Alcohol formula

Sport, alcohol and the Islamic world

Throughout history, the Islamic world has had an on and off relationship with alcohol. For theological reasons, Islam banned alcohol in the early days of its emergence. But the Muslim rulers of later centuries, including the Ottomans, gradually shifted to a more relaxed approach to drinking as they reached more non-Muslim territories, with diverse cultural orientations.

For example, in the 17th century they introduced muskirat resmi, an alcohol tax for non-Muslims, later known as zecriye resmi in the 18th century.

Then Kemal Ataturk at the beginning of the 20th century, in his attempt to secularize Turkey, legalized alcohol. In the following years, a rich Turkish drinking culture would flourish as the country produced a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and raki.

But nearly a century later, Erdogan, a Turkish leader nostalgic for the country’s Ottoman past, was again restricting alcohol on occasions like Ramadan or at night after 10 p.m., which critics described as part of its growing Islamization of Turkish society.

Like Turkey, other Islamic countries have had somewhat similar relationships with alcohol, leaders say.

For example, the founding father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, would have liked to drink. But later in 1977, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was originally to inaugurate a large casino in Karachi, instead temporarily banned alcohol in Pakistan to save his political career and alliances. Later, in 1979, military leader Zia-ul-Haq banned alcohol and announced heavy penalties, citing Islamic jurisprudence.

India, a Hindu-majority country, also bans alcohol in some states, including Bihar, Gujarat, Nagaland and Mizoram, as well as the union territory of Lakshadweep.

India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, was an anti-alcohol activist who believed that alcohol was worse than any other evil. Some Indian states have different reasons for banning intoxicants. Bihar, for example, finds that the ban is helping to tackle alcoholism and domestic violence in the state.

And the list of different variants of alcohol bans in Muslim countries is seemingly endless – from Morocco, Tunisia to Qatar or Brunei. There are bans that are only imposed on the Muslim population of a country, there are bans implemented only on Fridays or Ramadan. There are places where alcohol is illegal except for tourists in some hotels; places where it is legal only in licensed hotels, places where foreigners are only allowed to drink in designated areas.

So when Qatar revealed it was banning alcohol in football stadiums, the uproar, shock and disbelief felt in the Western Hemisphere didn’t quite resonate in that part of the world given of people’s history and intermittent connection to alcohol.

Not like Qatar – the small, super-rich Gulf nation now seeking to expand its soft power and diversify its economy – intoxicants are banned entirely. You can still have it in designated areas and bars.

But the ban on alcohol in stadiums and the ensuing uproar exposed at least two issues affecting both Qatar and Western fans of the sport in general.

First, the inseparable link between alcohol and Western sports fans.

And second, Qatar’s geopolitical ambitions to retain its authority and leadership in the Islamic world, contrasting with its global ambition to spread its soft power around the world.

After all, as hosts of the FIFA World Cup – the biggest sporting event in the world – they have all the attention in the world. Now we know how they used their key power – abundance of money – to win that bid to host him; and how building stadiums in extreme heat and dangerous working conditions resulted in the deaths of thousands of workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

And now, with this decision to ban alcohol or not to open up to LGBT-Q people as the liberal West wants, they send a message to the Islamic world that they stand up for their values.

It is therefore a win-win strategy for Qatar anyway – both in terms of attracting the attention of the world to strengthen its soft influence and maneuvering the support of the Muslim world, in a context of measures unpopular with Westerners.


After Qatari authorities announced a ban on alcohol in stadiums, it immediately gave Fifa a $75 million headache. The decision complicated Fifa’s $75 million deal with Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.

The Guardian quoted a representative from a major sponsor that many of the partners had felt “let down by Fifa in many ways… Everyone has a gripe one way or another… there’s a lot of “regroupings” in progress [on] to understand what the options are contractually speaking.”

It’s not just football, but all sports, in general, have a strong connection with alcohol.

According to Sportcal, a sports market intelligence firm, 30 major alcoholic beverage brands spend more than $760 million each year on more than 280 active deals to sponsor top competitions.

An Al Jazeera story mentions that Heineken spends $118.3 million a year on sports sponsorships. They currently have 25 active contracts, including a $21.4 million annual contract with Formula 1 and a $10 million deal with Major League Soccer. Additionally, Bud Light’s $230 million annual NFL sponsorship of its total sports spend of $249.7 million makes it the industry’s biggest spender on sports advertising.

While the connection between alcohol and sports dates back as far as the Romans, the art was mastered in the United States in the early days of radio, when companies realized that their names mentioned with a particular team could help to build up customer loyalty. base. Furthermore, the holy trinity of sports, beer and masculinity also came into play at this time.

“Here, the culture of sports and its association with the culture of beer and drinking is naturalized,” said the same Al Jazeera article, academic Lawrence Wenner. “[It] becomes an acceptable sign or code of masculinity, signifying that you are a “real man” rather than an “opt-out” and thus his masculinity may be questioned. So it’s an integrated exercise in socializing what it means to be a man – a man, of course, on the terms and conditions of the “good old days” when “men were men”. I call this type of masculinity ideal “residual hypermasculinity.” »

Question of inclusivity in a globalized world

On Qatar’s side, the compromise between the values ​​of its people and the celebratory choice of the Western crowd might have been easier if perhaps the question of navigating geopolitics within the Islamic world – an ambition in which they set themselves ventured for a long time – did not arise. the front.

But even after acknowledging the legitimate demands of Western crowds for their choice of alcohol in sporting celebrations, the issue of cultural inclusiveness in a globalized sport like soccer cannot be denied either.

Just as stadiums in Brazil, France or Scotland prohibit alcohol, the ban is also implemented in the majority of Muslim countries. Also, alcohol is not the last cultural difference between east and west.

Should every country change its laws and values ​​as a precondition to hosting a World Cup? Or should FIFA and football fans be more open to cultural differences around the world?

There should be a fine line between the two. Perhaps the controversy over the World Cup in Qatar raises new questions that will be answered in the future.

Massum Billah. TBS Sketch


Massum Billah. TBS Sketch