Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cocktails with Mohammed

The sun is slowly sinking on Cat in Rabat's dominion and within eight weeks, this blog will sadly be no more; Mr. CinR and I will be leaving Morocco for greener pastures. And by greener, I mean spirited. And by spirited, I mean a place with an enlightened view of alcohol. Not that that's the sole reason we're leaving - but the ability to enjoy a reasonably priced gin & tonic - out of doors where people can not only see you but are unlikely to tut-tut in disapproval - is certainly an added bonus.

Which brings me to today's posting. Last week I was part of a slightly raucous discussion in which my colleagues posited various theories on how Islam could best be improved upon - a fatwa-inducing discussion if there ever were one. Suggestions included a more concerted effort in the promotion of women's rights (or in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its initiation), the throwing off Islam's self-righteous cloak of judgmentalism, and a loosening of its dogmatic approach to the Qu'ran. My two cents was that Islam would remain in the Dark Ages until it developed a healthy attitude towards alcohol.

A healthy attitude that is made manifest in two ways: the first being the ultimate devilification of alcohol (i.e., its overall acceptance, for weal or woe, as part of the world's fabric); the second, being the nature or expression of its acceptance. Many many many Moroccans have already embraced Step One and drink regularly: a trip to the cave of Label Vie, for instance, will bear this out. Now I am not suggesting that Muslims have to drink alcohol to improve the quality of their lives or to promulgate a more positive perception of Islam around the world (although it might help). But if they are going to abstain from drinking, then they also have to abstain from castigating those that do.

The hypocrisy just has to stop. My memory is readily drawn to one particular acquaintance who polished off a bottle of anise in one sitting and then claimed, in his booze-sodden breath, that he is a good Muslim and follows the Qu'ran to the letter. Days later, I saw him sober and watched in a mixture of horror and amusement as he announced that all Muslims who drank were no better than apostates, bound for hell.

Morocco - just in case you didn't know - is an Islamic country and not only has a successful wine industry but produces one or two passable beers (Tangier's Beaufort jumps to mind). Contradiction? Inconsistency? Incongruity? Possibly. And should the PJD (the Justice and Development Party) - an Islamic/Islamicist party that favours the covering of women, the separation of thieving hands from thieving thieves, and the total ban of alcohol - sweep the upcoming elections (as predicted), Morocco will have to look deep within its own somewhat hypocritical soul and come to terms with what it brews, distils, ferments - and drinks.

Now, in a typical booze run, I am the only Westerner scurrying about this subterranean rat's warren in search of distilled sustenance; at any one time I am jostled about by young men who are, for all intents and purposes, still children (under 15), winos replete with gin blossoms (or more accurately, anise blossoms), and an assortment of men. I probably need not draw your attention to the fact that the only Moroccan women found in the cave will be the check-out clerks (except that I just did). It is not uncommon for some of these men to be in various stages of inebriation - pie-eyed on an assortment of beverages that include anything with anise, Moroccan beer, inexpensive local wines, and suspiciously cheap vodkas. In two years, I have never seen a check-out clerk or a bag-boy or a manager refuse service to a teenager or a drunk.

This rather longwinded prologue brings me to Step Two: the expression of the acceptance. In my experience, many many many Moroccans drink to get drunk. There is no sense of moderation. There is no sense of drinking for social reasons. There is no sense of savouring the tipple. Quite simply, it is anathema to these individuals to not empty a bottle; once opened it must be finished off. Another dead soldier, as it were. This is true of wine, hard spirits, and liqueurs, regardless of the size, be they dwarf-sized bottles of beer, cough syrup containers of liquorice-flavoured fire water, or litre bottles of anything cheap. Ironically, these are the very people whom the Prophet Mohammed (the PM) railed against. If Moroccans are going to drink - and I think that they should - they have to abandon their adolescent attitude towards liquor and learn how to appreciate their glass of Chardonnay rather than seeing it as an end-to-a-means. Have the French taught them nothing?

As an aside, I often wonder what a sit-down with the founders of the world's great religions would be like. Picture a round table set deep within a gracious patio of stylized arches, shaded by trellises of grapevines, fruit-laden orange and lemon trees, fragrant myrtle and oleander, a small system of waterways and fountains gurgling gently and cooling the air. It is midsummer and the Patriarchs of the Old Testament are sharing a bottle of Manischewitz with Jesus, and Buddha (I'd have already pressed a drink or two upon him) is quaffing back an Indian Pale Ale.

And the PM? I'd like to think that, as in all things, hindsight is 20-20 and he just might be able to see that his sometimes ambiguous and highly contextualized interdictions on alcohol (for example) may have been made in haste. Perhaps he should have worked in a litle number on Freedom of Choice? Informed Consent? Maybe he should have foreseen the greater health threat of tobacco and cigarettes? Yes, perhaps as the bumble bees buzz overhead polinating those grapevines, the P.M. himself might enjoy a sloe gin fizz with the author.

What a different world this might be if I - or anyone for that matter - could have cocktails with Mohammed.


Me and my camera said...

Alcohol has been a huge social problem over the centuries (millenia?). The female leaders of the Temperance Movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw it as fuel for mysogenist wife and child-beaters, and as something that ate (drank) a huge portion of already meager wages, causing evictions and exacerbating already impoverished living conditions.

However, you and I know that complete abstinence isn't the answer. The prohibition proved that. The criminalization of narcotics (especially marijuana) has been a complete disaster, doing nothing more than filling American jails with small-time "pushers" while a generation gets stoned.

Prohibition or abstinence (on a societal level) doesn't work. Morocco is yet more proof of that...

Morocco Time said...

You're going? Spain, perhaps? I'll miss your wry and deadly accurate observations - it's so true that many Moroccans don't know how moderate their liquor consumption. Taking a page from the British (binge drinking) is not a good idea.

FourSure said...

moderation is key
just say no
those who like it like it a lot
because it's there

I'm glad you're leaving.
Cat in Spain has a great ring to it.
Gato en espana.
8 weeks? We'll be moved before you!!!
Tell Chris it's not Prop tonight - no tears necessary. Just my standard Aussie Banrock Station chardonnay. They should start paying me - I'm sure I've put someone through college by now!

Jillian said...

Aww Cat! Bummer you're leaving having never actually met you? Do me a favor and leave your books to me (read: the library).

And on the alcohol front, I agree with you. My husband's father quit drinking altogether when his kids were born - to set a good example, it seems - yet had he chosen instead to occasionally drink in moderation, I'd imagine my teenage brother in law wouldn't be sneaking around so much.

I see a lot of hypocrisy here too about alcohol. Raise one to the PM!

Okie said...

Germany doesn't have a minimum age for alcohol consumption and I have heard from former residents of Germany that they don't have the alcohol-related social problems that we do here in the US. And Moslems aren't the only hypocrits about alcohol, there are plenty here in Oklahoma......I have memories of Baptist teenagers telling me I would burn in hell if I didn't join their church and then laughing how they got drunk on Saturday nights and went to church on Sunday morning preaching fire and brimstone to youth groups. lol

Okie said...

Germany doesn't have a minimum age for alcohol consumption and i've heard people who've lived there say that they don't have the alcohol-related social problems that we do in the US.

monsieur mike said...

What! Leaving? I am so unimpressed. Sure, it's great for you, but what about me and the other reader's who enjoy your wonderful blogs about the peculiarities of Rabati life.

I will miss heading to your page, I guess you've no thoughts about reconsidering, …

Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Blogging doesn't pay the rent but there is a possibility that I'll undergo a metamorphosis for my new locale. Cats can be found pretty much everywhere.

Cath said...

Enough G&Ts and you'll be Cat 'O Tonic.

heatherf said...

Sad to find out you are leaving as I will miss you witty commentary on Rabat life.

Racquel said...

no more cat/Rabat stories? too bad, I just found your site! the bits and pieces of my views about alcohol and Morocco have already been posted by your bright visitors, and they said them in a much better way. =) thanks for sharing y'all.

Rachel said...

Those claiming Germans do not have drinking problems have either never lived there or just visited! There alcoholism is just more accepted. Period. I'm glad Islam outlawed alcohol, having lived with an alcoholic family. I also do not believe that alcohol in moderation= a good Muslim. It's not Islam's fault that there are some hypocrites claiming to follow it's tenants. I don't believe that Muslims should call any Muslim an apostate, but I also don't believe that we should 'Westernize' our religion to make it more acceptable.