Iraqi Parliament on Saturday voted to ban the sale, import and production of alcohol, in a surprise move likely to anger some minorities but also to please influential religious parties.
Proponents of the ban argue that it is justified by the Constitution, which prohibits any law contradicting Islam. But some opponents argue that it also violates the same Constitution which guarantees the traditions of religious minorities.According to an MP and an Iraqi Parliament official, the ban was a last-minute addition to a draft law on municipalities that caught the anti-ban camp flat-footed. The law was also passed by MPs in Baghdad as all eyes were on the Mosul operation.
Alcohol is rarely offered in restaurants and hotels in Iraq, but consumption is relatively widespread, especially in Baghdad where scores of small shops selling alcoholic beverages can be found. The country also has some companies producing various types of alcohol, such as Farida beer or Asriya arak (a regional anise-flavoured spirit).
Ammar Toma, an MP who voted in support of the ban, argued that it was the constitution that made it illegal to sell, produce or import alcoholic drinks. Observers say drug abuse has been on the rise in Iraq recently, especially in the southern city of Basra, where trafficking with neighbouring Iran is soaring and where alcohol is only found on the black market.
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