ON Jan 17, 1920, the US Congress passed a law to ban liquor in all of its states. This move came as a result of immense pressure from the so-called “conservative Protestant movement” that imposed a set of social restrictions during the second half of the nineteenth century.
These restrictions prompted the imposition of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution that approved the “Volstead Act”.
At that time, the legislation sparked widespread controversy. Its supporters described it as a “noble experience” and presented it as a victory for good morals and public health. On the other hand, its opponents accused its supporters of imposing their extremist tendencies.
After the law came into effect, smuggling flourished, and the number of clandestine factories for bootleg liquor increased. The imposition of the ban turned out to be difficult for the executive authorities due to the absence of popular support. It also became a major reason for the increase in the influence of criminal organizations and the emergence of the black market.
Despite the success of this legislation to reduce the number of liquor consumers, the crime rate increased in an unprecedented manner. The “Saint Valentine’s Day” massacre came as a shock to the American street, as well as the high rate of corruption in police departments and among lawmakers and local officials due to the increased influence of criminal gangs.
This ban led to a remarkable increase in the number of drug users. Indeed, some states turned into hotbeds for criminals and smugglers of psychotropic substances. High death rates were recorded among victims of gang violence, drug abuse, and bootleg liquor.
In the Arab world where the majority practices Islam and where it is used as the main source of legislation, there are still three countries that prohibit alcohol, namely Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Sudan lifted the ban a few months ago and allowed use of liquor only for non-Muslims. For a long time in these countries, smuggling and abuse of liquor and drugs had been active, and crimes resulting from that have been occurring daily. In Iraq for example after the ban was passed in 2016, the percentage of drug users increased by about 45 percent compared to what it was before, and it became a popular market for smuggling.
Hardly a day goes by without reading about the confiscation of large quantities of drugs smuggled from Iran or other countries to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. While customs officers are bragging about seizing huge quantities of smuggled liquor, high quantities of narcotics from known source are pouring into these countries, as one of the methods of soft warfare practiced by Iran and some of the Islamized groups associated with it, be they Sunni or Shiite, is to subvert the society, drag the youth into drug abuse, and increase the crime rates.
For a long time, those who have been demanding allowing liquor have faced massive attacks from traffickers with the ban, whether they are those who use religion as a cover or those affected by its permissibility, while they are in fact smugglers and dealers of alcohol and drugs. This was the case in the United States of America during the years of the ban when their political blocs in legislative and executive authorities, as well as religious institutions were working to maintain the embargo so their trade was not harmed.
Over the past 13 years, more than 70,000 people were killed in the United States either as a result of the use of adulterated liquor or due to conflict between criminal gangs and law enforcement forces. The state governments’ spending on drug control and social care centers for addicts has increased by 60 percent of their budgets, while tourism has been incurring huge losses.
There is no doubt that maintaining the ban in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will mean more drug victims, as in addition to those who die after consuming locally manufactured adulterated liquor. This also increases the burden on security services and leads to the expansion of influence of social sabotage gangs associated with the traitors in the two countries. The crime rate decreased in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman, after the ban on liquor was lifted, in addition to the revival of their tourism sectors.
Perhaps the time has come to reconsider the matter and allow liquor because it will prevent thousands of deaths due to overdose or use of adulterated liquor. In Kuwait, for example, we cannot talk about mega tourism projects, and development of the islands and the northern economic zone … we are prisoners of Article 206 of the Penal Code.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times