Iraqi alcohol ban targets Christians and minorities, lawmakers argue

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Christian and minority lawmakers in Iraq are pushing back on a 2016 alcohol ban that has officially gone into full effect, arguing it discriminates against non-Muslim communities. 

The law, passed over half a decade ago, received renewed pushback this week after customs officials ordered a ban on alcohol products Saturday, reported the BBC. 

A shopkeeper displays a selection of Turkish alcoholic drinks to a Kurdish man at a store in Arbil, north of Baghdad, Dec. 8, 2010.

A shopkeeper displays a selection of Turkish alcoholic drinks to a Kurdish man at a store in Arbil, north of Baghdad, Dec. 8, 2010. (Reuters/Azad Lashkari )

CONGRESS POISED TO END DECADES-OLD IRAQ WAR AUTHORIZATIONS

Christian lawmakers in Iraq’s parliament – who only hold a reported five of the 329 seats – have filed a lawsuit claiming the ban is undemocratic and targets minority groups who do not adhere to Muslim practices as well as businesses that rely on the sale of alcohol. 

Iraq, a predominantly Muslim nation, passed the law after a former judge and lawmaker in the Iraqi State of Law Coalition, Mahmoud al-Hassan, argued that permitting alcohol consumption and sales violated Article 2 of the Iraqi constitution, which bars legislation that runs counter to Muslim teachings.

Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, but some minority groups have argued this is a personal decision that violates the principles of the nation’s democratic parliamentary republic outlined by the 2005 constitution.

Steve Ibrahim, an alcohol shop owner, smokes in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 13, 2017.

Steve Ibrahim, an alcohol shop owner, smokes in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 13, 2017. (Reuters/Marko Djurica)

HUNDREDS PROTEST IN BAGHDAD TO DENOUNCE A PROPOSED LAW THAT WOULD INCREASE IRAQ’S ELECTORAL DISTRICT SIZE

Despite the 2016 ban, alcohol could still be purchased in Iraq in liquor stores or licensed bars until last month. 

It now appears that Iraqi officials will start implementing the law that prohibits the sale, import or production of alcohol and slaps offenders with a fine of up to 25 Iraqi dinars, which is roughly $17,000, reported the BBC.

Some are concerned that the ban will only increase alcohol sales on the black markets.

An alcohol smuggling operation at the border near Sulaimaniya, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad, on March 20, 2010. 

An alcohol smuggling operation at the border near Sulaimaniya, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad, on March 20, 2010.  (Reuters/Jamal Penjweny )

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Christian lawmakers, dubbed the Babylon Movement, have argued that not only is the policy unconstitutional, but they have claimed it contradicts a February decree that placed a 200% duty on all imported alcoholic drinks for a four-year period. 

It is unclear what the next steps will be in curtailing the Iraqi alcohol ban or if Baghdad’s Supreme Court will push back on the recently enforced policy. 

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