What’s really behind Iraq’s new Alcohol Ban?

By Saad Salloum for Al Monitor. Any opinions here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

The Iraqi parliament’s surprise decision to ban alcohol is raising challenges from many quarters, both for the law’s content and the way it was passed. Some critics also say politicians intend to use the ban to their advantage on the black market.

While the rest of the country was focused on the fierce military battle to drive the Islamic State (IS) from Mosul, the Iraqi parliament declared its own war by passing the new law Oct. 23, banning all production, imports and sales of alcoholic beverages of all kinds. The law stipulates that violators will have to pay a fine of no less than 10 million dinars ($8,500) and no more than 25 million dinars ($21,000).

Iraq is an Islamic democracy. The new law’s supporters say it aligns with the Iraqi constitution, which forbids passage of any law that contradicts Islam. Some opponents, however, note that the constitution also provides for protection of religious minorities’ rights and customs. Parliament member Yonadam Kanna said he will appeal parliament’s action to the federal court as being contrary to the constitution and personal freedoms.

The debate revolves around three main points: non-Muslim minorities’ fear of the Islamization of the state, controversy over the relationship between religion and state, and attempts by parties of political Islam to control the black market for alcohol.

Journalist Ali Hussein’s Oct. 24 column posted on al-Mada news site ran with the headline, “Parliament decides: No place for Christians in Iraq.” In it, he summarized how Christians and other minorities view the message behind the new law.

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