Iraq alcohol ban
Religious minority groups in Iraq are concerned over the alcohol ban Reuters file photo

The Iraqi parliament has outlawed the sale, import and production of alcohol in a surprise crackdown seen as pandering to powerful Islamist parties. Supporters of the ban have hailed the decision and said it is in line with the Iraqi constitution, which outlaws anything that is against Islamic values.

Those who oppose the move are concerned the blanket ban curbs religious freedom in the war-torn country and infringes on the rights of minorities assured by the constitution. Reports suggest the alcohol ban was a last-minute addition to the agenda during a parliament session on Saturday (23 October) and it is likely to be challenged in courts.

"A law was passed today (Saturday) and article 14 of that law bans the import, production and sale of all kinds of alcohol. Every violation of this law incurs a fine of 10m to 25m dinars [about $8,000 to $20,000]," Yonadam Kanna, a veteran Christian MP, told AFP. The parliamentarian has been furious over the ban and has been criticising the move on television shows.

The law has been passed amid the ongoing battle against Islamic State (Isis) in Mosul. Locally-produced alcohol variants and other liquors are not uncommon in tiny bars across Baghdad. However, alcohol and what are perceived as anti-Islamic issues have come under increasing attack from religious groups in recent years.

"The constitution says you cannot approve a law that goes against Islam. This law will put people out of jobs, drug consumption will rise, the economy will be affected," Ammar Toma, a Shia lawmaker who voted in favour of the ban, was quoted as saying by AFP.