Kuwait 'tolerant country' to practice religious beliefs |
Kuwait Times - 01 August, 2012
Hindus represent the majority of the more than one billion people in India. Although Kuwait Times failed to secure official statistics as to how many Hindus are represented in Kuwait, surely there are thousands of them. However, Hindu is not a welcome religion here, as compared to Christians and other religious denominations. Kuwait bars their religious practices here, as they found some of their rituals offensive to Islam and, so, they are instructed not to build temples for their religious worship.
Last Monday the US State Department released their International Religious Freedom Report in which they classified Kuwait among the rows of countries to be classified as a ‘tolerant country’ for practicing religious beliefs.
Although the report says there are minorities who are experiencing some discrimination on an individual level, it was neither systematic nor widespread.
The constitution calls for “absolute freedom” of belief and for freedom of religious practices, in accordance with established customs, provided that it does not conflict with public order or morals. Speaking with the Kuwait Times on the condition of anonymity, a follower of the Hindu religion said they might have no physical temple, but Hindus can practice and worship their gods privately. “We have lots of underground temples here,” admitted a Hindu follower.
“They are being run privately, because of the ban on Hindu practices, but we do worship our gods secretly. Temples can be in private villas and flats, and there are some in schools,” he added. “We are not being barred from doing that, thanks to the government for being so lenient and tolerant when it comes to that. For instance, we can celebrate diwali here openly, if you will come to the houses of Hindus during diwali you can see electric lights everywhere, and we are not being barred from displaying those, and we can sell sweets related to our festival, so we are happy in that regard,” the source added.
For Christians and the likes, they are free to practice their religious beliefs here. In fact, some Christian denominations are requesting the Kuwaiti government to provide them with land to accommodate their growing number of members.
“As a Christian, I never experienced discrimination here. In fact, we are very happy that every Sunday or Friday we could come and visit our churches here to worship our God freely,” said a Christian believer, talking with this reporter. The US State Department claimed that popular protests in Bahrain during the ‘so called Arab spring’ and the subsequent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) intervention resulted in increased sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shia in Kuwait during the year, and some members of the Shia community were subjected to harassment and threats of physical violence.
“Well, there are reports of such, but we are okay here, we are normal, just like the Sunnis, I don’t think we can mix religion in politics, but we are as free as anyone else here,” said Hussein, a member of the Shiite Islamic religion. The US report revealed that based on voting records and personal status documents, 70 percent of Kuwaiti citizens belong to the Sunni branch of Islam and the remaining 30 percent are Shiite. There are approximately 150-200 Christian citizens and a small number of Baha’i citizens. An estimated 150,000 non-citizen residents are Shia. While some areas have relatively high concentrations of either Sunnis or Shia, most areas are religiously well integrated.
The largely non-citizen Christian population is estimated to include more than 450,000 members. The government-recognized Christian communities include the Roman Catholic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, and the National Evangelical (Protestant) Church. Other recognized denominations include the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church (referred to in Arabic as the Roman Orthodox Church), the Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church, and the Anglican Church. There are also many unrecognized Christian religious groups with smaller populations. There are an estimated 300,000 Hindus, 100,000 Buddhists, 10,000 Sikhs, and 400 Baha’is.