Kuwait is formally an emirate where Islam is the official state religion. Roughly three-quarters of the population is Muslim, and the most sizeable religious minority is Christian. Ridiculing religious practices can result in fines and/or a year's imprisonment, and other laws prohibit the publication or public expression, including on the internet, of material that denigrates or otherwise offends a recognized religious group.

History of Blasphemy & Apostasy Laws

The lands that today encompass the state of Kuwait had early encounters with Islam, beginning in the seventh century when the Rashidun Caliphate fought the Sasanian Empire in a bid to expand its borders. Since then, the region had been an integral part of the Islamic world, situated as it is on the Arabian Peninsula. The region was subject to colonization at the hands of the Portuguese and the British both.

Kuwait's penal code was introduced in 1960, shortly before formal independence from Britain and the end of its British protectorate. This made ridicule of religious groups, doctrines, and practices a criminal offense punishable by up to a year in prison, as well as by a fine. A separate 1961 law prohibits the publication of materials that denigrate religion. Furthermore, under a 2012 law, public speech that could offend a recognized religious group is illegal; the scope of the law covers statements made via social media. Recent high-profile blasphemy cases have most often involved victims who advocated secularism and humanism.

In 2013, parliament attempted to pass a law establishing a penalty of death for blasphemy, which would have made Kuwait's current de facto blasphemy legislation both harsher and much more explicit. However, the nation's Council of Ministers rejected the proposal, and it did not become law.

Cases of Persecution in Kuwait
Musab Shamsah given five years in prison after "blasphemous" tweet
Teacher and writer Sara al-Drees arrested for tweet about Muhammad's wife
Blogger Hamad al-Naqi given ten years for blasphemy and other offenses; survives attempted murder
Atheist blogger Abdul Aziz Mohamed al-Baz (a.k.a. Ben Baz Aziz) imprisoned, fined, deported
Law professor Fatima Al Matar charged for "blasphemous" tweet, forced into exile
Mohammed al-Ajmi arrested for criticizing Salafist group in blasphemous tweet
Influencer Shahab Murtadha Ghafoori given prison sentence for "insulting God" in Instagram skit