Al Hayef (L) and Al Fadhl – Al Rai Image Credit:

Manama: A war of words has erupted in Kuwait over a proposal to ammend Kuwait’s Citizenship law that restrict citizenship to Muslims only.

A proposal to amend the Citizenship Law was passed by the parliament’s Legal and Legislative Committee on Tuesday.

Parliament must first debate the proposal, endorse it and then it goes to the government for final approval.

Conservatives in the country are vehemently opposing such an ammended which they claim threatens Kuwait’s ‘Islamic’ identity.

One Islamist MP threated to bring down the government if it allows such a motion to pass.

“I will use all possible constitutional means to protect the Islamic identity and society of Kuwait if the 1959 Citizenship Law is amended,” Mohammad Al Hayef, an Islamist lawmaker, said.

“The strange and peculiar contradictions that have emanated from some lawmakers who submitted the motion to make the amendment and its [subsequent] approval by the Legislative Committee are intended to prevent the revocation of the citizenship of apostates who renounce Islam.”

“We cannot accept any government that approves such amendments, and we will use all constitutional means to protect our Islamic identity and society,” Al Hayef warned claiming the ammendment would go against Shariah law.

He warned that such a move would threaten Kuwait’s demography and Islamic identity.

Ahmad Al Fadhl a liberal lawmaker who on Tuesday warmly supported the committee’s decision rejected Al Hayef’s warning and stressed that not granting the Kuwaiti citizenship to non-Muslims or the revocation of their citizenship is contrary to the constitution and affects Kuwait’s reputation.

“The proposal to naturalise non-Muslims was not a priority, but it was in the queue and its turn came up. We are a civil state governed by the constitution and the law, not fatwas,” he said.

Al Fadhl promised more laws related to promoting freedoms were in the pipeline.

“If you do not like what the Legislative Committee decided, you can bang your head against any of the numerous walls inside the parliament,” Al Fadhl said in comments directed to Al Hayef.

“By the way, I want to share with you the good news that we will submit several new proposals that will make you dance with joy. They are related to freedoms, prior censorship on books and other issues,” he said.

Kuwait’s Citizenship Law stipulates under Item 5 of Article 4 that the Kuwaiti nationality may be granted by decree upon the recommendation of the Minister of Interior to any person who is an original Muslim by birth, or that he has converted to Islam according to the prescribed rules and procedures. It also stipulates that a period of at least five years has passed since he embraced Islam before the grant of naturalisation.

“Nationality thus acquired is ipso facto lost and the Decree of naturalisation rendered void ab initio if the naturalised person expressly renounces Islam or if he behaves in such a manner as clearly indicates his intention to abandon Islam.

In any such case, the nationality of any dependent of the apostate who had acquired it upon the naturalisation of the apostate is also rendered void.”

The Muslim-only restriction was introduced in 1981 by MPs Ahmad Al Saadoon, Mohammad Al Marshad and Mohammad Al Rasheed.

The overwhelming majority of Kuwaiti citizens are Muslims. Around 250 Kuwaitis are Christians who were granted the citizenship before the article restricting naturalisation to Muslims was introduced. They are mainly from Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine.