Sunday, April 11, 2010

Happy boozing!

In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessing and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

"Verily the Hour is coming
My design is to keep it hidden
For every soul to receive its reward
By the measure of its endeavour." (Taha 20:15)

SEARCHING internet I found an interesting article entitled ‘The alcohol problem in Malaysia’. Among others it was written: “Malaysia, though a small country, is the tenth largest consumer of alcohol in the world. Each year Malaysians spend over US$500 million (nearly RM2 billion) on alcohol. Whilst the per capita consumption is 7 litres, those who do drink alcohol consume heavily.

“Among the drinking population, the Malaysian Indians who make up about 8 per cent of the population are by far the heaviest drinkers with an annual consumption of absolute alcohol exceeding 14 litres. Beer consumption in Malaysia at 11 litres per capita is comparable to that of European countries known for their high consumption.

“The easy availability of alcoholic drinks in coffee shops, supermarkets, sundry shops, and plantations together with aggressive advertising and promotions are driving Malaysians to drink. The average age for alcohol dependence is 22 years.”

Malaysia, self proclaimed the most dynamic Islamic nation on the planet was the 10th largest consumer of alcohol in the world?

I could not believe it, but that’s the fact. Searching for more information about alcohol and its problems, I realized the ranking had to be true because in another article I found on the net, it was written that other Islamic countries too had problems regarding alcoholism. Algeria (another Islamic nation) was named as the largest wine-producing country in the world!

Together with Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan (all are members of Organization of Islamic Countries - OIC); they currently have 80,000 hectares vineyards, producing 33.8 million gallons, which translates as 146 million bottles. And with a turnover of US$340 million and nearly 50,000 people directly or indirectly employed in the sector, prospects are looking rosy. Around 20 percent of the countries' wines are exported to Europe.

Islam forbids alcoholic drinks but why Islamic nations seemed to be promoting and surprising on the top regarding alcoholism? Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him (pbuh) said: “Allah has cursed wine, its drinker, its server, its seller, its buyer, its presser, the one for whom it is pressed, the one who conveys it, and the one to whom it is conveyed.” (Bukhari: Book 26, Number 3666) had a beautiful article by Karima Burns entitled ‘New Years Eve, Alcoholism and Muslims. In her introduction she wrote: “It has always seemed ironic to me that New Years Eve has marked an increase in drinking as well as a mass rush to write down a list of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. As Muslims, of course, we can see the irony in this. One should not be drinking to begin with, let alone in excess, at a mixed party. It is a bit ridiculous to then go home and make a list about how one can be a better person the next year. However, this irony is a reality for many people – even Muslims.

“Although alcohol is forbidden in Islam, it is widely available in Casablanca and other Moroccan cities, as well as other Muslim cities around the world. In fact, Muslims are not immune to alcoholism at all. Morocco and Egypt both produces two brands of beer an at least half a dozen different wines, and import just about every kind of alcohol that exist. The Register of Addition Specialists and Castle Worldwide list addiction and alcohol abuse centers for Muslims even in Saudi Arabia – a country where alcohol is illegal.”

Karima was right because Muslims all over the world, except in the Holy Land of Makkah and Medina, have access to alcoholic drinks. In Malaysia, ‘haram’ (forbidden) drinks were sold openly in convenience stores including those situated in Muslims densely populated areas. Next door to Harakah’s administration office in Kuala Lumpur, a 24 hours convenience store had stocks of alcoholic drinks placed in a refrigerator at a far end corner of its premises.

Some time ago, while checking inside the store, I saw various types of ‘haram’ drinks, the cheapest was Anglia at less than RM3 a can, Royal Stout, Special Brew Tiger and a lot more, each priced not more than RM10. Even though there was a small sticker with small wordings saying; “sales of beer and alcoholic drinks are for non-Muslim customers only’ placed on top of the refrigerator, I doubt it could put away Muslims boys and men from buying them.

Then there was another notice carries the words, “sales of beer of alcoholic to persons under 18 prohibited by law.”

Judging from what I saw in the store, the prices of alcoholic drinks were very cheap, they were as cheap as the soft drinks placed inside the next refrigerator. For less than RM5 (an amount usually carried by a school-going child as pocket money), one could easily buy a can of ‘haram’ drink.

This shows that nowadays, everyone could effort to booze everyday, what’s more on New Years Eve! Regarding the store next to Harakah’s headoffice selling ‘haram’ drinks, my friends and I had made complaints including to its manager, but it was just like a Malay proverb ‘mencurah air ke daun keladi’ (pouring water onto the leaf of a yam plant).

What Islam has to say about wine and intoxicants? Anas r.a. said: “I was giving drink to people in the abode of Abu Talhah, and their wine at that time was made from dates. Then the Messenger of Allah, ordered a crier to make it known that wine was forbidden.” He added: “Abu Talhah said to me, ‘Get out and pour in out’. I poured it out, and it flowed in the streets of Medina.”

‘A’isha said: “The Messenger of Allah was asked about it.” It is a drink made of honey and the people of Yemen used to drink it. So the Messenger of Allah said, “Every drink that intoxicates is prohibited.”

Of whatever thing a large quantity intoxicates, even a small quantity is prohibited. Do not drink wine, for it is the root of all evil.

Abu Hurairah relates that a drunkard was brought to the Holy Prophet who ordered people to beat him. Abu Hurairah says: “Some of us beat him with hands and others with shoes and still others with their clothes. When he was gone, some people cried; “May God harm him!’ The Holy Prophet said: “Do not say like that, and let not Satan overpower him.” (Pearls of the Prophet, ABIM).

Islam forbids alcoholic drinks, but sadly Malaysia as an Islamic nation is noted as the tenth largest consumer of alcohol in the world. So what does this imply?

Perhaps the Kartika Dewi Shukarno case could give us some hints; she was ordered to be given six strokes of rotan by an Islamic court, but until today it was not carried out even though she was ready for it!

So what message does the authority and those in power is sending to the public especially youngsters? Perhaps it could be this: “Happy boozing, do have a good time!”

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