Kuwait (MNN) — Kuwaiti lawmakers have taken a step that is
strengthening the existing blasphemy laws.
The parallel drawn to Pakistan's law
was obvious. Todd Nettleton, spokesman for the Voiice of the Martyrs USA, explains, "The change is only in the
punishment. It is already illegal to commit blasphemy against Islam or against
Mohammed in Kuwait. Instead of a jail term being
the punishment, this change will put the potential of a death penalty on the
The changes have gone forward rather quietly but still have a ways to
go. "This has passed, apparently–the first vote that has to take
place. It will need another vote, and
then the leader of the country will have to sign off on it; so it's not a done
deal at this point. There are still some political things that are going
The case of suspected blasphemy on
Twitter caused uproar in the Gulf Arab state. The accused claims his account
was hacked, which brings another question to the forefront, says
Nettleton. What happens when you
involve social networking and electronic media into the mix? "I think the
concern–not only for Voice of the Martyrs, but for all people who believe in
freedom and believe in freedom of speech–is that this can be used to put
someone to death for saying something against Mohammed, or against the Quran, or
amendment was backed by 46 votes, while four opposed it and others abstained.
Those in favor included all 15 members of the cabinet. It's also a deeply polarizing case. "The man who has just been accused of
blasphemy is a Shi'ite. They make up
about 30% of Kuwait's people; Sunnis make up about 70%, and they
are the ones who are pushing this change to put the death penalty on the
table." Shi'ite parliamentarians voted against the amendment on Thursday.
With teeth being added to the
blasphemy law, what it boils down to,
says Nettleton, is this: "Witnesses for Christ could face the death penalty if they would be accused and convicted of
blasphemy, if this law passes the process and becomes approved."
While the constitution protects freedom of belief, the government
restricts this in practice. According to the
constitution, Islam is the state religion and Islamic law (sharia) is an
important source of legislation.
That implementation is why Kuwait 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.
Conversion from Islam to other
religions is not permitted, and the government actively supports proselytism by
Sunni Muslims. Converts (like
Muslim Background Believers) risk
discrimination, harassment, police monitoring of their activities, arbitrary
arrest and detention, and physical and verbal abuse. Still, there is evidence to suggest
that the Gospel is making inroads. "Pray
for evangelism efforts. Pray for
those who are sharing the Gospel that they would continue to be bold and not