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KUWAIT CITY, June 14 : Like in previous reports, the US State Department’s “Freedom of Religion” report contained some repeated criticisms about Kuwait that the Kuwaiti official bodies had previously responded to and refuted.
The report, which monitors the level of religious freedoms in various countries of the world, quoted representatives of Kuwaiti churches as saying: “The Kuwaiti government is tolerant and respects our religious beliefs”.
In this regard, the report stated that, “They have the freedom to practice their rituals, but they may fall under the law if disturbances are caused to neighbors or in case of violating laws related to gathering and preaching.”
As per the report, the Christian churches in Kuwait said the government authorities do not respond to their requests to expand the current places of worship, with some indicating that they stopped submitting such requests because the government did not respond.
The report explained, “According to information released by the Public Authority for Civil Information in 2018, 64 percent of the expatriates are Muslims, 26 percent are Christians, and 10 percent are of non-monotheistic religions.
Approximately five percent of the expatriate Muslims in Kuwait are Shiites. Buddhists and Hindus make up half of the adherents of non-monotheistic religions. Unofficial estimates indicate that there are approximately 250,000 Hindus in Kuwait, 25,000 Bohra Muslims, 10,000-12,000 Sikhs, 7,000 Druze, and 400 Bahais.
Athough the law does not prohibit apostasy, the government continues its policy of not issuing new official documents to record a change in religion, unless the conversion is from another religion to Islam.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs organized several courses for imams to make their messages more effective in promoting tolerance and combating extremism.
The ministry investigated three imams who allegedly made provocative statements, violated laws related to national unity or insulted other religious groups, and issued disciplinary measures that included temporary and permanent suspension.
The full basic text of the weekly Friday sermons that are preached in the mosques is obtained from government agencies that also monitor these sermons by requesting to send an audio version of the sermon. Imams can add content to the sermons, provided they adhere to the laws and avoid fanning sectarianism.
Also, Public Authority for Manpower imposed a fine of KD 100 ($330) for each worker in the Catholic Church for not committing to the rule to employ a required percentage of citizens as employees. Another church stated that it incurred a total of KD 6,000 ($20,000 ) as fines for not adhering to this policy.
Furthermore, Kuwaiti law prohibits marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, as this marriage is not recognized by the state. On the other hand, Muslim men may marry women from other recognized divine religions.
The father’s religion governs settlement of marital disputes. In addition, marriage documents of Christian couples, who are part of a church that registers marriages and divorces in accordance to their religious customs with the local authorities and courts, are recognized.
This is with the exception of Hindus and Sikhs of Indian nationality who may marry at the Embassy of India, and members of non-Abrahamic religions and unregistered churches who may not legally marry in the country.
However, their foreign wedding certificates may be recognized. Baha’i citizens may marry abroad and request the court to recognize their marriage.