KUWAIT CITY (AFP) – Kuwait stripped Shiite activist Yasser al-Habeeb of his citizenship on Monday, accusing him of abusing religious symbols and attempting to trigger sectarian tensions.
The cabinet made the decision at the recommendation of Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Khaled al-Sabah, said a government statement that added Habeeb was also convicted of undermining Kuwait’s national interests and social system.
He lost his citizenship based on a law that allows authorities to cancel the nationality of naturalised Kuwaitis if they commit certain crimes.
The cabinet ordered authorities to take all the necessary measures to bring Habeeb, who has been living in self-imposed exile in London since 2004, to court for crimes he committed.
More than two weeks ago, Habeeb made disparaging remarks against Prophet Mohammed’s wife Aisha, triggering a sectarian rift between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that prompted the government to ban all public gatherings on Sunday.
Acting premier and defence minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah warned on Sunday the “government will firmly confront all those trying to drag the country into a sectarian rift.”
Habeeb, who fled Kuwait to escape two 10-year prison terms for abusive remarks about Islam’s first two caliphs, held a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of Aisha’s death at his London office, when he made the remarks, according to a video on his website.
His comments were condemned by Sunni Islamists who urged the government to seek Habeeb’s extradition or revoke his citizenship, while Shiite MPs also called for similar action against Sunni activists critical of Shiism.
Some Sunni Islamist MPs threatened to grill the premier or interior minister in parliament if the government failed to take action.
Shiites make up about one-third of the Kuwaiti population of 1.1 million people. They have nine members in the 50-seat parliament and two members in the emirate’s 16-member cabinet.