And once again the governing AKP shows it doesn’t like alcohol: a well known municipal fish restaurant on the Anatolian side of the Bosporus has decided to no longer serve alcohol. The municipality of that part of town has a new AKP mayor, and he made the decision that is all over the newspapers at the moment. It’s the second time in a few weeks that the AKP is in the news because of its complicated relationship with booze. Recently an AKP municipality in Ankara organized a referendum on traffic problems in some streets, and all of a sudden they added the question of whether alcohol should be served in the neighbourhood to the referendum. In the end the referendum was useless because the outcome was set aside by the greater municipality (solidly in opposition hands), but once again it showed how the AKP tends to deal with the issue.
The AKP would of course never admit that it has a problem with alcohol for religious reasons. They make it a health issue, and they say that they want to give families the opportunity to have dinner in an alcohol-free environment. An alcohol-free environment? Sounds like a smoke-free environment: as if the health of people who don’t drink is negatively affected by those who do, as with nicotine smoke. Of course, the point is that for Muslims it is forbidden to go to places where alcohol is served (or sold: a good Muslim doesn’t even go to Migros supermarket). So the implementation of the alcohol ban makes it possible for strict Muslims to go to that fish restaurant too. Now another problem emerges: now I can’t go to that fish restaurant any more, because I like my fish with raki or wine. Is a Muslim’s freedom worth more than mine?
I suggest that a good step towards solving the problem, would be to abolish the concept of a municipal fish restaurant. Because, since when is it the task of municipal authority to run restaurants (and tea gardens)? Then make clear rules about licenses for serving alcohol, and leave the whole thing to the free market. In a religious neighbourhood, there is a market for alcohol-free restaurants, and some entrepreneurs will be wise enough to invest in them. And because fish and raki are so closely related in this country, there will always be a huge market for alcohol-serving restaurants too. When the market takes care of it, nobody has to feel discriminated against. And nobody has to feel patronized by a religion-based government telling them to drink or not to drink.