Manama, BAHRAIN: The Bahraini parliament has adopted an amendment forbidding the kingdom’s Muslims from consuming or importing alcohol.
Bahrain is a popular holiday destination or weekend getaway spot for Saudi Arabian youth unable to drink in their own country.
The move, taken by the all-appointed Upper House of Bahrain’s parliament, will all but end such travel.
“The problem is not that they drink” Bahraini blogger Mohamed Al Maskati told The Media Line. “It is what is happening afterwards – car accidents, anti-social behaviour – that is the problem.”
The sale of alcohol to non-Muslims will not be affected by the decision, and another Bahraini blogger, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Media Line that there was doubt as to how stringent the new law will be enforced.
“It don’t think it will happen, because they can’t afford it as the sale of alcohol is too important,” the blogger said. “Bahrain is an island that is very close to Saudi Arabia , Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and in addition to this strategic location it is also one of the most liberal countries in the region.”
“Over the last couple of years there have been more and more people feeling that the tradition values are being threatened and western values are taking over,” the blogger continued. “If they pass this there will be some loophole, like in Dubai , where if you are a Muslim you can dress in a shirt and tie and go into a bar and no one is going to ask if you are a Muslim.”
While according the Koran drinking alcohol is forbidden for Muslims, hotels and restaurants that cater to the region’s large expatriate and tourist populations are allowed to serve alcohol.
Bahrain and other counties in the Gulf, most notably the United Arab Emirates , have invested heavily in establishing themselves as tourist destinations by setting up global airlines and building massive hotels and shopping malls.
Bars and restaurants selling alcohol tend to be located in large, urban hotels, not in areas where locals live.
Over the last couple of years, however, there has been growing anger over restaurants serving alcohol during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which faithful Muslims refrains from eating or drinking from the time the sun rises to sunset.
Many of those pushing for an alcohol ban during Ramadan argue that it is disrespectful of non-Muslims not to follow local customs.