Da’esh claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Shia mosque in June killing 26 people and injuring more than 200 others. The government put 29 individuals on trial in connection with the bombing, ultimately sentencing seven of them to death. Following the bombing, the government ordered the Shia community to commemorate Ashura and other holidays indoors and took other security measures affecting all non-Sunni religious groups. The government arrested and convicted several individuals for insulting Shia doctrine and interrogated several imams for making what it considered to be provocative statements harmful to national unity. Nonrecognized religious groups (those without a licensed place of worship) reported they could worship without government interference provided they did not disturb their neighbors; the government arrested 11 Hindus for conducting religious services after neighborhood complaints. Shia and both recognized and nonrecognized non-Muslim religious groups reported a lack of facilities for worship and difficulties obtaining permission to construct new facilities. Shia continued to report discrimination against them in terms of the training of clergy and employment in the public sector.
On June 26, a suicide bomber attacked the al Imam al Sadeq Shia mosque in Kuwait City, killing 26 people and injuring more than 200. Government investigators identified a Saudi national as the bomber. Da’esh claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying it was an attack on a temple of the “rejectionists,” a term used by Da’esh to describe Shia. Following the bombing, the government ordered the Shia community to conduct all Ashura activities inside closed structures rather than at outside locations, where some activities previously had taken place. The government stated it took the decision due to security concerns. The government also stationed security forces outside of all non-Sunni religious venues during times of worship as a deterrent to further possible attacks. In July prosecutors charged 29 individuals in connection with the bombing. In September the court found 15 of the defendants guilty and sentenced seven to death (five in absentia).
The government arrested three individuals in separate cases for violating the national unity law for insulting the Shia doctrine. In October, for example, a lower court convicted Sharia College Professor Mohammed al-Hajari for insulting the Shia doctrine after he criticized the Shia practice of ‘temporary marriage.’ Several of the Shia female members in the audience filed a complaint. The court fined him 10,000 KD (approximately $34,000).
The MAIA detained and interrogated several imams for making what it considered to be provocative statements harmful to national unity. For example, in October the police arrested Shiite cleric Hussain al-Matooq for reportedly saying the government had tortured and mistreated individuals charged with smuggling weapons and ammunition into the country during a Friday sermon.
On November 3, the police arrested 11 Indian nationals for conducting a Hindu religious ritual following complaints from neighbors. The Indian Embassy later reported they were deported for causing a “public disturbance.” In April the Court of Cassation reversed an appeals court decision and acquitted scholar Abdullah al-Nafeesi of charges of insulting Shia doctrine and violating the law on national unity in a speech given in November 2014 on Saudi Arabian TV.
There continued to be seven officially licensed (recognized) Christian churches: the National Evangelical (Protestant), Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic (Melkite), Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Anglican. The MOI provided residency permits, security and protection for places of worship for licensed churches, while the MOSAL issued visas for clergy and other staff, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Municipality of Kuwait handled building permits and land issues. The government received no applications for construction of new churches during the year.
Members of religious groups without licensed physical places of worship reported they continued to worship without government interference provided they did not disturb their neighbors or violate laws regarding assembly and proselytizing. The government allowed such religious groups to operate in rented villas, private homes, or the facilities of recognized churches. The authorities prohibited these religious groups from displaying exterior signs, such as a cross or the congregation’s name.
The government continued to fund Sunni religious institutions and to provide topics for the weekly sermons by imams at Sunni mosques. The government continued to appoint Sunni imams, monitor their Friday sermons, and finance construction of Sunni mosques. The minister of justice and the minister of awqaf and Islamic affairs continued to warn imams to keep their sermons consistent with the general law on political speech and avoid discussing political issues during their sermons or at any other time while in the country.
The government provided security to Shia neighborhoods during Muharram and Ashura. Groups had to obtain licenses for commemorations from their respective municipalities, and a municipal government had the right to withdraw the license of any husseiniyas (a Shia hall for religious commemorations) not complying with the municipality’s rules. The government did not permit public reenactments of the martyrdom of Hussein or public marches in commemoration of Ashura.
The government continued the practice of not permitting the establishment of non-Islamic religious publishing companies, although it allowed non-Islamic religious groups to publish religious materials solely for their congregations’ use. The government continued to permit private companies to import Bibles and other Christian religious materials for use by the congregations of licensed churches under the condition none of the content insult Islam. Congregations with a need for material in languages other than Arabic or English reported no problems importing their materials on their own.
Religious groups without licensed places of worship reported local authorities continued to pressure landlords to end leases on property to unlicensed churches, often after complaints from neighbors about over-crowded streets during worship services. A number of religious groups said they were seeking alternative worship venues in response to landlords’ expressed wishes to utilize the properties for more lucrative purposes. The groups said a shortage of real estate in prime districts limited their ability to secure land in preferred areas.
Members of the Shia community continued to express concern over what they perceived as the relative scarcity of Shia mosques, which they said was due to the government’s delay in approving repairs to existing mosques or the construction of new ones. They said the government had granted licenses and approved the construction of fewer than 10 new Shia mosques since 2001. There remained a total of 35 Shia mosques nationally, with one mosque approved in 2012 still under construction. According to data from MAIA, Shia mosques made up 2.5 percent of the approximately 1,400 mosques in Kuwait.
The Ministry of Education continued to ban the use as instructional material of any fiction or nonfiction English-language books and textbooks making reference to the Holocaust or Israel. The ministry permitted schools to teach and celebrate only Muslim holidays. The government did not interfere with informal religious instruction inside private homes and on church compounds.
The government continued not to permit the establishment of non-Sunni religious training institutions. Shia who wanted to serve as imams had to seek training and education abroad. The College of Islamic Law at Kuwait University, the country’s only institution to train imams, continued to lack Shia jurisprudence courses and had no Shia professors on its faculty.
According to Shia leaders, the lack of Shia imams continued to limit the ability to staff Shia courts leading to a backlog of personal status and family cases. To address the backlog and shortage of staff, the government created an ad hoc council under the regular marital issues court to apply Shia jurisprudence. The establishment of a Shia Court of Cassation, approved in 2003, remained delayed, according to Shia leaders, because of the unavailability of appropriate training for Shia to staff it.
Shia leaders said discrimination continued to prevent Shia from obtaining leadership positions in public sector organizations, including the police force and the military/security apparatus.
Although apostasy was not prohibited by law, the government continued its policy of not issuing new official documents for the purpose of recording a change in religion.
The government continued to impose quotas on the number of clergy and staff of licensed religious groups entering the country. According to a cleric of a licensed church, upon request, the government granted additional slots once the quota was reached. The government continued to require foreign leaders of unlicensed religious groups to enter the country as nonreligious workers. They then had to minister to their congregations outside the regular hours of their nonreligious employment.
In September Prime Minister Sheikh Jabar Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah met with Pope Francis in Rome to discuss religious tolerance and the role of the Christian minority. The delegation signed an agreement with the Holy See to strengthen bilateral relations.