Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 August 2019

The Dubai imam turned radio presenter giving drug addicts a voice

Imam Abdullah Mohammad Al Ansari is hosting a radio show throughout Ramadan to support people with drug problems

Imam Abdullah Mohammad Al Ansari,  is using his radio show to share the stories of people who are battling drug addiction. Victor Besa/The National Section
Imam Abdullah Mohammad Al Ansari,  is using his radio show to share the stories of people who are battling drug addiction. Victor Besa/The National Section

A dedicated Dubai imam has taken to the airwaves to offer radio rehab to drug addicts trying to get their lives back on track.

Abdullah Mohammad Al Ansari, an imam for almost 20 years as well as being a professor, decided to take a unique approach when looking for a platform for those on the road to recovery to share stories filled with sorrow and struggle, but plenty of inspiration, too.

Professor Al Ansari, 43, knows only too well the battles people grappling with substance abuse must overcome, in his role as director of community research, awareness and public relations at Dubai's Erada Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation.

Now he is aiming to deliver a message of support to 13 reformed addicts featured on the show - and educate the public about their plight.

“We walk them through their own sense of shame, how to overcome it, how to forgive themselves and face the community, which treats them like criminals when in fact they are not,” said the imam.

Prof Al Ansari also wants to use his 30-episode show, which runs throughout Ramadan, to encourage families not to turn their back on loved ones facing drug problems, but to instead embrace them during their time of need.

“The way some families deal with their loved ones who suffer from drug abuse often backfires, as they are not aware of what they should do. So we are also trying to help them though the show,” he said.

The show, called Masmooh, meaning Forgiven in Arabic, sets out to bridge the gap between drug addicts and the community and remove the stigma surrounding their issues.

“We want to help everyone realise that addiction is not a crime and addicts are not criminals. They are suffering from an illness - the recovery from which requires the forgiveness and support of all segments of the community.”

The thought-provoking production airs on Al Oula Radio 107.4 and Dubai Quran Radio 91.4 and is repeated five times throughout the day at 2pm, 9pm and 1am on Al Oula, and at 2pm and 10pm on Dubai Quran.

Family members of addicts, officials involved in the battle against drugs, and rehabilitation experts also discuss their experiences on the show.

Some experts discuss rising drug addiction among women and how it can be tackled, whether as patients, families, community members or institutions.

“The sister of a deceased addict, will share her struggle during her brother’s journey with addiction and her own struggle with the community,” said Prof Al Ansari.

The preacher says guest have benefitted from the opportunity to open up about their drugs fight.

“They have spoken openly about what they go through as addicts, what happens to them during treatment and what are the things, items or even words that can trigger the urge to take drugs.”

The show has also made a big impression on people receiving treatment at Erada, with some even forming groups to discuss each broadcast and how it has touched them.

The radio show has been launched as part of a wider effort to integrate people with drug problems into society.

Erada is doing its bit, with plans to provide job opportunities for those who are fighting back from their addictions.

The idea for the show was first formed during talks between the imam and Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Centre, which operates the two radio stations that air the episodes.

“They asked me to host a show during Ramadan and I suggested it should be Masmooh, to which they were extremely supportive in every way.”

Being a radio presenter is just one part of a busy schedule for the imam.

He is currently taking his PhD in Quran and Sunna studies from the International Islamic University in Malaysia, having already completed a degree in Islamic and Arabic studies and a masters degree in contemporary Islamic studies.

He has also developed the '99 programme' at Erada, a UAE version of the international 12-step drug rehabilitation scheme.

A religious researcher at the ministry of defence for the past nine years, he is also an associate professor and associate preacher of the department of Islamic affairs and charitable activities, and an international judge of the Dubai international Holy Quran award.

Updated: May 19, 2019 12:03 PM

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