MANAMA, Bahrain – Encouraged by a limited block on alcoholic drinks, conservative lawmakers in Bahrain are pressing for a wider ban in the tiny kingdom that's home to a major U.S. naval base.
It's the latest attempt to clamp down on alcohol and Western-style nightlife in the Gulf state, which hosts the U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters and is also a favorite entertainment spot for people from neighboring Saudi Arabia, who flock to the island's movie theaters, bookstores and nightspots.
Bahrain's rulers have so far resisted demands for widespread alcohol bans by lawmakers who say bars and night spots violate the country's Islamic character.
Last month, however, they tried to appease conservatives by shutting down bars in one- and two-star hotels.
Instead, it emboldened them to push for more. Last week, Bahrain's conservative-dominated lower house of parliament passed a motion to ban alcohol in restaurants in an upscale suburb of the capital Manama.
Some lawmakers also urged the government to outlaw alcohol in the entire country and close down all nightclubs. They said both moves were needed "to avoid devastating effects on morality."
Motions passed by parliament are not binding in Bahrain and must be approved by the government. But the lawmakers' decisions are often used to extract other favorable decrees from the country's Sunni leaders, who rule over a Shiite majority.
Alcohol is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, but available in most other Gulf states under some restrictions such as being limited to hotels and resorts.