Iraq’s clampdown on smoking and drinking delights Muslim fundies
THIS summer saw Iraq ban smoking in public buildings in a bid to cut down on the number of smoking related deaths in the country. According to the Economist, smoking kills an average of 55 Iraqis a day, while only ten a day die as a result of terrorist shootings of bombings.
Fag-hating Islamists are said to be delighted with the move, but would like to see an outright ban in tobacco. They are also pleased that the sale of alcohol has been banned by city councillors in Basra – but some regard the ban as an attack on the city’s Christian population.
Said Saher Yussef, a 40-year-old engineer:
Lawless people will use this decision to harm us because some Christians will refuse to close their shops, which are their only livelihoods.
According to this report, the Basra provincial council passed a decree stating that “anyone selling liquor, drinking in public, making or importing alcohol in Basra” would be fined five million dinars (4,270 dollars).
Basra’s deputy governor Ahmad al-Sulaiti said:
Our decision is based on the constitution, which bans anything that violates the principles of Islam. The constitution stipulates that â€˜Islam is the state religion and the fundamental source of legislation’.
But Â elsewhere in Iraq, including in the capital Baghdad, the sale and consumption of alcohol is authorised.
In fact on the eve of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, when liquor stores are usually shuttered and the sale of alcohol is prohibited, many people rushed to buy their stash of alcoholic drinks
Two days after the Basra authorities voted for the ban, officials destroyed one of the dozens of liquor shops there – a warning of things to come if the ban was not heeded.
Said George Nasser George, a 58-year-old labourer:
This decision is the work of some religious factions who are dangerous for the Christians.
Many people remember the chaos that erupted across Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. Islamist militants held sway over the streets of Basra and the province of the same name.
Over a two-year period, more than 100 liquor shops were destroyed and dozens of Christians killed by Islamist militias, forcing half the 5,000-strong Christian community to pack and up flee, many to the autonomous Kurdish north.
Basra’s sole Christian councillor Saad Butros said the authorities should have focused on resolutions addressing security and infrastructure problems rather than on the alcohol ban.
The majority of Shiite parties who control Basra want to impose their religious ideas, rather than take decisions that serve the interests of the (whole) population. Â Banning alcohol will not bring security, nor will it produce essential services that are lacking in the province.
People don’t care about who drinks and who doesn’t. They are concerned about (the development of) investment projects and the removing of rubbish from the streets.
The ban, meanwhile, has sent the price of liquor skyrocketing, and upset clients, shop owners said.
Said Mazen Mustafa:
A bottle of arak (an anise-flavoured drink) that sold for 10,000 dinars (nine dollars) now fetches 25,000 dinars (21 dollars). With the police on the lookout to enforce the ban, I am forced to sell booze from home.
The smoking ban has done nothing to improve the already low opinion many Iraqis have of their democratically elected government.
Said a cynical university student:
Prisons are public buildings, right? So will they now prevent guards from stubbing out cigarettes on the arms, legs and backs of inmates?
And this, from Abu Yasser, as he takes a drag while filling up his car at a petrol station:
My cousin was recently murdered by terrorists, my neighbour was tortured by the police, my electricity is cut for most of the day, the same is true in most hospitals in the city. And they are worried about smoking?