Turkey cracks down on alcohol, secular opposition in uproar

Erdogan accused of re-Islamicizing country

24 May, 19:41

    Crackdown on alcoholic beverages in Turkey Crackdown on alcoholic beverages in Turkey

    (ANSAmed) - ANKARA - In only 48 hours from the vote in the parliamentary committee, Ankara's Grand Assembly has approved the latest crackdown on alcoholic beverages proposed by the ruling Islamic AKP party under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Alcohol will be banned near mosques and schools, advertising will be prohibited and liquor will be blacked out in films and soap operas, with fines of up to 230,000 euros.

    ''The Islamic revolution is underway,'' said one secular reader of Hurriyet, ruefully. The secular opposition - which accuses the head of government of having a ''hidden agenda'' to re-Islamicize the country - has risen up in protest, but the Islamic party with a parliamentary majority won the day. ''No one can be obliged to drink or not to drink: this is a religious and ideological imposition,'' said Social Democrat deputy Musa Cam immediately after the voting. The recent decision by national carrier Turkish Airlines to stop serving alcohol on many flights had already given rise to much protest. For many secular Turks, the right to drink alcohol or not symbolizes respect for the secularism of the state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923. Prime Minister Erdogan denied having acted for religious reasons, as Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol. He instead said he wanted to protect the young. ''We don't want a generation walking around drunk night and day. We want a youth that is sharp and shrewd and full of knowledge,'' Erdogan said Friday in defense of the legislation. The new law prohibits alcohol advertising and its sale and consumption in places located within 100 meters of the country's 90,000 mosques and tens of thousands of schools, along roads and highways, in student dorms, hospitals, sports clubs, and educational institutes. Limited exceptions are foreseen in venues that already hold a license and in tourist areas. The sale of alcohol will be prohibited in shops between 10 PM and 6 AM and in automatic distributing machines. ''The sale of alcohol is prohibited during the night prayer but not during the morning one,'' said one Kurdish deputy ironically. Producers will have to include clear warnings about health risks on their labels and will not be able to sponsor musical or cultural events. It will be illegal to transmit ''subliminal'' messages promoting alcohol in films and TV serials. Images that show wine and liquor will be blacked out and bottles will not be allowed in storefront windows. Those who violate the regulations will be issues fines of up to 220,000 euros. Last month Erdogan called ayran, a Turkish yoghurt drink watered down with water, ''Turkey's national beverage'' in place of raki, the traditional anise-seed flavored alcoholic drink.

    The new law may just prove him right, with the options having been narrowed down considerably. (ANSAmed).

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