Alcohol and Freedom

One of the common lines you hear is that Islam does not respect freedom of choice. This is highlighted by Islam’s prohibition of alcohol, its consumption and sale. In the freedom-loving West, alcohol flows freely. If you wish to partake, you have that freedom of choice. If not, you can choose to abstain. Ultimately, alcohol just affects your own body and doesn’t cause anyone else any harm. So as an adult, you can make that decision for yourself and it would be oppressive for a person or a religion to prevent you from exercising that choice.

Let’s investigate this.

All legal systems constrain choice in one shape or another and there are justifications that are given for the laws of that system. For example, US law requires a person to have a drivers license in order to operate an automobile. That law severely constrains people’s freedom of mobility, but it is seen as necessary for practical reasons. If people are allowed to drive without a license, the number of car accidents will skyrocket. Car accident fatalities will balloon. Damage to people’s property will increase exponentially. So, these are all practical reasons why we would want to have such a law in place. It prevents harm.

Now, one theoretical point that can always be pursued is: What is considered “harm” and what is considered “practical” depend on the assumptions you make about the world and your broader beliefs and commitments. But let’s bracket that for now.

Let’s just assume common Western standards of practicality and harm and take a closer look at alcohol consumption. In this eye-opening article, we see Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) affects at least 5% of the population and in some communities affects 40%. FASD causes all kinds of psychological and learning disabilities and can result in severe anti-social behavior. A lot of the kids affected by this have to go through special education, many end up in prison, many are unemployable and end up falling into drugs and crime. All of this is the result of a disorder caused by pregnant women who drink. Even a small amount of alcohol consumption can be enough to cause an infant to be on this spectrum. The thing is, sometimes women don’t realize they are pregnant and continue their drinking habits not knowing that they are potentially giving their unborn child FASD.

In any case, the harm that is caused to a child is astronomical. There are fewer harms greater than causing a person to have mental retardation. And beyond the harm caused to the child, there is also the harm caused to society overall. These children become wards of the state. It is state institutions that have to take care of these kids or clean up after them, police them, etc. This is a gigantic public cost that is paid for with our tax dollars coming from our income. All of these things restrict and attenuate the freedom that Western culture so ardently claims to covet.

Given all these facts and from this perspective, US law is not clearly more “freedom-loving” and “choice-preserving” than Islamic law as far as alcohol is concerned. It is reasoning like this that shows us how vacuous and ultimately meaningless these appeals to freedom and choice really are. Yet, it is precisely these appeals that are supposed to get us to realize how restrictive, backwards, and contrary to human progress Islamic law is and how empowering, forward-thinking, and conducive to human progress secular law is. Don’t be a sucker.

And I highly encourage you to read this article and I challenge you not to be heartbroken after reading about these kids. Anyone with the slightest amount of sense and compassion would know that something needs to be done to further restrict people’s access to alcohol and condition people not to drink. Islam and Islamic culture have successfully maintained virtually alcohol-free societies for centuries and this was done without a kind of stiff-armed, crackdown prohibition as was attempted in US history, which itself arguably caused more harm than good. In any case, it wasn’t until relatively recently after colonization that this poison has been not only reintroduced into Muslim societies but has been glamorized by Western media and entertainment, such that Muslims from Tehran to Karachi to Rabat see drinking as a form of liberation and a mark of sophistication.

How liberating and sophisticated is a society actively inducing mental retardation in its precious children? Is that what you want? If you are not human enough to submit to your Maker, at least be human enough to spare innocent children.


Quote from the article:

Susan Earl is still coming to terms with the partying she did in her mid-20s, before she became a mother.

Back then, she used to spend most weekends at clubs with friends. She usually had a few drinks. Her boyfriend at the time encouraged her because it loosened her up.

She was about six weeks into a pregnancy when she learned she was expecting. “I stopped drinking as soon as I found out,” Earl said.

It wasn’t soon enough.

Quinton Mills, her son, born four weeks early, had the characteristic facial features of fetal alcohol syndrome. His speech was delayed, and in kindergarten he started biting, kicking, and screaming. He was bullied by classmates. He wet his bed until he was 12.