In some sections of New York City, you can smoke in the bars now. But only if you’re a Muslim.
|Layali Beirut, an ornate Lebanese cafe in the Little Egypt section of Astoria, is packed nearly every night.|
|Patrons cluster around tables on terraces, drawing on Middle Eastern water pipes called hookahs while they play round after round of backgammon. As they puff on fruit-flavored tobacco, or shisha, dense clouds of smoke merge into a flavored haze that fills the area.|
|“The hookahs allow us to come together and unwind,” Beirut-born Mahmoud Abraham, co-owner of the cafe, said. “It’s an important part of our culture.”|
Oh, that’s right. How could we have forgotten? Culture always trumps law. Especially if your bone-headed city councilman sees which side the vote is buttered on and decides to go to bat for your outlaw behavior. Here’s what the café owners and Mr. Vallone, from the City Council have to say:
|Cafe owners contend that their establishments should be eligible for a cultural exemption from the law, which exempts tobacco bars only if they serve alcohol. In accordance with Muslim custom, Steinway St. hookah bars do not serve alcohol.|
|City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) has been petitioning the Health Department to grant the hookah bars an exemption. “No one should be punished for not serving alcohol, much less when it’s for religious reasons,” he said.|
Well, the neighbors are most unhappy.
|Last fall, [they] presented a petition signed by 30 neighbors asking that Queens Community Board 1 shut down the outdoor terraces where customers smoke. But board representatives [said] it is legal to smoke outside, and their hands were tied unless the law is changed.|
The smoking continues unabated, despite a little bureaucratic pushing around of paper.
|The city Health Department said in a statement: “We enforce the Smoke-Free Air Act in hookah cafes. We inspect them upon complaint and issue violations as appropriate.”|
|But many of the fines have been dismissed, as some hookah bar owners have argued at hearings that shisha is made primarily of fruit. “It’s not like a cigarette,” said Gamal Dewidar, who manages his brother’s Elkhaiam cafe and Hookah Palace on Steinway St. “There is a little tobacco and honey mixed in, but it’s not dangerous.”|
A little taqiyya never hurts an argument. But the Health Department isn’t buying it, they say hookah smoke is no less harmful than cigarette smoke.
Sounds like a foot in the door to me. Next thing you know, New York City will be up to its armpits in all the rainbow shadings of sharia law. While I think the draconian smoking ban established there is unconstitutional, it ought to be applied across the board. You have a dumb law? Then you have to follow it.
“Cultural exceptions,” my foot.
Hat tip: Pastorius at Infidel Bloggers. At the same blog, read Blueslord on polygamy proposed in Russia and Canada.
Now, Russia, that may make sense…so many of the men die young of alcohol poisoning, what’s a girl to do? But Canada??? I can just hear Canadian women now…in fact, I think I’ll invite a few to come over and give their opinion on the idea.
Generate a little heat and light on the subject.