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‘Wine’ may be soon extinct in Iran

Posted: Wednesday, 27 January 2016 17:05


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‘Wine’ may be soon extinct in Iran

Jan 27: Iran may be known as one of the oldest wine producing nations in the world and Shiraz grape popularized by the south of France might have originated in the Iranian city of Shiraz which was known to have been popular with Mughal emperors and later even grown in India for the British wine drinkers in collaboration with Iranian businessmen, but the Islamic Revolution banned the use of any alcohol in 1979 and now proposes to ban even the mention of the word ‘Wine’ in all new books

Click For Large ViewAccording to a new decree, the Islamic Nation doesn’t want the people to use or write the four-letter W-word. In 1979, the Cultural Revolution brought in prohibition. According to an earlier report, Muslim citizens may be lashed as punishment for imbibing any alcohol. But now the Culture Ministry wants to ban even writing the word “wine”. Every book or published material, and presumably, any online publications would be scrutinized thoroughly in an effort to stop the ‘western onslaught on the Muslim culture.

Books in the country are already reviewed by the ministry before publication to make sure they are “in line” with promoting the principles of the Islamic Revolution. The current decree is to ‘stop that cultural invasion by the arrogant western powers which continue to escalate. “Words like ‘wine’ and the names of foreign animals and pets, as well as the names of certain foreign presidents, are also banned under the new restricting regulations,” according to Mohammad Selgi, the head of book publishing at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, says the Report in Food and Wine website.

These wine guidelines threaten to present a number of potential issues. The word “wine” already appears in Quran and winemaking in the country has had long history and tradition of over 7000 years.. World famous Persian writers like the poet and philosopher Omar Khayyam have used the word repeatedly in their writings.

Rampant Alcoholism despite Prohibition

Curiously, the problem of rampant alcoholism and drug addiction exists in the country despite the ban. The government is increasing its efforts to tackle the menace of alcoholism, according to a senior Health Ministry official who claims that more than 150 outpatient alcohol treatment centers are slated for opening in the near future. Six of them will also have facilities for detoxification in a stay facility.

Drinking alcohol is classified as a crime against God, punishable with lashings.  Non-Muslim citizens can, however make but not sell wine. Theoretically, repeat offenders can even face the death penalty, though the extreme step is hardly carried out.

As it happened during the Prohibition in the USA (and in Gujarat and Haryana etc in India), a ban on alcohol didn’t mean that no one was drinking alcohol; it just made the steps tedious and slightly expensive but quitting the habit has proved to be difficult. Reportedly, alcohol is available with relative ease on the black market in Iran or smuggled in from Turkey or Iraqi Kurdistan in what is believed to be a multimillion-dollar business. Drinking tends to take place at private residences, at inconspicuous gatherings or alone. “You don’t even need to leave the house; liquor is delivered to your door. (Think Gujarat again).

In recent years, the Iranian government has slowly admitted that alcohol is easily obtained within Iran, with warnings from officials about rising rates of alcoholism. "Personal reasons are the most important factors which lead to the spread of alcohol consumption in society,” according to a Report in Washington Post which says Iran even organised a Conference on Alcoholism in 2014 where a research presented showed that more than 1 million Iranians broke the law to drink alcohol. The Iranian government's own figures suggest that around 200,000 people may be alcoholics.

It would be interesting to see how far Iran is successful in curbing the alcohol menace but it is unlikely that merely prohibiting the use of a seemingly innocuous and implying a beautiful beverage with food for most Europeans and the early civilisation of Iran going back to thousands of years, would result in the eradication of the problem. In that case, India would have adopted the measures decades ago.

In the meantime, Omar Khayyam is perhaps turning in his grave.

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