Salman Saleem

Why Baloch Club Bahrain’s religious ‘conference’ on addiction failed

The parties of God are at it again. This time on a fairly sophisticated topic that stretches far beyond the reach of all the expertise of their religion-backed primitive science. A topic so sophisticated that not only encompasses the distinct scientific disciplines of biology, behavioral science and sociology but, to a larger extent, also flirts around public policies at least in the Western context as we know.  

Of course, the topic here being discussed is addiction and the scope by which it is being examined is religion. It’s a marriage so odd and inconvenient, but still officiated by the Baloch Club Bahrain between its far-right religious members and the multifaceted science of addiction.

Now what could go wrong here? Why be so critical towards an organization’s good intentions of getting rid of the so-called menace of addiction from our tiny community? Why be so negative on such a positive enterprise? 

Well, it turns out that religion has never been so compatible with its role in plummeting human suffering in a true sense. In contrast, it has always stood as an enemy of reasoning and science which, beyond a reasonable doubt, have always been the major contributors in human progress, especially in the field of medicine.

Religious attitude on the other hand towards solving health problems has rather been obnoxious and vile. Take for example the religious pseudoscience of exorcism. A primitive belief which asserts that humans have a tendency to be possessed by invisible demons. These demons can be cast out by local imams and mullahs by brutally torturing their victims to death, not mentioning those who get raped in the middle of exorcism.

Now we know that this entire phenomenon is based on mental health. It’s a medical condition known as schizophrenia which is best characterized by its distinctive symptoms of hallucinations, delusions and feeling of detachment from one’s own self. Its etiology involves genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle choices and can be managed by medication just like any other biological disease. Now the point that is being made here is to ponder why should someone seriously take the mosque’s position on addiction when it fails to acknowledge the simple fact that schizophrenia patient aren’t possessed and can be treated without torture and with full human dignity?

Addiction, as anyone in my field will agree, including those from the medical community, is best explained and defined as a biological disease. A disease similar in rank as to diabetes, bronchitis, arthritis, hyperthyroid et al. All types of diseases as we know are treated effectively by modern medicine backed by science where everything is subjected to scrutiny and where knowledge is gathered by constant testing of hypothesis. It is perfectly sound and logical to conclude that addiction, by its sui-generis nature, can only be examined, treated and prevented through a scientific and academic approach, not a religious one.

While it isn’t really hard to predict the religious approach, which in this case, would be to engage in ritualistic obsessions such as prayers and simply asking the addicted person to stop being addicted. Now the question is how could you ask someone to stop being diseased? How could you ask a cancer person or a stroke survivor to stop being cancerous or paralyzed?  

Coming back to Baloch Club Bahrain’s event chaired by charlatans with 7th century make-up, it is fair in my opinion to infer that the whole “conference” was an insult to intellect. As a person who has lost family members, close friends and witnessed first-hand overdoses, I felt enormous offence by some of the comments passed by those high-school dropout panelists. Instead of raising awareness among the crowd about the challenges addicted people face in society, from depression, anxiety, childhood trauma to poor relationships and joblessness, the panelists rather ridiculed and bullied them. Their response was blaming instead of understanding, judging rather than listening . 

If Baloch Club’s intentions are really Samaritan then it needs to elect a secular and educated body to investigate the precursors of addiction within society, examine its factors through a rational lens and recommend inclusive social programs for youth so that they remain engaged in the wider community while still developing their skills in their area of interest. 

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