Imam Abdul Malik, a prominent American cleric, has written a scathing critique of the War on Drugs from an Islamic perspective, countering the stereotype that leaders of this faith invariably take a draconian line on drug policy.
He argues that while Islam forbids intoxicants, it does not treat addiction as an existential threat. “The primary purpose of law in Islam is to preserve life and order in society, not to create a machine of incarceration and punishment.” According to Malik, declaring “war” on drugs is a breach of both US constitutional and Islamic principals: “The War on Drugs and the War on Terror have both given way to legalized injustice. Using the rhetoric of ‘war’ tends to subvert constitutional safeguards in the legal system, thus eroding our commitment to democracy.”
In regards to the Prophet Mohammed, Malik believes that his law was intended to protect people and not destroy their lives: “His aim was not to punish people, but to save them from their wrong behavior.”
Imam Malik , who is the president of Sound Vision, a liberal Islamic nonprofit, emphasizes that opposing the drug war is not the same thing as endorsing drugs. “I am against terrorism but cannot support the War on Terror,” he says. “The same is true about the drug war. I am against drugs but oppose the War on Drugs.”
As far as solutions go, Malik points to America’s anti-smoking campaigns as a resounding success:
“…let us abandon the War on Drugs, which has failed. Instead, let us adopt a model which has worked: anti-smoking. This health threat and social vice has definitely been reduced in our country. But it is not because we were throwing people in prison for smoking. Rather, we used widespread education, raised awareness, and used the power of persuasion to convince Americans to stop smoking. So let us apply the methods of our campaign against smoking to our War on Drugs.”
Imam Malik believes that Islam is compatible with liberal American values and points out that US jurists have a long history of acknowledging the contributions of Muhammed to society and to law: “That is probably why he was honored by the US Supreme Court in 1935 as one of the 18 greatest lawgivers of the world.”