July 5, 2015:
Iran recently announced the opening of 150 treatment centers for alcoholics. In this way Iran is being forced to respond to the growing social ills that are supposed to be impossible in a religious state like Iran. The government has long acknowledged that there is a drug problem and must try to cope with more than two million addicts. Recently the government did the same with alcohol. While banned since 1979, the government is now admitting that it must deal with the 200,000 alcoholics the World health Organization estimates exist in the country. Iranian Islamic conservatives insist that this is an exaggeration and that there are few users of alcohol in the country. The average Iranian knows better and the more pragmatic members of the government have won their battle to open treatment centers.
In fact even the most religiously conservative Moslem countries (like Saudi Arabia) have problems with alcoholism and widespread illegal use of alcohol. Less strict Moslem majority nations often have political problems over alcohol use. For example there are still a lot of Islamic conservatives in Algeria and a recent government effort to reform laws on Alcohol (making it easier to get) led to threats of street demonstrations by those who saw this as anti-Islamic. Algeria imports over $80 million worth of alcoholic beverages each year but current laws make it easy for police to harass places that serve the drinks. Sometimes that is fixed by paying a bribe, sometimes not and either way most Algerians are not happy with how the current rules on alcoholic beverages are written and enforced.
In countries with a non-Moslem majority this mixed attitude is often used to torment a troublesome Moslem minority. For example, early in 2015 local officials in northwest China (Xinjiang province) ordered shopkeepers to carry cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. This is being directed at Islamic conservative shop owners and their customers, who tend not to smoke or drink alcohol. This is but one form of harassment directed at Chinese Moslems.