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Iraq’s 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.
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According to an MP and a 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 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.
“A law was passed today and article 14 of that law bans the import, production and sale of all kinds of alcohol,” Yonadam Kanna, a veteran Christian MP, told AFP. “Every violation of this law incurs a fine of 10 million to 25 million dinars (roughly USD 8,000 to USD 20,000),” he said.
Kanna vowed to appeal the law in a federal court. 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. Iraq also has companies producing various types of alcohol, such as Farida beer or Asriya arak (a regional anise-flavoured spirit).