The mother of all evil (II)
Devout Muslims believe that a world without alcohol (and pork and Jews) would come too close to Paradise. When asked to rationalize the Quranic commandment that bans “even a drop of alcohol,” the pious mindlessly perseverate a limited litany of explanations: Because alcohol consumption is unhealthy, it paralyzes social life and causes crime by prompting drinkers to behave badly, and it is the main reason for fatal road accidents. Is there absolute truth in all that?
Scientifically speaking, like every other consumable object, excessive consumption of alcohol is both unhealthy and may cause social harm. All the same the idea of an alcohol ban is the same as a car ban because some motorists may speed and cause accidents that result in someone’s death. And as far as I know the Islamist suicide bombers — who are not scarce in Muslim lands and have the habit of killing en masse — are not often seen at bars.
But why is the boring litany of explanations unconvincing?
1-Alcohol must be banned because it is forbidden by the Quran.
This is about freedom to sin. Muslims should stop guarding if other Muslims sin. Besides, the Quran forbids killing, cheating, lying and other unethical behavior too. Why are Muslims not equally sensitive about these sins?
2- Why should non-drinkers pay — through the social security umbrella — for the cost of alcohol-related diseases?
About a third of Turks are obese, according to the health ministry, whereas alcohol-related diseases rank in the lower single-digit percentages. So why should non-obese Turks pay for the cost of obesity-related diseases? Or should we ban food because it may cause obesity?
But there is more.
3- First, let’s see the level of alcohol consumption in various countries: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), per capita alcohol consumption in 2005 (these figures have remained stable since then) was 1.37 liters in Turkey, 1.56 liters in Sudan, 0.05 liters in Saudi Arabia (I am awfully curious about who may have drunken that small bottle in the Saudi Kingdom), 0.01 liters in Pakistan (the same curiosity), 0.01 liters in Libya (it must be the late Colonel Qadhafi), 0.02 liters in Iran (it must be the Zionists who infiltrated into the Islamic republic), 0.06 percent in Indonesia and zero in Bangladesh (finally a true Islamic country!).
In comparison, per capita alcohol consumption in the same year was 11.37 liters in Denmark, 11.67 liters in Britain, 8.95 liters in Greece, 10.22 liters in Spain, 10.56 liters in Switzerland, 6.21 liters in Norway, 12.6 liters in Austria and 9.55 liters in Holland.
4- Also according to WHO, the ratio of deaths by non-communicable diseases (cancer -including liver cancer- diabetes, endocrine disorders and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in 2008) was twice more in Bangladesh and Egypt (0.14 percent) than in Austria, Holland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and France. That same ratio in Turkey and Pakistan (0.1 percent) was higher than all those countries.
My space is limited, but any curious reader can go and check the WHO statistics themselves to see that for liver disease there is no statistically significant data proving that “drunken” countries have more deaths than “sober” countries. The mortality rate as a percentage of the population for both categories of countries varies narrowly in the 0.0001 percent and 0.0002 percent range.
And, finally, among the world’s top 50 countries with the longest life expectancy, there is only one Muslim country, Jordan, which ranks 28. Turkey, with 1.37 liters per capita alcohol consumption, ranks 132.
Of course the above statistics do not suggest that alcohol consumption is good. It does, however, indicate that “even a drop of alcohol consumption will ruin our society’s health and put the burden on non-drinkers” is a big lie to disguise zeal.
But could the health problems in the “Oh-no!-Not-a-drop-of-alcohol” group of countries maybe stem from other reasons? Perhaps. If so, then maybe their pious champions should fight against those other reasons instead of fixating on alcohol, whose absence does not make those countries healthier.
But that’s not the only concern. We also want a peaceful society. Is alcohol the biggest obstacle to that goal? We’ll explore that hypothesis next week.