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Iraqi Lawmakers Ban Alcohol

Thanks to a piece of legislation rushed through Iraq's parliament late on a Saturday night, residents of the war-torn country won't even be able to take the edge off with a cold beer.

In one surprising fell swoop, Iraq's parliament voted on Oct. 22 to forbid the import, production or sale of alcohol in the country, the Associated Press reported.

The move goes beyond personal ramifications, the AP notes -- while Islam forbids adherents from drinking alcohol, some small business owners among the country's Christian minority depend on alcohol for their livelihood. While Iraqis can't find alcohol in businesses run by Muslims, small Christian shops in Iraqi cities have traditionally carried alcoholic beverages.

But with the secret vote, Iraqi lawmakers imposed a steep fine on anyone caught violating the new alcohol ban. The fine can be as much as $21,000.

Iraq's parliament, which is composed mostly of Shia Muslims, did not say how many lawmakers voted for or against the alcohol ban, the AP reported.

The ban was a last-minute addition to the Imports of Municipalities Act, according to RT. Lawmakers in the country hadn't held much discussion on alcohol bans, and it caught many people in Iraq off guard.

Christian legislators were quick to condemn the law.

“This article of the law goes against the constitution, which guarantees the freedoms of minorities,” Christian MP Yonadam Kanna told Agence France Presse. “This law will put people out of jobs, drug consumption will rise, the economy will be affected."

Joseph Slaiwa, another Christian lawmaker, said the "unjust" ban was added to the Imports of Municipalities Act while members of parliament were left in the dark.

"To those Muslim lawmakers, I say: 'Take care of your religion and leave ours for us, we know how to deal with it,'" Slaiwa said, according to RT.

Leaders from the country's Muslim majority are unmoved, according to the AP. Mahmoud al-Hassan, a judge and member of parliament, insisted the new law doesn't violate existing protections for minority groups.

"The constitution preserves democracy and the rights of non-Muslim groups, but these rights must not violate the religion of Islam," al-Hassan said. "Some of the lawmakers' vote was religiously-motivated, but many others voted to avoid anything unconstitutional."

Sources: AP via The Guardian, RT, AFP via Yahoo! News / Photo credit:

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