Kuwait in response to the US State Department’s report on religious freedom said no arbitrary arrests are carried out by the Ministry of the Interior men and that all procedures are followed in accordance with the law.
This came in response to US State Department annual report on religious freedom in the world, and in a special section it stated that the Kuwaiti constitution declares that Islam is the religion of the state, and also declares that freedom of belief is “absolute.” It also states that the state protects a person’s freedom of speech and the practice of his religious rites, provided that such practice does not conflict with customs, public policy or morals. The constitution also states that Sharia is a primary source of legislation and that all individuals are equal before the law regardless of religion.
The report included that the law prohibits defamation of the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity), and prohibits publishing or broadcasting materials that the government considers offensive to religious groups and practices that the government finds incompatible with Islamic law, and the government has prosecuted many individuals for statements deemed religiously offensive, most of them because of comments made online, some were sentenced to prison terms. The report states that in January, authorities arrested Mubarak al-Bathali on the strength of 2014 Criminal Court ruling, convicting him of inciting sectarian strife, insulting a section of society (Shiites), and disturbing national unity via his Twitter account.
The report touches on the arrest by the security authorities in July of the activist in the field of religious freedom, Nasser Dashti, on charges of blasphemy because of his public statements in which he criticized religion and praised secularism. He stated that the government continues to appoint and pay the salaries of Sunni imams and provide the full basic text of the weekly Friday sermons delivered in Sunni mosques, while the government does not exercise the same supervision over Shiite imams, but does pay the salaries of some Shiite imams.
The report indicated that the Ministry of Religious Endowments had opened investigations with three Sunni imams for delivering sermons deemed politically motivated, deemed an insult to other religious groups, or violating the National Unity Law.
The report also included that individuals continue to face societal pressures against converting from Islam, as some citizens who converted outside the country said — according to the report — that their families harassed them because of their conversion to Islam. A chat declaring conversion from Islam to Christianity, Kuwaiti reactions varied on social media, as some said that he had the right to choose his faith, while others said that he was an apostate and be cursed.
In January, according to the report, a prominent cleric issued a statement condemning the construction of a center for interfaith dialogue in the UAE that would include a synagogue, a Christian church and an Islamic mosque. The cleric also uploaded a statement on YouTube describing Jews as ‘brothers of monkeys and pigs’.
The report pointed out that hotels, shops and companies continue to celebrate non-Islamic holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, with some Muslim clerics continuing to express their rejection through social media to celebrate non-Islamic holidays, and called for more government measures to restrict public expression of these holidays.
The report analyzed the religious demographics of Kuwait’s population, according to the United States government’s estimate, as it included that the total population, according to the Public Authority for Civil Information, was 4.7 million, as of June, and reported that there are 1.5 million citizens, with 3.2 million non-citizens. The report stated that the PACI estimates that 75% of citizens and non-citizens are Muslims, and the Kuwaiti national census does not distinguish between Shiites and Sunnis in this estimate, and NGOs and the media estimate that about 70% of Kuwaiti citizens are Sunni Muslims, while The remaining 30% are Shi’ite Muslims (including Ahmadi and Ismaili Muslims, whom the government considers Shi’ite).
The PACI estimates that 18% of citizens and non-citizens are Christians, and 7% of citizens and non-citizens belong to non-Abrahamic religions.
He pointed out that there are 288 Christian citizens and a number of Baha’i citizens, while there are no Jewish citizens, according to PACI.
The report stated that, according to information issued by the Public Authority for Civil Information issued in June, 63% of the expatriate population is Muslim, 26% Christian, and 11% of non-Abrahamic religions, and indicates that among the non-citizen communities there are about 5% of the expatriate Muslim population, while Hindus and Buddhists make up the majority of the non-Abrahamic population. Unofficial estimates by members of various faiths indicate that there are approximately 250,000 Hindus, 100,000 Buddhists, 25,000 Bohra Muslims, 10,000 to 12,000 Sikhs, 7,000 Druze, and 400 Baha’is.
In May, November, and December, the US Embassy hosted round tables with representatives of religious minorities, including the Bohra, Hindu, Baha’i, and Christian communities, to discuss a wide range of religious freedom issues, and the group discussed the state of religious freedom in the country.