Kuwaiti authorities arrested a man Tuesday for insulting the Prophet Muhammad via his Twitter account, based on a Sharia-based blasphemy law, which is highly regarded in the mostly Sunni Muslim country. The incident reportedly drew calls for the man’s death.
The unidentified man defamed the Islamic faith and slandered the Prophet Muhammad, his companions and his wife, the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry said in a statement issued on state-run news agency KUNA. It was not immediately clear what the comments were. The ministry said it regretted the abuse of social networks by “some individuals” to offend basic Islamic and spiritual values and declared zero tolerance in combating such “serious offenses.”
The man, remaining anonymous in media reports, denied the accusations. “I will never attack the Holy Prophet,” he reportedly said and suggested someone hacked his account to post the comments. The man is reportedly being interrogated while awaiting judicial proceedings.
Although imprisonment is possible, Kuwait does not usually punish blasphemy with death, as is possible in neighboring Saudi Arabia, where a journalist was accused of tweeting comments offending the prophet, which drew calls for his death.
However, several members of the Kuwaiti parliament called for the offending man to be killed, and some even suggested that people would take justice in their own hands if the government fails to deliver a death sentence, reported the Arab Times.
“This is an attack against the Holy Prophet, his wife — the Mother of Believers and his companions, so we demand urgent action from the [interior] minister,” one parliamentarian was quoted as saying.
In 2009, a Special Forces officer had reportedly been arrested and sentenced to six months in jail for defaming Prophet Mohammed.
In 2005, an appeals court sentenced a journalist to a one-year suspended sentence for a 2004 article deemed to defame the Quran, according to the U.S. Dept. of State. The publication’s editor received a $170 fine in 2004. Three Islamist activists filed the complaint resulting in the court case, the department said.
Blasphemy laws, prohibiting offense to Islam and Muslims in any way, are, alongside apostasy, the most controversial codes of Sharia, based on teachings of the Quran. Sharia codes have been known to be used as a political weapon against religious minorities, academics, and journalists.
“The law requires jail terms for journalists who defame religion,” reads the International Religious Freedom Report 2005. “Academic freedom is limited in practice by self-censorship, and academics, like journalists, are legally prohibited from criticizing Islam. The law also provides that any Muslim citizen may file criminal charges against an author if the citizen believes that the author has defamed Islam, the ruling family, or public morals.”
Blasphemy laws have been on the rise in recent years, and are increasingly posing a threat to free speech and human rights as well as religious freedom across the Middle East as well as, occasionally, in the West, some experts have been arguing. Some also argue that Islamic law is increasingly used by authoritarian governments and extremist forces in the Muslim world commonly not for religious reasons, but to acquire and consolidate power.