There are a variety of ways for state authorities to regulate people’s behavior. The caricature of state power is a brutal, punitive police force that treats every violation of state authority as a criminal offense requiring arrest, conviction, and other forms of overt violence. But there are plenty of other modes the state can use to deploy different parts of its normative program.
The example of Portugal is that they decriminalized drug use (drug dealers and traffickers are still jailed) and now, those who are caught using drugs are required to appear before “dissuasion panels,” where a group of professionals inform the drug user about the dangers of drug use and offer psychological and medical support. In this way, the state’s anti-drug mandate is still imposed on the population, but it is done in a way that is, apparently, more effective at getting people to stop doing drugs.
This is important for Muslims thinking about statecraft to keep in mind. How can a Muslim government deploy Islamic normativity and effectively shape the conscience of people? The best minds need to come together to think strategically on how to engineer circumstances given the practical constraints of the modern world while also upholding the normative requirements of the Sharia.
Something like curbing alcohol usage would be straightforward given that it’s just another substance. Regulating sexuality would be far more complicated and would require a combination of educational programs, social engineering, even economic regulation. The first step, of course, would be to understand how all these factors contribute to modern sexual behavior. Once that has been determined, then clever programming, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, could get results within a relatively short period of time. wa Allahu `alam