Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kuwaiti brags about "religious freedom"

An unwittingly funny article in Kuwait's Arab Times claims that Kuwait has a great degree of religious freedom - and then proves how it doesn't:
A prominent lawyer says that Kuwait is rated highly among its GCC peers in terms of religious freedom, as the country’s Constitution recognizes many religions. “This is reflected in the fact that we had Kuwaiti Jews. We also have many Kuwaitis, who are Christians. The Kuwaiti Jews left Kuwait like many others from the Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Egypt and Yemen after the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1947,” he adds.
Actually, the Kuwaiti Jews left beforehand, in the 1920s, but they were not persecuted.
Speaking to the Arab Times on Monday, Labeed Abdal, the Head of the Civil law Revision Committee at the Kuwait Bar Association (KBA), added that the Bohra Community, an offshoot of Shia, have the right to practice their beliefs and rituals, even as “they should be allowed to build their own place of worship, especially because they do practice Islam and have the same Islamic foundations.”

Abdal is a Constitutional expert, who has represented Kuwait Parliament Speaker, Jassem Al-Khorafi in the Constitutional Court. According to Labeed, the Constitution of Kuwait states in Article 35 that the freedom of belief is absolute and that the State projects the freedom of practicing religion in accordance with established customs, provided that it does not conflict with public interest or morals. To a question whether other religious minorities should be allowed to build places of worship, he replied in the affirmative and added that there are no restrictions to practicing religious rituals provided permission is obtained from concerned authorities.

Commenting on the recent arrests of some people for devil worship, Abdal went on to say that public morals and interest come into play whilst practicing a particular religion. “This is because a particular religion in actuality may contradict with the core beliefs of the society. In that context, devil worship certainly violated the Kuwaiti laws,” he adds. The lawyer said that the number of Kuwaiti Christians is growing and that the religion in question represents one of the main religions in Kuwait after Islam.

Kuwait's constitution also says:

Article 2

The religion of the State is Islam, and the Islamic Sharia shall be a main source of legislation.

Article 12

The State safeguards the heritage of Islam and of the Arabs and contributes to the furtherance of human civilization.
Compared to Saudi Arabia, I suppose Kuwait has more religious freedom, but the fact that it does not tolerate any religions that cannot co-exist with Islam seems to be a bit of a factor that is being soft-pedaled.

The big question would be if Hindus could build a temple in Kuwait.