Egypt's Islamist gov't in tough anti-alcohol drive By DALIA MOHAMED in Cairo | Monday, April 22  2013 at  12:53

Authorities will not be issuing new liqour licences. Alcohol sales will be restricted to tourist establishments - for the time being. PHOTO | FILE 

Curbs on alcohol are one way Egypt's Islamist government of President Mohamed Morsy is imposing its conservatives mores on the country, or so liberals and secularists assert.

The other day a man in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya was sentenced to 80 lashings for being inebriated, the first time such punishment has ever been issued in Egypt.

Though the ruling was overturned by the chief prosecutor, it has raised fears a precedent will be set. According to Bassem Sabry, an expert in the Islamist-leaning Egyptian constitution, the document "appears to suggest punishments not expressly written in the penal code could be used in accordance with constitution.”

The Office of Freedoms and Human Rights in Minya issued a statement saying that the deputy Attorney General “issued a decision on Case No. 1446 for the year 2013 against the accused Mohamed Eid Ragab, a professional musician, with the punishment of 80 lashes.”

This was after the accused was arrested in a state of inebriation and he admitted to the arresting officers that he was in fact drunk.

Already, laws banning the issuing of liquor licences are set to be introduced in major cities such as Cairo and Alexandria.

The New Urban Communities Authorities (NUCA), a body that covers new suburbs and settlements, confirms that it has stopped renewing liquor licences but the current ones will continue until they expire. Representatives of the residents in new suburbs reportedly had complained that the sale of alcohol leads to problems such as "attacking women and randomly ringing doorbells of people's homes."

Moreover, there has been reports that alcohol will no longer be sold in Duty Free shops.

The Egyptian Civil Aviation ministry is said to be considering the ban after receiving complaints that such sales went against the principles of Islam.

Secularists fear the anti-alcohol push will drive away tourists – a major source of income for the country.

Presently, alcohol can only be sold by licensed dealers like duty free shops and tourist establishments such as hotels, restaurants and bars. Taxation for sale is high, as are the customs tariffs for importing alcohol.

According to Cairo airport officials, the sale of alcohol and cigarettes accounts for more than half of the profits of duty free stores in Egypt.”