We’re all used to the customary Muslim objections to alcohol — the young Arab men whipped for consuming it, the cabbies in Minneapolis who refuse passengers carrying it, the Muslim shop clerks who decline to sell it — but the idea that tobacco is haram comes as a surprise.
Smoking is an established institution in much of the Arab Middle East, especially in Turkey and North Africa. The hookah with its payload of maassel, jurâk, shisha, or kif — what would the Levant be without it? And will there no longer be anything known as “Turkish tobacco”?
If one particularly austere Islamic sect has its way, there will be no more smoking among Muslims:
Algeria: Salafites Target Tobacconists, Smoking is Sin
(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 28 — Several tobacconists located in the more popular neighbourhoods of Algiers are allegedly ready to change their field of work because of the effect the Salafite movement is having on the population.
According to this movement, one of the most radical in all of Islam, smoking is a sin, just as much as drinking alcohol. According to the Algerian newspaper Liberté, which printed the report, many tobacconists, especially those located in more popular areas of the city such as Kouba and Hussein Dey, have been driven to close shop.
A cigarette salesman stated that “I have no intention of going against Islamic precepts. The Imam came over several times to tell me that the sale of cigarettes is a sin. I was not threatened. I will close my shop because of what I believe in”.
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But there may be monetary issues behind this decision. Sales of cigarettes in the areas mentioned and in tobacconists located next to mosques apparently crumbled in recent months. Another salesman stated that “nobody wants to be seen buying cigarettes. People no longer buy them in their neighbourhood, they buy them away from home”.
Liberté sees this as a sign of the grip these hardliners have over Algerian society: the population is in the hands of bearded men, and the people who experienced the birth of radical Islamic movements at the end of the 1980s are well aware of what this means.
The population is in the hands of bearded men.
Now there’s a formulation to send a chill up the spine, and give new meaning to the idea that smoking is bad for your health.
Hat tip: Insubria.