Iraq bans alcohol and increases discrimination against its Christian minority

The Iraqi authorities have announced a comprehensive ban on alcohol in the country, whether its importation, sale or consumption, which until now was permitted under certain conditions for non-Muslim minorities. This declaration aroused the displeasure of the representatives of the Christian – mostly Catholic – Chaldean minority, one of the oldest and most punished minorities in the world, who recalled that one of its pillars, the celebration of Mass, required the consecration of wine.

before fall Saddam HusseinIn the aftermath of the US-led military offensive, Iraqi Christians were estimated to make up 6 percent of the country’s population. In the wake of the disastrous American presence in Iraq, which recently ended with the departure of the last American troops, the rise of Islamist movements has gone hand in hand with discrimination against Arab Christians. It is not known how many have opted for exile in the past two decades.

Analysts described the anti-alcohol measure as another step in aligning the Islamist government in Baghdad, where Shiite parties are the majority, with the fundamentalist and anti-American regime in Tehran. In Iran, alcohol prohibition – as prescribed by the Qur’an and Islamic law – has been in effect throughout the country since the victory of Khomeini’s revolution in 1979, despite the fact that it also has large non-Muslim minorities.

Representatives of the Iraqi Kurdistan region announced that the autonomous government would decide whether to apply Baghdad rule. Thus, maintaining a tolerance for alcohol in that region would allow the Kurds to present themselves as more moderate in the eyes of the international community, and to take another step forward in their aspirations for independence.

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Alcoholic beverages were very popular in Arabia at Muhammad’s time—both the terms “alcohol” and “alambik” are Arabic—but the Prophet strictly forbade them as they were a constant source of fighting between the Bedouins. Strict adherence to this norm among Islamists is exacerbated in theocratic regimes, where the moral police persecute clandestine sale and consumption. Among the latest tales of “diplomatic squabbles” is the Iranian president’s visit to Paris when the socialist Hollande was at the Elysee. The Iranian leader refused to sit at a table where wine was served. The French head of state refused to withdraw an essential product of French gastronomy and culture. Lunch had to be cancelled.

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