Young Muslims and Alcohol IAGD Monthly Annual Dinner

By Noor H. Salem, TMO

About 150 people joined for the monthly dinner on Saturday June 1st 2013 at 70pm at the IAGD masjid in Rochester Hills. The topic, Young Muslims and Alcohol; What the Community Needs to Know, was something not really spoken about in the Muslim community and surprisingly the speaker opened up the eyes to many in the room, the majority being parents. The guest speaker was Dr. Cynthia Arfken of Wayne State University. She is an Associate Professor in the department of Behavior Neurosciences and Psychiatry.  Her research expertise is in alcohol and drug abuse and while focusing on the metro Detroit area for her research she decided to focus specifically on the Arab Muslim community.

Dinner was served and the speaker began the night discussing her survey at Wayne State University.

She went into depth about a 2001 study nationwide of over 10,000 college students. 135 of those students happened to be Muslim and on average 50% drank but when you do the math it goes down to about 1 Muslim per school.

She then talked about her pilot study funded by the ISPU at Wayne State University aimed at recruiting only Muslim college students. Questions on the survey were looking at whether they grew up Muslim or converted, the monitoring level of their parents since the majority of those who drank claim their parents did not monitor well. Another question was whether they went to a high school with at least 30% Muslim students since back in 2001 studies show that children don’t start drinking in college but actually in high school. “what were there friends doing?” had to be a question as we all know peer pressure is a major factor of college or high school students drinking. There were another seven questions looking at religiosity, and whether they aim their actions on religion. The questionnaire also asks what motivates them to drink and if they do whether the expectations are negative or positive.

Here only 9% had ever drunk in their lives. She did mention that there are many different factors to consider like those knowing it’s wrong to mention they do it. She also notes though that it’s a campus with many Muslims and it’s a community with many so the likelihood of them drinking is less. She goes on to say how she heard terrible stories of children who grew up in Muslim communities and left for college and because they felt discriminated they would cope with drinking.

Among these 9% who did drink they did not expect positive outcomes from their actions. So they were not denying their actions or twisting the truth. 47% were from South Asia and 35% were from Arab descent parents.

A very important point to mention is that those who received scholarships or achieved high grades drunk less since they valued education and what their parents are doing.
There was a huge tendency for those who drank to recruit others to drink too, or do the water pipe.

Results were simple; students drank mostly for social aspects, not peer pressure, depression or coping. Influence of religion was highly related and 95% of t hose who don’t drink said that Islam prohibits it. About 69% of students who drank claimed that Islam prohibits it even though they do identity themselves as Muslim. However, only 25% believe that Islam prohibits the water pipe but it was not related to whether they smoked it or not.

Students who drank said their parents were most likely to drink or do both behaviors.

There was no difference in gender with drinking alcohol but smoking the water pipe was more among boys than girls. But for both girls and boys they did what their friends did and even those who claim themselves Muslim.

If students went to a high school or lived in a neighborhood with at least 30% Muslims they were less likely to drink. Wayne State University students are greatly exposed to alcohol with stores all around them. Those however living in other areas like Dearborn claim they leave the area for a drive far from friends and family so they won’t be monitored. So again, monitoring your kids is very important!

The floor was then open for questions from the audience.

Q: Did you study other drugs?

A: Drinking below 21 is already illegal so we wanted to just ask about alcohol, tobacco, and water pipe.

Q: What are the strongest risk factors for doing the water pipe?

A: The strongest risk factor is drinking alcohol because almost every student who drank also did the water pipe. So when they are doing one high risk they are likely to do multiple high risk behaviors.
Athletes are among those who risk take and try new things and they are most likely to experiment with alcohol or drugs.

Q: Any question on the survey regarding the strictness of the parents?

A: One question asked whether your parents approved you drinking or monitor. From my focus group students those who drank had much more freedom than those who didn’t.

Q: Any difference among the 119 universities in the 2001 survey?

A: They didn’t provide where in database the students were so we don’t know if they were all in one university or spread out.

Again students getting better grades don’t drink as often as the under achievers.  It all goes back to intervention and how parents can talk to their children about alcohol and drugs. If they live away call them at least once a week. Monitoring plays a key role.


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