Birth of a prohibitionnist regime : Saudi Arabia, 1952

par Philippe Bourmaud


Birth of a prohibitionnist régime : Saudi Arabia, 1952


Part 1 : Alcohol, Wahhabism and Society in Saudi Arabia


Introduction : Haram !


As this carnet is beginning, let us state clearly that we start with the understanding that alcohol in the Islamic world cannot be perceived solely in a religious light, and that its reprobation is not sufficiently explained by a common perception of its being religiously blamable. No doubt, drinking alcohol is often considered haram. Yet haram is a highly polysemic word, the use of which is often but a cry far of religious obligations. It conveys, not only a sense of the sacred (haram as sanctuary), or of prohibition (as opposed to halal, for instance regarding food), but a wider meaning of social obligation and of an order of things being violated : for instance, the narration of an accumulation of misfortunes will be met with a compassionate « haram… » True, it is a pole in a religious sanction of behaviours, ranging from the acceptable (halal) to the blamable (haram), via the hateful but not reprehensible (makrouh), and Islamic scholars use this gradation to condemn alcohol drinking. Moreover, that drinking alcohol is haram in this sense is common knowledge. But condemnation seldom comes down to that, as there is a strong element of ethical reprobation towards behaviours which, in any case, ought not to be made public and visible.

In the modern and contemporary periods, the reprobation has been enriched and complexified by the assimilation of medical advice, social policy, job marketability (a reputation as a drinker can easily block access to a job, except in certain positions – in particular in Ottoman sultan Mahmud II’s higher administration and especially at the higher ranks ofr his army – where it is actually rewarding to be seen as detached from religious views )… Meanwhile, according to François Georgeon, its consumption has become normalized in many ways since the 19th century, first and foremost by being assimilated to a signifier of modernity and cultural openness to the West. By the same token, reprobation has been clothed in shades of modernism (usually health-related) and traditionalism (usually grounded in Islamic discourse), which often enough combine. Alcohol prohibition has a lot to do with those modern development, and its history shows that it seldom can be pinned down to a purely religious agenda.


Saudi Arabia : The legacy of Hanbalism


Saudi Arabia is a case in point – and a significant one, given the dominance there of Wahhabism, known for the austerity of its interpretations of Islamic practices. As the doxa would have it : if prohibition were purely Islamic anywhere in the Islamic worlds, should it not be in Saudi Arabia ? Well, Wahhabism is relevant here  , but it is not the whole story. To understand this, we have to go back to the preparations for the succession of Abd al-Aziz b. Abd al-Rahman Âl-Sa’ud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, in the years preceding his death in 1953.

Together with Iran, Saudi Arabia is one of the two examples of state prohibition of alcohol in the Middle East. In the Saudi case, this is commonly associated with the rigorism of the state-endorsed version of Sunni Islam, wahhabism. Wahhabism, the argument goes, is associated with the dynastic rule of the Âl-Sa’ud since the middle of the eighteenth century, which effectively gave Wahhabi Islamic scholars a capacity of censorship. Wahhabism adheres to the Hanbali rite ; Islamic tradition condemns drinking « ḫamr », a word which encapsulates, by its vagueness, an undefined range of products. While a common contemporary  joke (heard by yours truly in East Jerusalem around the fall of 2004) defines ḫamr as « wine from Saudi Arabia », the abstinence from which is supposed to be common sense, hanbali ulemas have tended to give the word a large definition : not only « wine » (the most commonly accepted translation), nor just alcohol (the usual extent given to religious prohibition), but intoxicants in general. Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyya ( extended in the 14th century the realm of the haram to psychoactives, in particular haschisch. By implication, the logic goes, Wahhabism calls for a particularly cautionary, strict and extensive understanding of Islamic condemnation of ḫamr drinking. In the eighteenth century, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, religious reformer strongly influenced by hanbalism, reiterated the strong condemnation of alcohol. By the early 1870s, it was the turn of Wahhabi scholar sheykh Abd al-Latif b. Abd al-Rahman to give a reminder of the prohibition, this time with an open political goal. In a letter to Hamad b. Atiq, he condemns Ottoman rule and accuses the Ottomans of spreading immorality such as alcohol and sodomy, in line with the opposition, both religious and political, of the house of Sa’ud and of Wahhabi ulemas, to Ottoman power and the control of the ulemas by the state in the « well-protected domains » of the Sultan[1].

As in many things in Saudi Arabia, religious obligations provide an official rationale to alcohol prohibition. The Ulema are part and parcel of the state, in spite of wahhabism having emerged from a reaction to Ottoman integration of Islamic scholars into the state, in a subordinate place in the process of producing law. A Council of Major Ulemas was instituted in 1971   ( ), following a tradition of influential Ulema dynasties. While formally, Ulemas and then the Council have assumed the rôle of vetting new legislation from a religious point of view, they have in practice limited their rôle to giving approbation to government actions and thus legitimizing the Al-Sauds. The ruling dynasty, in return, has operated within the bounds of a strict interpretation of Islamic norms. As opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, it can hardly be considered constrained by Islamic scholars.


Ongoing prohibition, ongoing transgression


As a result, the enforcement of alcohol prohibition is more a political than a religious issue. Strict prohibition of alcohol, other intoxicants, and smoking tobacco had already been proclaimed by Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, in the 18th century[2]. It became law in the whole of Saudi Arabia with the foundation of the kingdom in 1932. Tobacco consumption, however, goes on unhindered to this day, without any opposition to advertising for cigarettes. Alcohol was and still is forbidden for subjects of the kingdom, as it is in Kuwait, Yemen, Qatar, the emirate of Sharjah, and since 2017 Iraq, but not in a uniform fashion. Prohibition is particularly strict in Saudi Arabia, inasmuch as it affects the import, sales, circulation, and consumption, and extends to all residents of the kingdom.

Already in the days of Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab, prohibition was not strictly adhered to, leading the founder of wahhabism to impose the shaving of their beards or a fine on transgressors[3]. In the twentieth century Abd al-Aziz Âl-Sa’ud delegated to councils that included local dignitaries the enforcement of alcohol prohibition in the main cities of the Hijaz part of the kingdom, Jeddah, Mekka and Medina : as a result, prohibition in Hijaz was enforced less severely than in the Nejd region[4]. By and large, prohibition made it largely unpopular and often dangerous for Saudis to be caught having drunk alcohol, but over time, it became eased in certain environments. The unspoken rule being that it should be drunk behind closed doors, so as not to cause public scandal. The extent of transgression seems to have changed over time : only in the 1970s-1980s did its consumption get popularized among Saudis, presumably through contacts with international expats[5]. Still, a definite gap exists between official prohibition all through the kingdom, and effective enforcement. Drinking alcohol is very much frowned upon. Importing it – theoretically a crime punishable by death – can entail severe whipping or jail.


Alcohol : a known unknown


As a result, the extent of alcohol consumption (and consequently, alcoholism) remains unknown and unmeasured : indeed it is supposed not to exist in the kingdom. A number of organizations in the country work on addictions, promoting a medicalized approach to, among other things, alcohol. But they are hard put to assess the extent of alcohol-related public health issues for lack of data. WHO tries to assess consumption for its Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, essentially through cross-checking data derived from anonymous questionnaires and cases of consumption and addiction recorded in the kingdom’s hopsitals. The 2004 report considered alcohol consumption in Saudi Arabia to be « considerable », and from the late 1990s to the 2010s, overall consumption has been assessed to remain stable. (Official figures record an overal consumption of zero or close to zero liter, unsurprisingly in a prohibition country) . While it found 97% of the Saudi population to be abstemious over the last year (99% among women and 95% among men), statistics gathered in hospitals showed a different story : out of 160 male patients aged 20 or older at Al-Amal Hospital in Riyadh in March 1998, 23,75% had used alcohol. Among a population of 116 of the same gender- and age-group in an hospital in Al-Dammam, 31% were found to be alcohol users, 20% mixed it with other substances. (Al-Dammam is not only the heart of the main oil-producing region in Saudi Arabia, meaning that there are a number of expats living there. It is also closer than Riyadh to alcohol-selling neighbouring states, in particular Bahrein  .) The overall consumption was assessed to be 0,6 liters of pure alcohol per inhabitant and per year. Put together, these figures are hard to reconcile at first glance : the hospital populations under scrutiny present large shares of alcohol drinking and abuse, in a population that drinks, by and large, very little. The discrepancy between overall figures and clinical data obtained from the hospital seems to owe to a variety of factors. First, drinkers are a population at risk, with typical features of « dry » countries such as a high rate of alcohol induced road accidents inducing traumas and prolonged hospitalization[6]. Second there are very stiff differences in consumption / abstinence patterns among Saudis, with enclaves of more common consumption among a generally abstemious population, and an understatement of consumption associated with a strong social stigma against drinkers[7]. Overall, these tendencies appear stable over a ten-year period, and the 2014 report only hints at a growth in the proportion of alcohol drinkers in the population, especially among women : the figure now stood at 94,2% of abstainers over the previous year (including 90,1% of lifetime abstainers), with 7,5% of men and 3,4% of women being reported as currently drinking [8]. All types of alcohol are consumed, especially globalized brands of whisky and gin. Heineken beer has been « smuggled » into the kingdom under the guise, for instance, of Pepsi Cola cans[9]. Quite common is a local alcohol named Siddique (faithful friend), distilled from fermented sugar water, colourless and undistinguishable from water, carried around in used water bottles and often drunk in cocktails[10]. Still the reforms induced by the effective rule of Prince Muhammad b. Salman did not extend to alcohol[11]. In recent years, arrests of individuals found in the possession of alcohol at home, including of one British citizen and former oil executive aged 74, were often given high profile. True, in the case, the incarceration has more to do with strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Britain than with shoring up the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice[12]. Yet the repetition of such cases highlights the contrast between the norm, how ever hegemonic and widely publicized, and individual practices that, put together, are far from an insignificant social phenomenon.

The latter evolution is notable, but it is difficult for Saudi institutions to translate into policy. Hopefully we will deal in the near future with patterns of prevention of alcohol abuse in the Middle East, especially advertisement. A cursory look by this writer  at satellite channels from the Gulf states, about half a dozen years ago, showed the most common approach to alcohol as a public problem to be one that conflated alcohol drinking and substance abuse. This, WHO considers to be a frequent but not general pattern. Ads were focused on preventing individuals from beginning to drink, rather than on accompanying drinkers. Other approaches to drinking were likely to be inhibited by the social stigma against drinkers and official prohibition. The ads showed public awareness about the issue ; its simplification reflected a lack of quantitative and qualitative data, which was understood to hamper efficient policy making. Updates and interviews would of course be necessary to make out how WHO data have influenced policy in recent years, but prohibition, in any case, remains in force .


Prohibition and the oil economy


The singularity of Saudi Arabia owes to the extension of the prohibition, as in Iran, to foreigners. As a result, there are no official enclaves of consumption – such as international hotels – available of the many highly-paid, white Western expats who immigrated to work in the oil industry. Yet informalized alcohol consumption has gone on among them, and it is commonly assumed that they were instrumental in creating an alcoholic counter-culture in the kingdom.

What is known about drinking patterns and alcohol prices reflect the affluence of Saudi Arabia as an oil economy. Alcohol is easy to find – largely homebrewed, but also imported with very high costs : a bottle of spirits is reported to cost up to 300 $ a  liter[13]. Finding alcohol is a significant concern among most expats working in Saudi Arabia, in the oil sector and elsewhere. Informal bars, parties, and other locales of consumption exist. And for those who can drive to Bahrein, Manama offers another option to drink, one that gets heavily crowded with Saudis over the week-end.

This is not exclusive of an officially tough stance on alcohol : to the contrary, tough policing combined with the turning of a blind eye on users provided they do not rock social order or the political régime has been a widely used tool of social control – one that could be used to describe the war on drugs in the United States. In Saudi Arabia, Virtue commissions continue to operate across the kingdom, and by and large alcohol does not appear to have become a site of confrontation between state and society in the way that permission for women to drive or accusations of atheism have. For all that, alcohol remains a deeply political issue – as can be illustrated by the 1952 generalization of prohibition.




[1]    David Commins, The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia, London, I.B. Tauris, 2006.

[2]    Roni Zirinski, Ad Hoc Arabism : Arabism, Culture and Technology in Saudi Arabia, Frankfurt-am-Main, Peter Lang, 2005, p. 108.

[3]    Simon Ross Valentine, Force and Fanaticism : Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Beyond, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 37.

[4]    David Commins, The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia, London, I.B. Tauris, 2006, p. 77.

[5]    Tanja C. Laschober, « Islam and Saudi Arabia », in Scott C. Martin, The SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol : Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives, SIbid.AGE Publications, 2014.

[6]    WHO, WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, Geneva, WHO, 2014 : (visited on April 15th, 2018).

[7]    WHO, WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, Geneva, WHO, 2004 : (visited on April 15th, 2018).

[8]    WHO, Global Status Report, 2014.

[9]    Jason Lemon, « Pepsi or beer ? Saudi police confiscate 48,000 disguised cans », StepFeed: (visited on April 26th, 2018).

[10]  « Siddique », Urban dictionary : (visited on April 26th, 2018).

[11]  « The Saga of buying alcohol in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait », Raseef22 blog: (visited on April 26th, 2018).

[12]  Dan Bilefsky, « Briton, 74, Jailed for Having Alcohol in Saudi Arabia, Returns Home », The New York Times, November 11th, 2015 : (visited on April 26th, 2018).

[13]  « Can you drink alcohol in Saudi Arabia ? », Living in Saudi Arabia blog : (visited on April 26th, 2018).



Alcohol Control Policies in Turkey and The Role of Yeşilay From 1920 until Today

par Elife Biçer-Deveci

Alcohol drinking cultures in Muslim countries have for several years been the focus of researchers from various disciplines. Pioneers in the field such as François Georgeon and Rudi Matthee revealed the diversity within drinking cultures in Muslim countries[1] and uncovered a field for scholars to analyse the effects of the political context, modernisation and globalisation on drinking habits in Muslim countries.[2] Based on the findings of this research literature, we can assume that alcohol control politics, such as prohibitionist regimes or restricting laws on trade, are without serious long-term effects on the change of drinking culture. Alcohol control policies serve rather to maintain control over individuals, to construct collective identities and to establish a cultural hegemony which remains limited to a small group of the society.[3] In this paper, I aim to elaborate some hypotheses about the issue of alcohol in the context of the Ottoman Empire/Turkey from the late nineteenth century until today. The paper presents different phenomena related to the issue of alcohol. My main argument is that the issue of alcohol functions as an important feature in interactions between religion, politics and international relations. The interdependence of these different spheres can be observed in the development of alcohol control policies. The hypotheses are based on a case study of Yeşilay (Green Crescent) in Turkey, a non-state organisation founded in 1920 by religious leaders and physicians. This organisation has since its foundation acted at the interface of state, religion, science and international relations.

During the period of intensified economical, personal and institutional relations with European countries and the USA since the late nineteenth century,4 prohibitionist ideas, based on scientific insights in Western countries, circulated in the late Ottoman Empire/Turkey. Debates about these ideas caused a gradual change of semantics and reference frameworks regarding the issue of alcohol and prior Islamic doctrine. This change is a result of the process of modernisation and secularisation of institutions. Within this process, religious authorities lost their monopoly position in producing knowledge and interpretation of the issue of alcohol. In public debates, they were replaced more and more by individuals who had scientific expertise and were shaped by notions of the secular order of society. Scientific debates about the ‘alcohol problem’ served to deprive clerics of their monopoly of knowledge on this subject and gave the society a new political understanding.

The outcome of an Islamic intellectual movement under the lead of Beddiuzzaman Said Nursi (1877–1960) is a reaction to secularisation processes in the late Ottoman Empire/Turkey. Said Nursi inspired a new interpretation of the Quran which seeks a complementary approach to science.[4] Members of this movement founded the anti-alcohol organisation Yeşilay Cemiyeti (Green Crescent Association) in 1920. The board included religious leaders Sheikh ul-Islam Ibrahim Efendi (1864–1933)[5] and Beddiuzzaman Said Nursi. Among other physicians on the board was Prof. Dr. Mazhar Osman (1884–1951).[6] The mixed constitution of the board, with religious people and physicians, is still maintained. The purpose of the foundation was the fight against alcohol. In the 1970s, it started to broaden its aim to include issues related to drugs, and recently issues concerning addiction to technology.[7] Since its foundation, Yeşilay has published its monthly organ regularly, along with occasional books and reports focusing on certain specific issues.[8]

The Yeşilay organisation pursued successful initiatives for the respective prohibition and restriction of alcohol consumption and trade in Turkey. The prohibitionist law in Turkey from 1920 to 1926 is traced back to the initiatives of Yeşilay.[9]

In Yeşilay’s campaigns and publications, and in discussions initiated by it, scientific findings, Islamic concepts of abstinence and concepts of the Western temperance movement were amalgamated into a resistance movement against Turkish modernising policies. The Turkish state, under the lead of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, pursued modernisation according to the European model of modernity. In the face of these policies and westernising processes in various spheres of society, the issue of alcohol became a battlefield for Islamic and conservative groups against the state. Islamic normative concepts of abstinence, encased in public health policy arguments, have their roots in the first half of the twentieth century. Supporters of these concepts became political authorities towards the end of the twentieth century, such as the political party Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Party of Justice and Progress) under the lead of today’s State president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The alcohol consumption of Muslim populations, being largely accepted, was increasingly regarded in the 1920s as a sign of social degeneration and was accusingly traced back to the influence of Western culture over the Muslim culture. In debates about the alcohol problem, defensive attitudes against the spread of the Western lifestyle within Muslim society were crystallised. Alcohol consumption served at the same time as a social stigma of local Christian communities and therewith as justification for the ethnic-religious homogeneity of the nation, particularly in the context of radicalised nationalism in the first half of the twentieth century. In this way, a national distinction was produced by the dividing line between temperance and alcohol consumption.

The issue of alcohol was also an object of action for the Ottoman and Turkish states. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, state authorities in the Ottoman Empire discovered the economic potential that could be realised through the production and trade of alcohol. For instance, the Ottoman state signed several trade contracts with European powers regarding the import of alcoholic liquor.[10] At about the same time, the Ottoman state adopted restrictive measures to control and limit alcohol trade and consumption within the Muslim population.[11]

From its beginning, Yeşilay was in contact with the International League Against Alcoholism with its headquarters in Berlin, and actively participated in international anti-alcohol congresses.[12] It also took part in international congresses on addiction and alcoholism in Turkey.[13] In 2016, Yeşilay initiated the foundation of the International Federation of Green Crescent Organisation. Representatives from various countries and regions were invited to the foundation congress.[14] Yeşilay’s international relations reflect the political context of Turkey. In the 1920s, the association was connected with Western anti-alcohol organisations and followed the Western-oriented principles of the Turkish government. Today, it seeks closer relations with organisations in Muslim countries. This orientation is in accordance with the diplomatic relations of Turkey under the lead of AKP.

[1] Georgeon, François (2002). Ottomans and drinkers: The consumption of alcohol in Istanbul in the nineteenth century. In: Eugene L. Rogan (Ed.), Outside In. On the Margins of the Modern Middle East. London, New York, pp. 7–30; Matthee, Rudolph P. (2005). The Pursuit of Pleasure. Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian History, 1500–1900. Princeton, NJ.; Matthee, R. (2014). Alcohol in the Islamic Middle East: Ambivalence and ambiguity. Past & Present 222 (suppl. 9), pp. 100–125; See also Kueny, Kathryn (2001). The Rhetoric of Sobriety. Wine in Early Islam. Albany.

[2] See among others, Gangloff, Sylvie (2015). Boire en Turquie. Pratiques et Représentations de l’Alcool. Paris; Woodall, G. Carole (2015). Decadent nights: A cocaine-filled reading of 1920s post-Ottoman Istanbul. In: Michela Ardizzoni and Valerio Ferme (Eds.), Mediterranean Encounters in the City. Frameworks of Mediation Between East and West, North and South. Lanham, pp. 17–36; Powell, Arthur James (2004). Only in paradise: Alcohol and Islam. In: C. K. Robertson (Ed.), Religion & Alcohol. Sobering Thoughts. New York, pp. 95–110.

[3] These aspects of control policies and temperance movement are mentioned in: Heath, Deana (2010). Purifying Empire. Obscenity and the Politics of Moral Regulation in Britain, India and Australia. New York; Tschurenev, Jana, Spöring, Francesco and Grosse, Judith (2014). Einleitung: Sittlichkeitsreform, Biopolitik und Globalisierung. In: Judith Grosse (Ed.), Biopolitik und Sittlichkeitsreform. Kampagnen gegen Alkohol, Drogen und Prostitution 1880– 1950. Frankfurt am Main, S. 7–46; Tyrrell, Ian (2013). Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire. The Creation of America’s Moral Empire. Princeton University Press. 4 Zürcher, Erik-Jan ([1993] 2004). Turkey. A Modern History. New York.

[4] See Şerif, Mardin (1989). Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey. The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Albany.

[5] İpşirli, Mehmet and Beydilli, Kemal (2000). İbrâhim Efendi, Haydarîzâde. In: İslam Ansiklopedisi, vol. 21, pp. 297– 298, (last accessed 28.03.2018).

[6] Naderi, Sait (2004). Mazhar Osman ve Türkiye’de nöroşirürjinin doğuşu [Mazhar Osman and The Beginnings of Neurosurgery in Turkey]. Izmir.

[7] The organisation has published the journal Addicta. The Turkish Journal on Addiction since 2014. It contains articles about addiction to technology, among other addiction issues.

[8] In the 1920s, Yeşilay’s publication organ was Hilal-i Ahdar. In 1930, the journal was renamed İçki Düşmanı. For a current list of publications, see (last accessed 28.03.2018).

[9] Karahanoğulları, Onur (2008). Birinci Meclisin Içki Yasağı. Men-i Müskirat Kanunu [The Prohibition of Alcohol by the First National Assembly]. Ankara, pp. 6–7.

[10] The trade contracts are documented in Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (BAO), HR. ID 291, 1–10.

[11] For example, persecution of drunken persons by the police in 1890s: BAO, MF. MKT 1201, 69.

[12] Gökay, Fahrettin K. (1932). Yeşil Hilal Ne Yaptı? [The Activities of Green Crescent]. Istanbul.

[13] For example, Global Alcohol Policy Symposium, 26–27 April 2013 in Istanbul, a joint project with the World Health Organisation; International Symposium on Drug Policy and Health, 29 September–1 October 2014 in Istanbul; Third International Congress on Addiction to Technology, 3–4 May 2016 in Istanbul.

[14] These countries are Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Cote D’Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Indonesia, Karadag, Kenya, Kosovo, Libya, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Palestine, Senegal, Serbia, Somali, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Yemen.


Par le comité de rédaction


Introduction. Islam et alcool, entre doxa, transgression et espaces d’acceptabilité :


Depuis la deuxième moitié du XIXe siècle, l’alcool a été l’objet de processus normatifs contrastés au nom de considérations religieuses et sanitaires à travers les mondes musulmans. La mobilisation de l’interdit sur l’alcool, jamais absent des sociétés musulmanes, a accompagné l’expansion transnationale de la da’wa (prédication) islamique. Les débats sur l’alcool ont aussi été portés par des discours nationalistes de contrôle et de criminalisation des boissons alcoolisées, mais aussi de promotion de boissons “nationales”, face à la colonisation ou avec la construction d’Etats-nations. Mais alors que l’étude en SHS des multiples dimensions de l’histoire et des usages de l’alcool connaît un développement croissant, le monde musulman reste relativement sous-étudié dans ce contexte, comme si les études sur l’alcool avaient assimilé les deux énoncés trompeurs selon lesquels les musulmans sont abstinents et l’alcoolisme est une maladie de l’industrialisation.


A l’origine de ce carnet, il y a une réflexion commune d’un groupe de chercheures et chercheurs sur le fonctionnement enchâssé des différents systèmes de normes anti-alcooliques, religieuses, politiques et sanitaires dans le monde musulman contemporain. Il y a également l’ambition, à partir d’une documentation et d’observations qualitatives sur les pratiques du boire, de rendre compte de leur fonctionnement jusque dans leur détournement.

Alcool et islam : l’articulation – comme une dialectique des incompatibles – semble une évidence. L’islam réprouve l’alcool, l’islam prohibe l’alcool – telle est la doxa. Et cependant, fait têtu, on boit dans les mondes musulmans. Plus que ce paradoxe apparent du sens commun, c’est le peu d’intérêt scientifique pour l’alcool, de la production au boire, qui a de quoi étonner, alors que les études sur l’alcool ont pris les proportions d’un véritable champ disciplinaire pour le reste du monde. L’état de l’art fait apparaître dans la bibliographie à la fois des conceptualisations problématiques et des lacunes importantes. Conceptualisations problématiques du côté du fonctionnement juridique de la norme, car l’interdit islamique contre l’alcool a été considéré de façon inadéquate comme partie intégrante de la loi islamique, alors qu’il existe au sein de celle-ci un espace bien circonscrit au sein duquel la circulation de l’alcool est licite, quoiqu’encadrée, ce que manifeste l’autorisation aux commerçants non musulmans d’en vendre. En ce sens, la circulation de l’alcool produit de l’interreligieux et nous proposons d’analyser ces liens. A cette idée, il faut ajouter que l’islam n’est pas non plus un ensemble homogène et que l’interdit et la transgression y sont imposés et vécus de manières très diverses. Tout questionnement sur la consommation d’alcool dans les mondes musulmans doit donc prendre en compte le fait qu’il s’agit d’un phénomène à la fois normal et transgressif, et que les régimes prohibitionnistes sont l’exception. Si la diffusion de l’alcool a pu être associée à une sécularisation des institutions, ou devenir un marqueur idéologique, ou être considérée comme un fait de culture, il n’y a pas de corrélation rigoureuse entre adhésion religieuse et condamnation ou abstinence.

Mais l’alcool est non seulement conciliable avec la pratique religieuse, mais, dans la diversité des formes de pratiques de l’islam, il est intégré sur des modes divers au rituel, tant dans le soufisme que dans certaines sectes de l’islam. De même que l’approche par la loi islamique est insuffisante pour comprendre l’interdit sur l’alcool et ses modes de mise en oeuvre, de même l’approche par les doctrines ne révèle qu’une partie des conditions de consommation par les soufis (bektachis notamment), les alévis ou les alaouites. Interroger les circonstances de consommation de l’alcool en contexte religieux peut éclairer la manière dont les normes religieuses fonctionnent dans des milieux sociaux différenciés à l’intérieur de l’islam. Comprendre l’organisation religieuse autour de la consommation d’alcool est, à son tour, une condition pour rendre compte de la réception des injonctions médicales et des politiques anti-alcooliques, surtout lorsqu’elles sont perçues comme le masque d’une volonté normative d’inspiration religieuse.


Nous limiterons dans le cadre du programme Bourgeon la recherche aux mondes musulmans méditerranéens et au Moyen-Orient et à l’étude des systèmes normatifs encadrant l’alcool dans un premier temps. A terme, l’objectif est d’étendre le champ de la recherche en évaluant l’incidence de l’interdit religieux sur les politiques de santé publique et de prévention des risques sociaux, par un survey de la littérature spécialisée ; en incluant dans la recherche la production et les circuits de diffusion de l’alcool ; en considérant l’ensemble des dimensions de la consommation, au-delà de son aspect transgressif des normes ; et en élargissant l’étude à l’ensemble des mondes musulmans.


Qui sommes-nous ?


En amont de ce carnet, il y a, disions-nous, un projet commun, financé par le programme Bourgeon de l’Université Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 pour l’année 2018. Si le financement est limité dans le temps, nous nous inscrivons dans la durée. Notre ambition est de contribuer à stimuler des recherches  à la croisée des disciplines, sur un champ qui nous apparaît à tous, témoins au fil de nos terrains des crispations autour de l’alcool et de sa consommation tendanciellement de plus en plus commune, en particulier dans la jeunesse, comme un vaste champ de recherche sous-exploré. Nous sommes également éminemment conscients que l’alcool est aussi une réalité économique qui demande à être interrogée, et peut prendre les proportions d’un problème public pressant. Nous espérons que nos recherches jetteront une lumière sur ce phénomène social, bien au-delà des micro-faits médiatiques qu’ont pu être, pour ne considérer que la période récente, l’annonce de la consommation d’alcool et de substances psychoactives par des militants de l’Etat islamique en Syrie et en Irak, ou celle d’une « épidémie » d’intoxications fatales au rakı à Istanbul fin 2015. (,2025580.php )

Parmi les chercheurs engagés dans le projet [avec chaque nom propre, placer un lien vers nos pages webs institutionnelles], Philippe Bourmaud a montré que la norme religieuse, dans l’entre-deux-guerres, s’était révélée un facteur moins important conduisant à des politiques de contrôle que les angoisses vis-à-vis de l’ordre colonial et l’intervention discrète mais normative de la Société des Nations, exportant ses recommandations anti-alcooliques des territoires sous mandat d’Afrique vers le Moyen-Orient. A Tunis et Casablanca, Nessim Znaien  montre que le rôle de l’Etat colonial revient lui aussi à une forme de normalisation dans laquelle les mêmes acteurs administratifs contribuent à créer des espaces de consommation et maintiennent le principe de l’encadrement légal de la consommation d’alcool. Marie Bonte met en évidence les territoires de l’alcool à Beyrouth dans l’après-guerre civile, et montre une économie politique moyen-orientale de l’alcool. Sylvie Gangloff met en perspective les débats politiques actuels autour de la consommation d’alcool en Turquie, lesquels occasionnent une “guerre culturelle” participant d’une polarisation générale de la société. Nicolas Elias, de son côté, a pu montrer que l’idée de transgression de l’interdit était structurante mais pas nécessairement inhibante de l’alcool, à travers son usage rituel par les confréries bektachies de Turquie. Elife Biçer-Deveci travaille sur les circulations transnationales des concepts “d’alcoolisme” et “de prohibition”, dans la Turquie et l’Iran depuis 1900.


Ce que nous souhaitons faire :


En premier lieu, cartographier les normes. Il s’agit pour une part de parcourir les sources religieuses dans leurs diverses langues (Coran et hadith-s en arabe, ouvrages de sciences islamiques et recueils de fatwa-s en turc, persan, français, anglais et allemand). Cependant, ce repérage demande à être complété par la législation et la réglementation étatiques, et par toutes les formes de collections et d’énonciation de normes traditionnelles, fondées ou non dans l’interdit religieux. Les mesures de prohibition ou de réglementation, les campagnes de mobilisation autour de l’alcool sont une réalité moderne, et un moyen de voir, au prisme des consommations, des transformations sociales plus larges.


En outre, initier des terrains d’enquête sur les normes et la transgression. Tout au long de 2018, nous allons enchaîner les missions de terrain, qui viseront en particulier à étudier les pratiques de consommation. Nous proposons de dépasser l’idée d’un conflit des normes et des pratiques pour repérer une dynamique des unes et des autres qui a contribué à produire les Etats modernes, et qui constitue une des impasses de la bibliographie. Ce carnet est aussi un lieu de publication d’états de recherche et de premières synthèses de ces terrains.


Egalement, monter un réseau scientifique. Ces tâches scientifiques seront complétées par une série de prises de contact, en vue de constituer un réseau scientifique qui s’étende à l’échelle de l’ensemble des mondes musulmans. Nous avons tous nos affinités électives régionales : Philippe Bourmaud avec les Territoires Palestiniens, Nessim Znaien avec la Tunisie et le Maroc, Marie Bonte avec le Liban, Sylvie Gangloff avec la Turquie, Elife Biçer avec la Turquie et l’Iran, Azita Bathaïe avec l’Iran et les diasporas afghranes, Nicolas Elias avec l’Anatolie et les Balkans. De fait, si nous formons le noyau d’une équipe de recherche en train de s’élargir, ce carnet sera également ouvert à d’autres chercheurs s’intéressant à l’alcool, chacune et chacun dans sa propre perspective.


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