Friday, August 7, 2009


When I read Datuk Dr. Denison's response to PAS' banning of alcohol sales in Star opinion column, my heart gives several thumbs up for him. This is exactly what every Christian should respond. Thanks Datuk! (I had the privilege to sit in his class for a course of social studies at BCM. He has such genuine concern for people and the country)

Principle Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnic Studies,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

THE move by PAS to implement a blanket ban on the sale of alcohol in all Muslim-majority areas has now given us an opportunity to draw up guidelines on the sale of alcohol.

While PAS’ call for a ban might seem drastic, this view should not be seen from a high moral ground or only from an Islamic perspective, but an opportunity to recognise the problems associated with alcohol abuse which is recognised by all major religions of the world.

PAS was speaking for the Muslim community, but many of the social issues and abuses are among non-Muslim communities.

Society has already accepted that certain types of human behaviour can affect oneself and others.

In the case of smoking, the Health Ministry and other authorities have undertaken many measures to restrict where one can smoke in public places, and on sponsorships and advertisements by cigarette companies.

These initiatives have been taken in the interest of the common good of society.
Although the proposal for a total ban that called for abstinence was not effective in the past, there is still an urgent need for Malaysian society to discuss this issue further from the negative and abusive aspects of unrestricted sale and availability of alcohol in our society.

Some restrictions on the places and locations where alcohol is sold are necessary. For example, not permitting the sale of alcohol in or near residential areas and schools might be necessary. This will therefore include all kinds of residential areas.

Designated places where sales and consumption can take place should be regulated by the local authorities. For example, it might be healthy not to consume alcohol in a public park or even during a football game.

While the suggestion is being advocated by PAS, my interest is from the viewpoint of a sociologist who does a lot of social work. I am also a Christian by conviction and belief. Therefore, let us not discuss social issues and concerns from a perspective that divides us but let us find alliances and collaboration across religions.

There are so many silent sufferers. Especially women and children who are victims of alcoholics and husbands who have a behavior problem as a result of consuming alcohol.

Alcohol producers, promoters and retail people have not taken action in educating the general public on the potential substance addiction. The Government has not done enough to address the abusive behaviour and health-related problems.

Currently, there are hardly any counselling programmes, and the ones they do have are inadequate. There are also no rehabilitation services like rehabilitation for drug addiction.

I strongly advocate that alcohol producers and the industry pay a levy from their annual sales for public education on alcohol abuse and addiction. At the same time, they should take greater responsibility for rehabilitation of alcoholics.

Some systematic intervention programmes are necessary to assist women and children who face abuse and violence. Federal and state agencies must address these concerns.

Maybe the Selangor government could take the lead in providing the guidelines necessary for healthy living and ensure that all responsible will put human lives before profit.

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