The New York Times - Every Monday and Thursday morning, the slightly built man rides the bus for an hour and a half from his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur to the Ar-Rahman mosque.
After reciting his prayers, he climbs the stairs to the mosque’s mezzanine level, gives a urine sample and consults a doctor. A pharmacist then gives him a small plastic cup containing methadone, to help wean him from his heroin addiction.
The man, who did not want to be identified because of the stigma surrounding illicit drug use in the Muslim-majority country, said he had injected heroin for seven years before coming to the Ar-Rahman mosque about a year ago. “It makes me no longer take heroin on the street,” he said, referring to the methadone. “It makes me able to work.”
Some Muslim scholars believe that drugs that may prevent Muslims from carrying out their religious duties are forbidden under Islam, and Malaysia enforces strict laws, including the death penalty, for drug trafficking. Penalties for those found in possession of heroin include a fine, up to life in prison and whipping, depending on the amount.
But at Ar-Rahman mosque, doctors from the University of Malaya have succeeded in getting the religious authorities onboard in what the World Health Organization says is the world’s first methadone program operating out of a mosque. Doctors plan to expand the program to two more mosques in Kuala Lumpur in coming months.