Under the veil, nip and tuck makes new Saudi faces

The Associated Press

A young woman has her face treated with lightening creams by a doctor at a clinic in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Such cosmetic procedures as well as plastic surgeries have become popular in the past few years. Saudi clerics say it’s OK to have the procedures if they are safe, are done to reverse damage from an accident or to fix a body part or feature that is causing grief to a person. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

By DONNA ABU-NASR (AP) – 12 hours ago

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Does Islam frown on nose jobs? Chemical peels? How about breast implants?

One of the clerics with the answers is Sheik Mohammed al-Nujaimi, and Saudi women flock to him for guidance about going under the knife. The results may not see much light of day in a kingdom where women cover up from head to toe, yet cosmetic surgery is booming.

Religion covers every facet of life in Saudi Arabia, including plastic surgery. Al-Nujaimi draws his guidelines from the consensus that was reached three years ago when clergymen and plastic surgeons met in Riyadh to determine whether cosmetic procedures violate the Islamic tenet against tampering God’s creation.

The verdict was that it’s halal (sanctioned) to augment unusually small breasts, fix features that are causing a person grief, or reverse damage from an accident. But undergoing an unsafe procedure or changing the shape of a “perfect nose” just to resemble a singer or actress is haram (forbidden).

“I get calls from many, many women asking about cosmetic procedures,” said al-Nujaimi told The Associated Press in an interview. “The presentations we got from the doctors made me better equipped to give them guidance.”

In recent years, plastic surgery centers with gleaming facades have sprung up on streets in Riyadh, the capital. Their front-page newspaper ads promise laser treatments, hair implants and liposuction.

From rarities only 10 years ago, the centers now number 35 and are “saturating the Saudi market,” Ahmed al-Otaibi, a Saudi skin specialist, was quoted as saying in the Al-Hayat newspaper. Continue reading