Muslim momA situation in England is mirroring the Detroit bus scandal – another breastfeeding woman was harassed, when legally she had a right to be there and feed her baby.
But this time, the person doing the harassing, a receptionist in a municipal building, took an extra step and used Muslims as a scapegoat, saying that since the building was “multicultural,” she feared any Muslims who happened to enter might be offended.
The receptionist, as far as I can tell, was not Muslim herself, but was invoking the possibility that Muslims would enter this “multicultural building” when she told the woman, Emma Mitchell, to take her crying 5-month-old son Aaron to the bathrooms of a nearby mall to feed him.
She clearly doesn’t understand Muslim tradition. Or British law!


My downstairs neighbor (and landlady) is Muslim. When I first moved into this apartment and she saw that I had a toddler and was pretty obviously pregnant, we got into a conversation about parenting and she mentioned that Muslim law requires moms to breastfeed. When I looked this up online, I found that the Koran brings this up several times, including the directive “Mothers shall suckle their children for two whole years,” as well as “… he is not weaned before he is two years of age.” I’m sure that, just as with my religion, interpretations and traditions vary by region, but the basic feeling is there: Muslims believe in breastfeeding.
And that’s not all she told me. “We breastfeed in public all the time,” she said, when I asked her about this case. “Remember the scarves I gave you? They come in handy for all kinds of stuff, and that’s one of them.” I asked what a Muslim man would do if he came into a public place and there was a woman breastfeeding. “Men aren’t allowed to look at women, so their gaze would have to be lowered,” she said. “But if she’s making a reasonable effort to cover up, there would be no problem. Like I said, we do it all the time.”
Then she said the very thing I’d been thinking. “That doesn’t sound like they were thinking about Muslims,” she said. “It sounds like they had a problem with it themselves, and used Muslims as an excuse.”
I thought it was even worse: if I were Muslim, I’d be thinking, “Oh, great. People aren’t mad at us enough without us being used to beat up on nursing moms?”
The staff of this building are being updated on policy and legal requirements, which was the same thing the Detroit SMART bus system did. But that doesn’t undo the anger and humiliation this mom must have felt. Moms, arm yourselves: check out your state’s laws, print out yours, and have them on hand (or boob) in case someone gives you crap.
Do you think Muslims had anything to do with this case, or was the receptionist just using them as an excuse?

Image via AhmadZamri/Flickr

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