Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair has said that Islam permits the use of narcotics under exceptional circumstances, such as in the treatment of drug addicts.
Speaking at a ceremony last night marking International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, prominent religious scholar Sheikh Ilyas Hussein said that even a small amount of drugs were not allowed in Islam, and claimed that illegal drugs “are no cure”.
‘’These religious scholars lack information on the topic, they don’t really have adequate information on drug abuse treatment,’’ Zuhair said. ‘’Scholars have to collect more information before they preach.’’
Zuhair explained that opiates were commonly used as pain killers, and questioned why illegal drugs would be disallowed under Islam if it permitted opiates to be injected into the body prior to painful operations.
‘’The government’s aim is to reduce the amount of new drug users, and we have seen progress,’’ he said. ‘’Police statistics show a 50 percent reduction in new drug users last year compared to previous years.’’
Zuhair credited the government’s decision to combine three sessions of school a day into one session with reducing the number of young people on the streets with nothing to do, placing them at risk of drugs and gang involvement.
‘’Formerly when we had three sessions, children studying in the first session would finish school at midday and go home. His mother and father would not be around and he had a lot of free time without anything to do,’’ Zuhair explained. ‘’Then he goes out and join the gangs and starts doing drugs.’’
Zuhair also said penalties and treatments for hard drugs and soft drugs in the Maldives were different in other countries, but said that in the Maldives users of both hard and soft drugs received the same penalties and treatment.
He signaled the government’s intention to seek amendment to these laws, but said this would depend on the level of public awareness and understanding of the issues.
Sheikh Ilyas in his speech last night said that is was impossible to combat the drug issue by administering drugs in increasingly small doses.
He said that the penalty for taking drugs was 40 lashes if it was the first time and more for second time, with harsher penalties also permitted under Islam.
A former drug addict told Minivan News that he agreed with Sheikh Ilyas and that the best method was “stopping it at once”.
‘’I myself tried to recover taking it little by little, and it did not work for me,’’ he said. ‘’There are some others who tried that method and succeeded, but most of the time it is successful only if you try to stop it at once.’’
He said the most important thing for addicts seeking to stop taking drugs was the support from people around him or her, “especially friends and family.”
‘’He has to understand that he is suffering the consequences of his own actions and has to go through the pain [or withdrawal], understanding that it does not last forever and that taking drugs again as a temporary cure is not a permanent solution,’’ he said.
He described the rehabilitation facilities in the Maldives as “useless places.”
“Firstly, the government needs to bring major amendments to the laws, categorising drugs and bringing in other changes to overcome the drug issue,’’ he said.
Society needed to be more aware of illegal drugs and how to cure addiction, he suggested.