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Methadone Mosque Closes Clinic

The congregation's complaints halt a groundbreaking program in Malaysia that garnered global publicity.

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An addict waits to be given methadone by
a staff member. Photo via

By McCarton Ackerman

10/17/12

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Two years in, the world's first mosque with a methadone clinic, which won worldwide publicity for its work, has halted its program for rehabilitating drug addicts. The Ar-Rahman Mosque in Kuala Lumpur cites a lack of pharmacists, as well as the need to honor a decision made by the mosque's newly elected leadership committee. Many of the mosque's congregation members support the decision, having reportedly witnessed addicts attempting to sell the methadone distributed for free by the facility, using the mosque's toilets to shoot heroin and stealing items such as donation boxes. "We felt [the addicts] were desecrating the place. Some of them come here and perform prayers while they are under the influence," says Shahrin Mohammad, assistant to the imam and assistant registrar of marriages of the mosque. However, Rusdi Abd Rashid, chief co-ordinator with University of Malaya Centre for Addiction Sciences and pioneer of the programme, argues that petty thefts are common in community mosques and that blaming them on the addicts is unfair. He claims that all patients in the program are referred by the National Drug Agency, have undergone a screening process and are certified as "ready to change for the better." All clinical operations for Ar-Rahman's 50 or so patients have been moved to a center in nearby Kampung Kerinchi. Malaysia has an estimated 170,000 intravenous drug users, with heroin the dominant drug.

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