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A European Restaurant That Does Not Serve Alcohol - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Never in my life have I witnessed a phenomenon such as that of the restaurant located in an ordinary suburb of the English city of Manchester. What is remarkable about this restaurant is not its spicy Asian dishes or its dazzling interior. The menu does not include particularly exotic food, nor are its staff members incredibly beautiful. What is conspicuous about this restaurant is the throngs of people that frequent it. Upon seeing the crowd pushing and shoving to find a place inside, one might think that money was being given away rather than food being served. And if you were to visit this restaurant during rush hour you would have to wait a couple of hours at least before being seated at a table.

What is so fascinating about this restaurant is the fact that it continues to make good profits even though it does not serve alcohol. It is also worth mentioning that its patrons are from a diverse range of races and religions, and have varying tastes. It goes without saying that any restaurant in the West that does not serve alcohol is logically disenfranchising a large section of people and a large potential for increasing profits. However this restaurant has broken all of these rules.

Disciples of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did something similar in Turkey, not with restaurants but with sea-front holiday resorts. They realized that Turkey is dominated by its secular military, which is impatient with politics, even those credible politicians who are elected via the ballot box. Erdogan’s disciples did not denounce the liberal tourist resorts that the secular Turkish military consider to be a secular legacy. Rather than getting involved in a heated debate that might incite the secular military lion, Erdogan’s disciples set up large and luxurious substitute resorts to provide a cleaner alternative to cater to conservative Muslim families. This Turkish project proved to be incredibly profitable, and Erdogan’s disciples in Turkey are now building more of these tourist resorts in order to meet the increasing demand for them.

In Saudi Arabia, a Saudi businessman who owns one of the largest supermarket chains in the country imposed a ban on selling tobacco products in his stores. This businessman ran the risk of alienating his smoking customers that represent a significant portion of the Saudi people, as obviously such customers would prefer to shop in other supermarkets that have tobacco products for sale. However this move proved successful in the same way as the experience of the Manchester restaurant and the Turkish resorts, and this chain of supermarkets is now one of the most popular and successful supermarket chains in Saudi Arabia.

The Holy Quran very eloquently sums up this situation in the following verse, “The evil one threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. Allah promiseth you His forgiveness and bounties,” [Surat Al Baqara, Verse 2].

The only lessons that can be drawn from these experiences is that one should spare oneself the agony of wasting time in battling against conditions that are difficult to eliminate or change. The only thing that will happen is you will waste your own time and energy. It is therefore better to try and find a suitable alternative. It is the gentle touch that is capable of effecting change.

Dr. Hamad Al-Majid

Dr. Hamad Al-Majid

Dr. Hamad Al-Majid is a journalist and former member of the official Saudi National Organization for Human Rights. Dr. Al-Majid is a graduate of Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh and holds an MA from the University of California and a doctorate from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom.

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