by Mazhar Khan Pathan
In the defence of freedom, Islam is often accused of being unable to deal with modern day
problems. Below we look at why the contrary is true.
In recent days the debate over legalising drugs has revealed the inability of the Western
political system to deal effectively with this problem or for that matter any problem
based on the creed of freedom. In following its creed to deal with the problem of drugs, the
matter remains far from resolved, exposing the impracticality of such a creed.
Substance abuse is a huge problem in the world. Drugs are consumed for either hedonistic
pursuits or as a means to escape from a miserable life. Whatever the reason, both are
intrinsically tied to Capitalism, the ideology of freedom. Some take drugs to practise their
freedom to create heaven on earth. Others take drugs to escape from the hell created by
freedom. The Office of National Statistics found that the pursuit of freedom does not
create a heaven on earth. It found almost one in six UK adults have contemplated suicide at
some point in their lives Below we analyse the various justifications put in favour of
legalising drugs and identify the real crisis behind the issue.
Drug abuse is not new. However the crime epidemic fuelled by the need for drug takers to
pay for their habit has pushed politicians to address this issue. They have pumped
resources into the police force and enacted one initiative after another, but drug related
crime continues to rise, putting an ever-increasing demand on the taxpayer and the police
force. Much police time is taken in arresting both drug pushers and drug takers, taking
limited police resources away from other policing matters. Seven out of ten crimes are drugs
related according to one Home Office study. Government figures also show that over a
third of adults have used illegal drugs at some point in their lives. According to Drugscope,
a policy think tank, there are about 266,000 problem users in the UK. By whatever
measure, drugs are a serious problem for wider society.
The call for the legalisation of drugs is not just restricted to cannabis. Various people
giving evidence to the Commons home affairs committee earlier in the month (March 2002)
urged MPs to legalise heroin. Mr Gillespie, the father of a son who died of heroin abuse,
appealed to MPs to legalise heroin so that it could be regulated to prevent ‘impure’
heroin from killing young people. This call was made by others too.
Of the various arguments put forward on this issue, they broadly fall into two
categories, pragmatic and ideological. It may be argued that in the case of Capitalism it is one
and the same, nevertheless we analyse these arguments.
‘Alcohol is a drug and legal so why can’t heroin?
Alcohol is a drug and has been legal for many years. It is viewed in the west as a sign
of their civility in that it can be enjoyed at social gatherings. If that is the case with
alcohol, then why not other drugs? That is the gist of the argument.
The Guardian newspaper (29/3/2002) reported that heroin addicts steal an estimated
‘43,000 a year. If alcohol is the cause of so many ills in society it is hardly a justification
to legalise drugs, even so, this cannot be the basis for legislating. Many laws in the
past have been considered to be wrong and have been repealed or changed. So basing a new
law on an existing law does not guarantee its correctness. For example, it could have been
argued in the past that since slavery was legal, the enslavement of women too should be
legal, as both blacks and women were considered inferior to the white male.
The contrary argument is equally valid too, in that if drugs are illegal why can’t
alcohol be banned? This highlights the inability to base one law on an existing law. If A is
illegal and B is legal, do you make A legal or make B illegal? This dilemma is due to the
absence of a comprehensive reference point upon which to base laws.
‘Legalising drugs and regulating its sale will reduce crime. Prohibition does not work’
It is claimed that the money gained through the sale of illegal drugs are used to finance
other crimes. Also the impurity of drugs sold by dubious people poses a major health risk
to drug users.
A cursory look at alcohol, – a regulated drug -, which is only sold by license and then
only to over 18s, undermines the above claim. The BBC revealed (26/3/2002) that 20% of
all 11 to 15 year old drank alcohol. Regulation of alcohol has done little to curtail under
aged drinking. Neither is there any legislating to stop its abuse. A person over the age
of 18 can drink as much as they like to the point of becoming senseless. It is not
illegal to drink to the point of becoming ‘leg-less’ and so losing the control of ones ability
to stand up. This may be classed as an individual’s freedom to drink what they like, but
this type of alcohol abuse costs the British National Health Service ‘6 billion a year,
which is shouldered by the tax payer.
With regards to prohibition, Rowena Young the author of a government thinktank report
said, ‘ There is not a single piece of evidence to show prohibition works’. This is true;
prohibition of drugs cannot work within the context of a western society since the law
would be in contradiction with its creed. The creed stipulates individual freedom whereas the
banning of drugs contradicts that same freedom. In such a situation the laws can result
only in failure. Prohibition would only work if there existed a symbiosis between the
creed and the legislation. When people believe in the laws that are applied, the laws can
succeed. In the west the freedom of the individual contradicts with legislation curtailing a
‘It is impractical to police the current drug laws’
Brian Paddick, until very recently the Commander of Lambeth Police in south London, said
in a recent discussion on drugs, “We need to take the criminality out of it by
legalisation and strict control.”. So many people are taking drugs, that it is not practical to
arrest them all. Many politicians including chiefs of police too have admitted to taking
‘recreational’ drugs. Society in the west would cease to function if all drug takers were
put in prison. One government report stated that 1 in 5 of all people arrested were on
heroin. The report also estimated that each heroin addict stole goods worth a staggering
‘43,000 a year! (The Guardian, 29/3/2002).
This argument goes hand in hand with the above argument to de-criminalise and regulate
drugs. The police and the government are quick to point that this will greatly reduce crime
figures. If this argument is taken to its natural conclusion, it would conclude that all
crime that is problematic be legalised, that way society would be crime free. No longer
would car theft and muggings be classed as crime. This is preposterous. Such an argument
only exposes the inherent contradiction and the impracticality of it. Such an incoherent
argument only underlines the inability of man to deal consistently with life’s problems.
Those who hold the concept of freedom sacred, the bedrock of Capitalism, it is argued
that man is free and should be allowed to eat and drink without interference, as long as he
causes no harm to others. A former chief constable of Gwent Francis Wilkinson has said
that the legalisation of cannabis is a logical consequence of the Human Rights Act.
This oft-quoted mantra of freedom is used as a blanket justification to permit all
things. No society practises freedom, rather they all have laws and regulations to organise and
protect society. Allowing man to be absolutely free results in chaos. Those who call for
freedom, do so in relative terms and not absolute, since that is impractical. If freedom
is relative then who has the right to define freedom’ If man is free then why should one
man dictate to another the definition of freedom’ So whether a society claims to be free
or not, someone has to lay down the law. Hence the real issue is not of whether a society
is free or not, clearly all societies have laws. The real question is who has the right
to legislate, man or the creator of man’
The other equally irrelevant ideological argument posed is that of democracy. If the
majority of people believe that drugs should be legalised, then who are the minority to
insist on its illegitimacy.
The Liberal-Democract party’s Home Affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said, “I think public
opinion is also being pragmatic and saying, well, I might not want to use it myself, but
this should not be a policing priority, and there are many things we want the police to
do, and many crimes we want them to deal with, and actually people using cannabis for
recreational activities isn’t anywhere near the top of our list.”
The opinion of one expert is better than the majority opinion of a thousand lay people,
hence the majority opinion is not always correct. More than this, the human mind is unable
to qualify an act as legal or illegal, since this is a matter of opinion. Alcohol has
benefits as well as harms. Even if man agreed that the harm out weighted the good, he would
disagree on the approach. For example Both Britain and France agree about the harm
alcohol causes. However Britain believes this is best dealt with by liberalising drink laws so
as to avoid binge drinking. France on the other hand is tightening its laws.
Mans inability to objectively legislate is exposed by the contradictory laws on the
statute books. Alcohol is legal, but cocaine is not. Polygamy is illegal but adultery is not.
Laws are in a state of constant flux and inconsistency. A thing legal in one country is
illegal in another. The same thing in the same place may be illegal at one time and then
legal at another time. Since man is influenced by his environment, his pronouncements are
relative and never objective
In order to pronounce a substance as legal or illegal, man is in need of a sound basis to
which to refer to. Only a divine basis can be a valid basis to do this.
The fundamental problem in legalising drugs is not the issue itself, but rather freedom
placing man as the legislator is. Man is unable to legislate in the absence of full
knowledge and his inherent weakness. Here lies the problem. Various principles are used to
justify an opinion not because they are correct, but because they afford the opinion some
respectability. In many cases the real criteria for an opinion is merely benefit or
It may be that you hate something and it is good for you and it may be that you like
something and it is bad for you, Allah knows and you do not know. (TMQ 2:216)
What is beneficial to one person is not necessarily beneficial to another. Which is why
laws are inconsistent with the principles used for their justification. For example some
call to legalise drugs based on the reasoning that prohibition is unworkable. However,
this same argument is not used for car theft, which is also a problematic crime
The mind can thus grasp and comprehend the reality and reach certain conclusions, but the
mind cannot qualify a thing as good or bad. If it attempts to do so, it will be
influenced by the reality and limited by its experience, which is why human debates tend to be
categorized into male/female, rich/poor and black/white divides.
Thus, the drug causing the greatest addiction in the west is not heroin or even crack
cocaine, but rather the slogan of freedom. It is a slogan behind which politicians hide
whilst subjugating a society to their whims and desires. The intoxication induced by freedom
has befogged the minds of many to recognise the fraud of freedom.
‘He who adopts an opinion based on his aql, he will reserve himself a place in the
hellfire’ (Bukhari and Muslim)