A Kuwaiti lawmaker is challenging the constitutionality of an article in the Nationality Law that bans the naturalisation of non-Muslims. “This is a Christmas gift for our Christian brothers,” Nabeel Al Fadhl, an independent MP, reportedly said after submitting his petition to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the northern Arabian Gulf country.
Article Four of the Nationality Law lists five conditions for granting the Kuwaiti nationality. One condition stipulates that the applicant “be an original Muslim by birth, or that he or she has converted to Islam according to the prescribed rules and procedures and that a period of at least five years has passed since he or she embraced Islam before the grant of naturalisation.”
However, Al Fadhl said that the condition was a constitutional and legal stigma. “Those who added this condition to the Nationality Law in 1981 are lawmakers who did not rise to the significance of their oath as they were sworn in as members of parliament,” he said. “Such an article is a disgrace to the law and does not in any way reflect the values of the Kuwaiti people.”
The Muslim-only restriction was reportedly introduced in 1981 by MPs Ahmad Al Saadoon, Mohammad Al Marshad and Mohammad Al Rasheed. Al Fadhl attributed his decision to seek an amendment to the Nationality Law at the Constitutional Court and not the parliament to his wish to avoid splitting the MPs.
“I wanted to avoid any form of embarrassment to the lawmakers and to keep away from differences in viewpoints in the parliament,” he said.
In January, former MP Safa Al Hashem suggested cancelling the condition that restricts naturalisation to Muslims, saying that it was not in line with the text and spirit of the constitution. She was, however, opposed by several lawmakers who said that the focus should be on granting the nationality to the Muslim Bidoons, stateless people, living in Kuwait.
Kuwait has a total population of 4.2 million, but only 1.3 million are native Kuwaitis, mostly Muslims. Around 250 Kuwaitis are Christians who were granted the nationality before the article restricting naturalisation to Muslims was introduced. They are mainly from Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. The court will first assess whether it will accept the lawmaker’s petition and, in case it does, its ruling can take several months.