Baghdad's falafel vendors had never imagined their snacks might be deemed a threat to public morality.
Now, though, their simple offerings of chickpeas fried in bread crumbs have gone the same way as alcohol, pop music and foreign films—labeled theologically impure by the country's growing number of Islamic zealots.
In a bizarre example of Iraq's creeping "Talibanization," militants visited falafel vendors a couple of weeks ago, telling them to pack up their stalls by today or be killed.
The ultimatum seemed so bizarre that, at first, most laughed it off—until two of them were fatally shot as they plied their trade.
Why Baghdad's falafel vendors should be blacklisted while their colleagues are allowed to continue selling kebabs or Western-style pizzas and burgers remains a mystery. Some suspect it is because a taste for falafels is one of the few things that unites Jewish and Arab communities in Israel.
It is, however, just one of many Islamic edicts to hit Baghdad in recent weeks, prohibiting everything from the growing of goatee beards to the sale of mayonnaise—because it is purportedly made in Israel.