Monday, August 01, 2005

This is Your Captain Slurring

Here's another excuse for America West and Northwest Airlines to leave Baghdad off their list of destinations (from Juan Cole):

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's transportation minister, a Shiite Muslim, has ordered a ban on alcohol sales at Baghdad International Airport, declaring that the facility is "a holy and revered" piece of Iraq, a spokesman said Friday.

The airport duty-free shop so far has refused to comply with the order by Salam Maliki. Airport officials said Maliki threatened to have the store's $800,000 supply of alcoholic beverages destroyed.

The alcohol ban heightened fears of some more secular Iraqis that the Shiite Muslim majority might seek to impose a rigid interpretation of Islamic law in Iraq, traditionally considered to be tolerant in its observance of religious law. The order followed a visit Maliki made this month with other government officials to Iran, which is controlled by fundamentalist Shiite clerics...

Employees at the duty-free shop in the airport said they received a letter Thursday from the airport's director general, Emad Fasih Dawood, after a recent trip by Maliki. "In reference to the minister's airport visit the decision has been made to prevent the selling or advertising of alcohols in the duty-free shop," said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

A spokesman for Maliki confirmed the order.

"The issue is that the minister landed in the Baghdad airport and saw alcohol being sold there," Maliki's aide, Karim Jabiri, said Friday. "Given that the airport is a holy and revered part of Iraq's land, the minister ordered a ban on selling alcoholic drinks in the airport."

"The airport represents the new Iraq," the spokesman said. "We are an Islamic country."

An airport official said Maliki ordered the airport alcohol ban after flying into Baghdad's heavily guarded airport and noticing the shelves of whiskey, wine and other alcohol on display.

Alcohol sales in Baghdad's departure lounge and the separate lounges for private security contractors generate about 85 percent of duty-free sales there, the airport official said.

Cole goes on to note that the entire country will probably ban alcohol soon...but before moralists claim victory, he points out that in countries like Iran and Pakistan, banning booze has led to increased use of opiates.

And, maybe it's just me, but if I EVER had to deal with a spiral landing at Baghdad International, you can bet I'd want something less than stingy.

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