‘Islam can be used to curb tobacco use’

March 12th, 2009 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, March 12 (IANS) An Iraqi cancer specialist’s view that the teachings of Islam can be used to curb tobacco consumption has found favour with experts from several nations, especially those with Muslim majorities, who attended the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health here.
“Islam can be used as an effective tool for tobacco control among Muslims, who constitute 22 percent of the world’s population,” Lath Yahya Ibrahim Mula Hussain, an oncologist from Iraq, told IANS.

“It is a hard fact that most Muslims have fallen prey to tobacco. Islam is a powerful tool that can be used to guide the lives of Muslims across the globe but it ought to be used effectively,” said Hussain.

He added that a large number of Muslim scholars and clerics are not convinced about tobacco being dangerous and hence haven’t taken steps to prohibit it.

“I believe that we can make a beginning by using those scholars who think tobacco should be banned,” Hussain said.

The oncologist pointed out that there are 1.2 billion Muslims globally, second only to Christians. Also, the number of those following Islam is growing at 2.9 percent - faster than the 2.3 percent annual growth in world population.

Hence, he feels it is important to target Muslims to ensure reduction in tobacco consumption.

Hussain proposed his idea to the delegates at the conference Wednesday and got the support of many experts, particularly from Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

Early this year, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued an edict forbidding children and pregnant women from smoking, and banning smoking in public places. The council declared that smoking for Muslims was between haram (forbidden) and makruh (objectionable).

Last year, a major crackdown on smoking was launched in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which ranks fourth in the world in tobacco imports and consumption. Each year Saudis smoke more than 15 billion cigarettes, worth $168 million, according to figures issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Health Ministers Council.

Hussain said that although there is no direct mention of smoking being evil in the Quran, some reference can be used to spread awareness about the ill effects of tobacco.

“In the Quran, Al-Nissa 29 states, ‘do not kill yourself nor kill one another, surely God is most merciful to you’,” he said.

“Al-Isra 26 asks Muslims to not to spend wastefully in the manner of spendthrift,” Hussain added.

Tobacco use is expected to kill six million people worldwide and drain $500 billion from the global economy each year, reveals the latest edition of the “Tobacco Atlas” released here Monday.

The World Conference on Tobacco or Health - the largest meet of anti-tobacco advocates, health experts, scientists and educators - was held in India for the first time this year.

More than 2,000 delegates attended the conference that began March 8 and concluded Thursday.

–Indo-Asian news Service


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