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Dec 02

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Alcohol in the Muslim world

Tequila ummah

Alcohol in the Muslim world

NOBODY knows exactly when Islamic scholars decided that booze was sinful. In the 1970s political Islam led some countries such as Iran and Pakistan to ban alcohol, although many do not and exceptions are made for non-Muslims. In some countries the punishment for Muslims caught quaffing are severe: 80 lashes in the case of Iran. Things may get more arid yet as Islamist parties from Indonesia to Tunisia moot restrictions on alcohol. The number of drinkers varies by country, but some put the total at 5% of those identifying themselves as Muslim. Drinking may even be on the rise. Between 2001 and 2011 sales of alcohol in the Middle East, where Muslims dominate, grew by 72%, against a global average of 30%. That rise is unlikely to be accounted for by non-Muslims and foreigners alone. The black market for spirits flourishes in Libya, while Iranians are adept at producing home brew. Could Islam become more tolerant of drinking? A handful of scholars permit alcohol as long as it is not made from grapes and dates, because these are specifically mentioned in the Koran.

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A map of world alcohol consumption

THE world drank the equivalent of 6.1 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2005, according to a report from the World Health Organisation published on February 11th. The biggest boozers are mostly found in Europe and in the former Soviet states. Moldovans are the most bibulous, getting through 18.2 litres each, nearly 2 litres more than the Czechs in second place. Over 10 litres of a Moldovan’s annual intake is reckoned to be ‘unrecorded’ home-brewed liquor, making it particularly harmful to health. Such moonshine accounts for almost 30% of the world’s drinking. The WHO estimates that alcohol results in 2.5m deaths a year, more than AIDS or tuberculosis. In Russia and its former satellite states one in five male deaths is caused by drink.

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Reference: Economist.com

Permanent link to this article: http://www.mfanni.com/alcohol-in-the-muslim-world/

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