Exclusive: Got Milk, Sheikh?

Dr. Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin, Dr. Joan Jutta Lachkar

Family Security Matters

While the Saudis might have a lot of oil, they seem to be running short on milk. So much so that one of their imams wrote a fatwa* recently permitting the breast feeding of adult males thereby getting around the gender apartheid of the Kingdom of the Deprived. This would allow the nursing adult male to become mahram** and the nursing woman can then be in close quarters with him. To clarify his status changes from say a frequent visitor to more like a quasi member of the family, even called a “milk” brother, sort of like a blood brother.

This is not the first time a breast feeding fatwa has been issued. Several years ago in Egypt one was issued so that men could be nursed at the office by female workers, as if those poor women didn’t have anything else to do? Imagine having to also contend with the henna dyed bristly beards of the devout, scratching the tender breasts of a postpartum ummi (mother). Is there no shame?

Seriously, something is going on here. How can we understand it? Let us go a little deeper. After all even Al Qaeda has produced breast implant bombs for female suicide bombers. Why this obsession with the breast? Is Hooters moving to Saudi Arabia soon? Why this obsession with nursing?

Saudi Arabia seems to be grappling with its age-old narrative in the Quran. Could we say that this goes back to even the Biblical narrative that the Prophet Muhammad has co-opted, that he got stuck with a dry desolate desert and the Jews got the Land Flowing With Milk and Honey. A sensitive issue. . .

As the saying goes, form follows function and function follows fantasy. If one visualizes one’s destiny as limited to the desert, one perpetuates that image and only gets a dry infertile breast whereas if one visualizes life, growth, one thinks fertility and greenery and that perpetuates life in that image. Just think — the color of Islam is green; could it be because of unconsciously searching for that fertile land? Israel’s flag of blue and white on the other hand looks skyward to the Transcendental.

Yet because Arab Muslim culture is so rife with deprivation and victimhood, nothing is ever enough.

Tragically, they live within a black hole, a vacuum or space that can never be filled. Yet they demand and demand and even when the milk is offered, it is either never enough or insatiable to their desire. More! More! More! There is never enough milk and there is never enough land. The same holds true for other Muslims as well. Even Somalia’s name means “Go milk the camel.” And the Somalis believe that they are descended from the Arabians!

What does this all mean and how does this impact the Muslim psyche? With deprivation and the accompanying defensive maneuvering, the first thing that goes is reality. Maybe someone needs to suggest to them to do DNA testing at National Geographic to discover that the Arabians actually came out of the Olduvai Gorge in Kenya/Tanzania like everyone else! So what does this have to do with the theme of milk?

The nature of deprivation, shame/blame, preservation of honor, keeps Muslims locked into a cycle of revenge and attack. They perpetually envy the other who has the milk. Ironically the adult male who is to be nursed, is now attempting to get what he didn’t get as an infant and now as an adult, he has to be nursed — hence the fatwa. This is why we refer to Muslim society as an “orphan society.”

Indeed the Prophet Muhammad himself was an orphan. The generic orphan also plays a leading role in the drama of the Quran. Mother Mary of Christianity becomes the Mother of Orphans in Islam. Yet sadly even though the New Testament with its nursing Madonna and Child has been co-opted, it is not truly Islamic foundational imagery. They borrowed it; they didn’t create it.

Saudis and other Muslims do not know how to mourn their losses. They stay glued together like a big enmeshed dysfunctional family defending their wounds and licking them. They bully to get what they want, but even then it is never enough. They avenge by the sword.

Got milk? We don’t think so.

Dr. Nancy Kobrin, a psychoanalyst with a Ph.D. in romance and semitic languages, specializes in Aljamía and Old Spanish in Arabic script. She is an expert on the Minnesota Somali diaspora and a graduate of the Human Terrain System program at Leavenworth Kansas. Her new book is The Banality of Suicide Terrorism: The Naked Truth About the Psychology of Islamic Suicide Bombing.

Dr. Joanie Lachkar is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist in private practice in Brentwood and Tarzana, California, who teaches psychoanalysis and is the author of The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Marital Treatment (1992, The Many Faces of Abuse: Treating the Emotional Abuse of High -Functioning Women (1998), The V-Spot, How to Talk to a Narcissist, How to Talk to a Borderline and a recent paper, “The Psychopathology of Terrorism” presented at the Rand Corporation and the International Psychohistorical Association. She is also an affiliate member for the New Center for Psychoanalysis.

*From Memri — Inquiry and Analysis 626 July 28, 2010 Saudi Arabis, Controversy in Saudi Arabia over Fatwa Permitting Breastfeeding of Adults by Y. Admon:

“Sheikh ‘Abd Al-Muhsin Al-‘Obikan, an advisor at the Saudi Justice Ministry, recently issued a fatwa allowing the breastfeeding of adults. The fatwa is aimed at enabling an unrelated man and woman to be secluded in the same room, a situation which Islam considers forbidden gender mixing. The rationale behind the fatwa is that breastfeeding creates a bond of kinship between the man and woman, rendering the man her mahram, thus making it acceptable for them to be together in seclusion.”

** In Islamic sharia legal terminology, a mahram (Arabic محرم, also transliterated mahrim or maharem) is an unmarriageable kin with whom sexual intercourse would be considered incestuous, a punishable taboo. Current usage of the term covers a wider range of people and mostly deals with the dress code practice of hijab. (Wikipedia)

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