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Iraq embraces prohibition as parliament slaps ban on alcohol Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Iraq embraces prohibition as parliament slaps ban on alcohol

Iraq's parliament has banned the sale, import and production of alcohol [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 October, 2016

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The parliament in Iraq has banned the sale, import and production of alcohol in a last-minute addition to a draft law on municipalities.

Iraq's parliament voted on Saturday 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.

"A law was passed today and article 14 of that law bans the import, production and sale of all kinds of alcohol," said Yonadam Kanna, a veteran Christian MP who vowed to appeal the law in a federal court.

"Every violation of this law incurs a fine of 10 million to 25 million dinars (roughly $8,000 to $20,000)," he said.

Supporters of the ban argued that it was justified by the constitution, which prohibits any law contradicting Islam.

"The constitution says you cannot approve a law that goes against Islam," said MP Ammar Toma, who voted in support of the ban, referring to an article stating, "no law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established."

Meanwhile, opponents of the ban argued that it also violated the same constitution, which guarantees the traditions of religious minorities such as Christians.

"This article of the law goes against the constitution, which guarantees the freedoms of minorities," Kanna said.

Article 2 of the constitution says it "guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice" such as Christians, Yazidis and Sabeans.

Kanna also argued that the new law would increase unemployment and drug consumption.

The surprise ban was a last-minute addition to a draft law on municipalities, according to an MP and a parliament official.

It was passed in Baghdad while all eyes were on the north of the country, where forces involved in Iraq's biggest military operation in years are battling the Islamic State group and moving to retake the city of Mosul.

Many people took to social media to comment on the ban, mostly expressing outrage as the parliament prioritised alcohol ban over more important issues such as the battle for Mosul and corruption.

Alcohol is not commonly served in Iraq's restaurants and hotels, but consumption is relatively widespread, especially in Baghdad where scores of small shops selling alcoholic beverages can be found.

Iraq also has companies producing various types of alcohol, such as Farida beer or Asriya arak (a regional anise-flavoured spirit).

Agencies contributed to this report.

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