Sunday, 1 June 2008

Tobacco Advertisements

Responding to my letter in the Jakarta Post, EM said that it was very difficult to ban the tobacco industry because the government receives a lot of benefit from it. He supported my comments as a form of tabligh (preaching).
Wa alaikum asalaam
The country receives no net benefit from the tobacco industry. It is a killer and causes an incredible amount of suffering. The individual members of the government may find themselves under financial inducements to support this heinous and wicked industry – that does not mean that it is good for the country. I have just come back from a visit to Kuala Lumpur where there is no obvious cigarette advertising so it is perfectly possible to ban it in the region. The industry needs to recruit other young people to replace the customers it has killed. In western and other more enlightened countries where cigarette advertising is prohibited the industry is in retreat. It has therefore launched an all out attack on poor countries where governments are more pliable.
The slave trade was profitable and many rulers in West Africa benefited from it. That does not mean that it was not evil and it was absolutely right to oppose it by all possible means.
If young people are coming onto the streets to demonstrate against the promotion of this murderous trade then I heartily cheer and commend them. The government and law in this country is weak and powerless. It is supposed to protect the country but instead it kowtows to the wishes of the strongest forces it perceives. Now the youth are strong – they are in the majority primarily because old people like us are killed off by tobacco use and the malthusian effects of poor housing and living conditions, unsafe food and preventable road traffic accidents. It they can be inspired with a worthwhile cause to demonstrate and take direct action then I am all in favour of it. That, after all, was how national independence was won. If it is necessary to break the law and deface posters and tear them down after the government have been given due warning, then so be it.
Now that is not tabligh at all. Ahmadiyyat requires that we pursue our objectives through entirely lawful and peaceful means. My personal view is that in Asian countries that is not enough. You need to bring people onto the streets otherwise no amount of sound intellectual argument will work at all. US interests is in protecting their own citizens. They will promote anti-narcotic laws and the police will rigorously enforce them because shipments to the US are routed through Asian countries. But the tobacco industry is primarily an Anglo-US enterprise and they need customers in the third world to replace those they have lost in their domestic market. It is such a murderous and evil trade that destroying or defacing a few posters to help force the government to do the right thing is a worthy cause. The Jama'at cannot agree with me on this because it is something which is against Jama'at policy. I am writing only as an individual. Insha'Allah, I will continue to write. I hope The Jakarta Post continues to courageously publish readers' comments as they have been doing.
wa alaikum asalaam
Rafiq