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Published on 12 June, 2012

Emir rejects death penalty for blasphemy

Kuwait (MNN) — Kuwait's proposed changes
to blasphemy law continue to polarize.

Although the amendment was backed by 46 votes, the
Emir rejected changes that sought the death penalty for those who blaspheme. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says the
decision provoked a lot of backlash. However, "It seems that that
legislation is going to die. It's not going to come before the entire
parliament for a vote, which is obviously good news for Christians."

Even though the law had been approved
by lawmakers and state ministers in two rounds of voting, the Emir still has
the power to block parliament.  

The question is: why he would refuse to
add the death penalty as has been done in Iran and Pakistan? Nettleton explains, "One
of the things that has happened just within the last week: a Kuwaiti man has
been sentenced to 10 years in prison, and among the charges against him were 'insulting
the prophet Mohammed.'"   

The
case could be pertinent to the Emir's decision. Nettleton shares some
thoughts on the issue. "I'm
wondering if this man being sentenced has sort of taken the need for the death
penalty off of the table. 'We are
addressing the issue harshly; we are taking care of those who would blaspheme
the Prophet. We've just locked this guy up for 10 years.' I don't know if that played into the decision
to table the legislation or not, but it's interesting that the two would happen
so close together."

The biggest question mark in deciding blasphemy cases is what really defines blasphemy? "If you're a Christian in Kuwait, you wonder 'where is the
line of blasphemy? If I'm witnessing to a Muslim, if I'm explaining to them why
I think Jesus Christ is superior to the Prophet Mohammed, is that
blasphemy?'"

For example, in Pakistan, the law is used to settle feuds and
other personal scores, nearly always in favor of the Muslim. Nettleton says similar legal questions are
being debated in Kuwait. "It's hard
to know how it would be enforced or how it would be put into practice. What happened
in Pakistan is that the blasphemy law sort of becomes a big club to beat Christians
over the head with."

Although Kuwait's constitution technically protects freedom of
belief, Islam is the state religion and Islamic law (Sharia) is an important
source of legislation. The situation has deepened the rift between
the Shia and Sunni majority Muslims and could worsen with the proposed changes.

Christians, however, have not had an easy time in Kuwait. The country is #30 on the Open Doors World
Watch List, a compilation of countries known for their persecution of
Christians. There are only a few hundred Kuwaiti believers; most Christians are
foreign workers. "Pray for the Church in Kuwait. There is a Church
there. There are believers there. We can
pray that they will be encouraged, that they will be bold witnesses for
Christ."

There is no word on the next step parliament will take next on the
penal code changes in the blasphemy law. That's a window of opportunity. Nettleton
says, "We can pray for the government. We can pray against laws that would
take away religious freedom that would take away the right of Christians to be
a witness, to worship together, anything that would hinder their living out
their faith."

 

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About Kuwait

  • Primary Language: Arabic, Standard
  • Primary Religion: Islam
  • Evangelical: 1.5%
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