A social media user shared a video of children smoking hookah (shisha) at Monroe Chicken where they had gone to observe Ramadan

Several social media users reacted to the Facebook video of children smoking shisha by urging for the eatery to be shut down immediately.

Islamists worldwide devote themselves to spiritual development during Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar.

During Ramadan, the majority of Islamists strive to refrain from sinful behaviour or their particular vices in favour of performing good deeds, exercising restraint, and showing compassion for those who are less fortunate than themselves.

Screenshot of kids smoking shisha at Monroe Chicken. The shisha was placed under the table

At the end of this year’s Ramadan, Islamists in Liberia celebrated in different styles.

Some went to beaches, others to entertainment centers while some decided to observe their holiday at Monroe Chicken, an eatery in Monrovia.

The Management of Monroe Chicken and some officials of the Executive branch of Government managed to control the information in the public. Still, The Stage Media had already started investigating the matter.

“We were warned by the Minister of Justice, LNP, and the Ministry of Labor to remain quiet,” Monroe Chicken’s Chief Executive Officer, Mazen Halabi, told our reporter.

According to CEO Halabi, the request from the government instructing them not to speak about the issue came because Liberians are gearing up for the October 10, 2023 elections, and speaking out would cause fear and embarrassment for the government.

He claims that after a thorough inquiry, it was revealed that the institution should refrain from making any statements about the occurrence since” The President prohibits underage consumption of shisha and other hazardous substances.”

We then displayed the video of the kids to him, and this made Halabi speak despite the government’s warning to the business.

“It is unfortunate, and as management, we regret it greatly, as we have not and will not be in the business of selling dangerous substances to underage kids,” Halabi said.

While he regrets the incident, Halabi claimed that the substance was served to an unidentified adult who according to him accompanied the children and not the kids themselves as interpreted.

The restaurant he said is built in a way that adults who have gone with the intent to smoke are situated in the upper portion of the building.

He continues, “When our staff noticed the kids, immediate action was taken against them because our institution has rules where children under 18 years are not allowed to smoke or drink alcoholic beverages.”

Kids as they say learned from what they saw the older ones do, so many of the children who had gone out to enjoy the festival ventured into experimental smoking.

Gathered at a table at Monroe Chicken to try smoking shisha perhaps for the first time, but the management thinks the children might have been constantly involved with smoking from their community and that wasn’t the first try.

While acknowledging his mistake and expressing regret, he was quick to add that he was displeased with the person who made the film available to the public.

Even though Halabi did not indicate the exchange of money for his organization to be absolved of responsibility, it is unlikely that a government that has ratified numerous child rights agreements would take such a course of action.

Interestingly, despite the viral social media video, the Gender Ministry and the Liberia National Police allege that an inquiry discovered no proof that the children were given shisha at the institution.

Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, the Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, was contacted via WhatsApp to confirm the management of Monroe Chicken’s claim.

Minister Dean responds in a single phrase, “Good morning. The Ministry of Labor handled the situation.

This is taking place at a time when Liberia has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child and signed it.

The treaty aims to protect children from harm by whatever means necessary. It has clauses that make it stand out for a child’s well-being.

Liberia signed the document on April 26, 1990, and it was ratified on June 4, 1993, making it a legally binding agreement between Liberia and the other sovereign nations.

The protection of children from hazardous drugs is contained in session 33 of that international instrument.

It states that “Governments must protect children from taking, producing, carrying, or selling harmful drugs.”

The Ministry of Labor has not reacted, despite promises from representatives of that government agency to speak with TSM. When they reply, we will update this story.

 About Shisha:

According to research, a hookah or shisha, also known as narghile, argileh, hubble-bubble, and goza, is a water pipe used to smoke sweetened and flavoured tobacco. The tobacco chamber, water chamber, and one or more flexible tubes that extend from it allow numerous individuals to inhale simultaneously. 

The pipe is typically rather large. Tobacco for hookah is frequently flavoured with flavours like coconut, mint, or coffee, and is frequently sweetened with molasses, fruit pulp, or honey.

Hookah smokers run the risk of developing a wide range of cancers, including bladder, oesophagus, lung, oral, and stomach cancers.

This story was produced with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID)’s support.


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