Malaysia mosque a source of hope for heroin addicts

Thu May 3, 2012 8:15am EDT
 
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By Anuradha Raghu

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - For 30 years, Feisal Fakharudin lived a heroin addict's life, sleeping on streets, getting into trouble with police and rotating in and out of drug treatment centers.

In Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country where drug addiction is still taboo, his habit made him a social outcast until he found support from an unlikely source -- the Ar Rahman mosque nestled in the bustling capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

After performing his prayers, Feisal slips upstairs away from his fellow worshippers to receive a dose of methadone from a drug-treatment clinic - the world's first to operate in a mosque, according the World Health Organization.

"In the past, there was no one to help me," said Feisal, who said he used to feel like the "scum of society."

Feisal attributes the success of his treatment to the spiritual guidance he gets from mosque clerics, as well as the methadone syrup dispensed twice a week by medical staff.

Allowing the mosque to set up the methadone clinic, which started up over two years ago, has raised eyebrows in a country that imposes the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers. Those caught in possession of drugs above specified quantities face trafficking charges and are presumed guilty -- laws that human rights groups say contravene international fair trial standards.

Rusdi Abdul Rashid, the chief coordinator of the University of Malaya's Center of Addiction Sciences (UMCAS) that runs the clinic, had to work hard to convince mosque officials and religious authorities to allow the clinic.

Islamic authorities in Malaysia - which has been a leading voice of moderate Islam - eventually gave the green light for the treatment, deciding that methadone was not a banned substance under Islam.   Continued...

 
A drug addict takes a dose of methadone at Ar Rahman mosque in Kuala Lumpur April 19, 2012. In Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country where drug addiction is still taboo, drug addicts usually end up being social outcasts until some of them found support from an unlikely source -- the Ar Rahman mosque nestled in the bustling capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Established within it, is a drug-treatment clinic - the world's first to operate in a mosque, according the World Health Organisation. Picture taken April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad