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
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.
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.