//Time to issue fatwa against smoking: Muslim doctors

Time to issue fatwa against smoking: Muslim doctors

PARIS – A group of British Muslim doctors has called on Islamic leaders to issue religious rulings against smoking as part of efforts to stamp out the habit.In a commentary published in Saturday’s British Medical Journal (BMJ), the trio point out that Muslim countries have among the highest incidence of the smoking in the world.In Syria and Jordan, half of adult men smoke, while the rate among Indonesian men is more than two-thirds.Efforts to discourage smokers in these countries have been hampered by the entrenched habits of smoking and poor enforcement of anti-smoking laws, the commentary says.But, it adds, Muslim religious leaders have been generally slow to realise the scale of the problem and mull tobacco’s acceptability in the light of Islamic teachings.Religious authorities in some parts of the Arab-speaking world have recently issued edicts under Islamic law that declare smoking to be haram (prohibited), although their counterparts in South Asia have yet to follow suit.

Such moves are to be welcomed, although fatwas “are unlikely to have much effect on rates of smoking” unless they are also accompanied by other measures, such as restrictions on advertising and sales of tobacco to minors, as well as by public awareness campaigns tailored to Muslims, the commentary warns. It says that the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are enjoined to give up smoking, is an ideal time for launching anti-smoking campaigns, using posters to drive home the cost and dangers of the habit and offering alternatives to help wean smokers off their addiction. Lead author is Aziz Sheikh, a professor of primary care research and development at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland