A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, October 24, 2016

Iraqi Parliament, Having No Other Pressing Problems, Decides to Ban Alcohol

 Iraq's Parliament, having defeated ISIS (oh, wait), ended sectarian tensions (oh, wait), negotiated all territorial and oil issues with the Kurds (oh, never mind), has had the time, in its wisdom and with all of Iraq's other problems presumably behind them, to vote to ban alcohol.

I've only been to Iraq once, in the Saddam era. The war with Iran had just ended; the Baghdad Sheraton still had instructions on what to do in case of missile attack. The security forces were omnipresent, and even friends with the US and UK Embassies were nervous about security patrols despite their immunity. All in all, about the only slightly redeeming factor was the ready availability of alcohol. (I realize this falls into the "But Hitler loved dogs" level of justification, of trying to find a silver lining in the darkest of dark clouds.)

Who first invented beer and wine is debatable, but Mesopotamia and Egypt both seem to have known
alcohol before they acquired writing. In the Baghdad of Harun al-Rashid the sybaritic poet Abu Nawas was known for his enjoyment of wine, and Omar Khayyam's loaf of bread, jug of wine and thou beside me needs little introduction. Until the fall of Saddam, alcohol was common in Iraq for centuries. Local breweries produced beer; northern Iraq produced wines, some of it from Christian monasteries. Arak, the anise-flavored liquor similar to Turkish raki and Greek ouzo, was widely available, and so was its home-brewed version. Alcohol production in Kurdistan is apparently flourishing.

After Saddam fell, alcohol remained legal, but various Islamist groups, including al-Qa‘ida in the Land of the Two Rivers and its successor/heir ISIS, and Shi‘ite fundamentalists as well, attacked and even fire-bombed bars and liquor stores. Alcohol consumption in public faded for a while, and of course was taboo in ISIS-controlled territory.

But beer, wine, and arak are deeply ingrained in Iraqi society, in a way it never was in, say, Saudi Arabia. With Christians fleeing Iraq n large numbers, remaining wine-producing monasteries will see this as a new threat. And the Kurdish Regional Government, which has only the most tenuous theoretical loyalty to the Baghdad government, will likely ignore the ban.

So, I suspect, will many other Iraqis.


James "Jim" Bakker said...

As Reverend Pat Robinson could explain to you if you would only listen, God punishes man for not obeying his word, though with less than perfect aim.

I believe it was Reverend Pat and the even more Reverend Jerry Fallwell who proved with geometric scriptural logic that 911 was God's just punishment for talk about the ERA and a gay pride parade in New Orleans.

What more important step could the wise Iraqi legislators have taken than this to protect their nation?

Your post unless retracted could bring irreparable harm upon good citizens in New York City.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of war crimes -- well metaphorically since it's a monologue.

Here's another report on indiscriminate murder of civilians in Syria. Looks like the UN will have at least two countries to investigate for war crimes.