Egyptians face pressure to end sale of alcohol
Many are concerned about Islamists seeking to impose a conservative ideology. AFP photoMany liquor stores in Egypt are under growing pressure to halt the sale of alcohol, not from the ruling Islamists, but rather from society.
The shelves of Amir Aziz’s central Cairo premises are stacked with beer, wine and spirits, but they are invisible from the street. Aziz has covered the window with metal sheets to avoid angering conservative Cairo residents. Like many liquor store owners in Egypt, Aziz says the mood has changed drastically since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and brought Islamists to power.
“There are no restrictions from the government on the sale of alcohol,” Aziz told Agence France-Presse. “Our problems are with the Salafis (ultra-conservative Islamists) who harass us, either verbally or with violence.” Since the fall of Mubarak, Islamists long-suppressed by his regime have set up political parties and gained a voice in the media.
Consuming alcohol is banned under sharia, Islamic law. Officials from Morsi’s government have made a string of statements in recent months that have raised the specter of tighter restrictions on alcohol sales. In February, the New Urban Communities Authority said it would stop issuing alcohol licenses to new housing developments, and in March Aviation Minister Wael al-Maadawi announced plans to ban alcohol in the duty free shops. But authorities say no formal instructions have been issued banning the sale of alcohol.
But Aziz was doubtful the government would move to prohibit the sale of alcohol completely.
“I don’t think the government will ban alcoholic drinks because they generate a lot of revenue from taxes,” said Aziz Sherif, who did not want his last name used, manages Drinkies, Egypt’s largest liquor store chain. He said statements by Islamists are worrying. “We have hired extra security outside the shops,” Sherif said. Earlier in May, gunmen opened fire on a cafe in the north Sinai town of El-Arish that sold alcohol, killing a waiter.