03 September 2012
Alcohol use on the rise in Middle East
CAIRO and KUALA LUMPUR: While alcohol consumption is supposedly forbidden, the Muslim world has seen nearly double the increase in alcohol consumption in the past decade, according to a new study.
Across the Islamic world, The Economist magazine said, consumption is on the rise, with an increase of some 72 percent between 2001 and 2011.
“I believe it 100 percent,” said Egyptian lawyer Ahmed, who regularly joins his friends at a bar after work for a beer.
“We just like to enjoy ourselves and this whole religion thing has not been something that hinders us,” he told Bikyamasr.com.
Surprisingly, the Islamic world’s increase in boozing has been as the rest of the world has only grown in its alcohol consumption by some 30 percent.
The magazine, in its report on the new figures, said that the “rise [in alcohol-sales in the Middle East] is unlikely to be accounted for by non-Muslims and foreigners alone.”
Muslims are just as likely to partake in drinking as their non-Muslim counterparts. Granted, there are some Muslims who maintain abstinence to drinking, but the magazine and others believe Muslims have had a direct role in the rise of alcohol.
Although a taboo in many Muslim countries, more so in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Pakistan where it is legally banned, drinking is still commonplace.
In other places, such as Lebanon, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt it is legal to consume alcohol and bars are often crowded.
At a Chinatown cafe in Kuala Lumpur, three advertising executives sit down ahead of Ramadan and order two pitchers of Carlsberg beer. They are relaxing, the humidity at its peak and drinking quenches their thirst.
“We all worked in the Gulf, so it is great to be here and just get a drink when we want and to relax. We aren’t stupid about it, but we do enjoy a good beer,” Mahmoud told Bikyamasr.com as he downed his first glass.
The magazine calculated the annual alcohol consumption of people in different Muslim countries from 2003 – 2005 of age-groups 15+, revealing some staggering results.
The highest consumption can be found among the secular-minded wealthy of Lebanon, where one person drinks about 2.23 liters of pure alcohol a year. Lebanon is closely followed by Turkey, as one person consumes about 1.87 liters annually. Next on the list is Iran, where home-brewers and party-goers in Tehran drink 1.02 liters per capita a year, even though it is not officially allowed.
Indonesia stands at 0.59 liters a day, while Egypt follows with 0.37 liters mainly consumed either by the poor in their own homes, or by the rich in “posh hotels”. In Saudi Arabia, foreign diplomats are thought to drink 0.25 liters of pure alcohol a year. As for Libya, the study claimed that the Qaddafi-family was the main alcohol-consumer before its fall earlier this year, with 0.11 liters. Last on the list is Pakistan, with only 0.06 liters.
While there ares some countries where drinking is lower, overall drinking is becoming a common part of many lives in the Islamic world, from Morocco to Indonesia.
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