Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blasphemy Charges in Kuwait

From the Arab Times Online

Man held for blasphemy :

 Police have taken into custody an unidentified academician of the Kuwait University and charged him with blasphemy, reports Al-Rai daily. According to reports the academician and his friend were in a café in Salmiya and over an argument the former cursed God. A case of blasphemy and assaulting a friend has been filed against the academician.

Now I don't think they'll give him the death penalty for Blasphemy...but that made me wonder about the Blasphemy Laws of Kuwait. Below is some information on just that.

The state

Kuwait uses Sunni Islam as its state religion, and bases its legislation upon Sharia. The law against blasphemy is part of the 1961 Press and Publications Law. The usual targets of the law are the Shia, academics, and journalists.

Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate, which gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. The ruling family is Sunni. Almost all of Kuwait's 1.05 million citizens are Muslims. About 85% of Kuwait's population (3.4 million in 2008) are Muslims.[1] The Government requires Islamic religious instruction in public schools for all students.[2]

Constitution and laws

The Constitution of Kuwait makes Islam the state religion, and makes Sharia the foundation of all law. The 1961 Press and Publications Law prohibits the publication of any material that attacks religions or incites persons to commit crimes, creates hatred, or spreads dissension. The law provides that any Muslim citizen may file a complaint against an author if the citizen believes that the author has defamed Islam, the ruling family, or public morals.[2]
Roughly half of Kuwait's judges are non-citizens—mainly Egyptians. The non-citizen judges are on one-year to three-year contracts. Most of the non-citizen judges are trained to use Sharia.[2]
The Ministry of Communications has a Censorship Department. In 2008, the Director of that Department tried to keep the population from having access to YouTube. One Member of Parliament, Waleed Al-Tabtabaie, commended the Director for trying to deal with websites that "work on tarnishing the image of others, practice blasphemy and publish pornography." The MP said the Director did the right thing in trying to defend Prophet Mohammed.[3]
On May 2011, five Islamic Members of Parliament, namely Waleed Al-Tabtabaie, Jama'an Al-Harbash, Falah Al-Sawagh, Faisal Al-Mislem, and Mubarak Al-Wa'alan, proposed a bill that makes any sort of defamation of God, Prophet Mohammad, or his wives, a crime punishable by death or a lifetime sentence in prison, reducible only once to a maximum of five years in prison if the convict expresses verbal and written regret and apologies, and gives an oath not repeat his/her crime.[4]This proposal was a response to multiple incidents of writings on walls of Sunni mosques that defames Sunni figures like Aisha (one of Prophet Mohammad's wives) and Umar ibn al-Khattab (one the Prophet's companions) by Shiite teenagers.[5]

Selected cases

On 10 August 2009, the Misdemeanor Court of Appeals acquitted a Special Forces officer, identified only as Ahmad A. Ahmad had been arrested on May 7 and sentenced to 6 months in jail for defaming Prophet Mohammed.[6]
On 20 March 2005, an appeals court gave a suspended sentence of one year's imprisonment to a journalist for a 2004 article deemed to defame the Quran. The article's publishing-editor received a fine of 50 Kuwaiti dinars.[2]
In April 2004, Sunni Islamist members of the National Assembly's Education, Culture, and Guidance Committee proposed separating an article in the Press and Publications Law governing the penalties for blasphemy and other crimes that defame religion into two distinct articles: one outlining the penalties for blasphemy and disparagement of messengers, prophets, angels, and the Quran; and the other specifying affronts to Prophet Mohammed's companions and wives as a separate offense (thus criminalizing Shia disparagement of Sunni doctrine).[2]
In 2004, the Ministry of the Interior, General Customs Department, arrested and deported thirty-two individuals for allegedly practicing sorcery and confiscated alleged sorcery-related materials.[2]
In January 2004, the Court of Misdemeanors sentenced a Shia citizen to one year in jail with hard labor, and fined him 1,000 dinars for producing and distributing an audiotape defaming the Islamic (Sunni) religion, degrading its rituals and rites, and defaming and abusing Prophet Mohammed's companions. In February 2004, the citizen was released from prison in error by an Emiri pardon issued on the occasion of the country's National Day. The government subsequently issued a warrant for the citizen's re-arrest, but he remained at large. In March 2004, the Appeals Court dismissed the original misdemeanor verdict, and referred the citizen's case to the Public Prosecutor for re-trial by the Criminal Court. As a result, the citizen also faced the more serious charge of violating the State Security Law. In May 2004, the Criminal Court sentenced him in absentia to ten years in jail for defaming (Sunni) Islam.[2]
In 1999, University of Kuwait professor Ahmad al-Baghdadi was jailed for one month because he had expressed blasphemy in 1996. In that year, he had written that Prophet Mohammed failed in his mission to convert Mecca's non-believers to Islam.[7][8]
In January 1999, the Court of Misdemeanors found Alia Shuaib (or Aliya Shoeib) guilty of "publishing opinions that ridicule religion." Shuaib is the author of "Spiders Bemoan a Wound," which was published by Yehya al-Rubaian in 1993. The court offered Shuaib a suspended sentence of two months' imprisonment if she paid a fine of 50 dinars. The court offered al-Rubaian the same terms for having published the book without prior government approval. On 26 March 1999, the Appeals Court overturned Shuaib's conviction.[9][10]

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