Kuwaiti MP calls for rethink on citizenship rules

Lawmaker is attempting to remove clause from law that limits citizenship to Muslims only
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)
By Courtney Trenwith
Wed 08 May 2013 09:32 AM

A Kuwaiti lawmaker is attempting to remove a “racist” clause in the country’s citizenship law that allows only Muslims to be granted citizenship.

MP Khalil Al-Saleh, who submitted a draft law to parliament on Tuesday, said the Muslim-only religious precondition was discriminatory and contradicted the freedom of belief and faith that was enshrined in the Kuwaiti constitution.

“This condition involves a hated discriminatory factor that we never experienced,” Al-Saleh, a Shiite Muslim and former Kuwait Airways pilot, told Kuwait Times.

Nearly all Kuwaiti citizens are officially Muslim, although there are a handful of Christians whose families date back centuries.

Across the entire population of an estimated 3.8 million – of which two-thirds are expats – about 85 percent are Muslim.

According to Al-Saleh, the religious condition was added to the Kuwaiti nationality law in 1982, requiring foreigners to be Muslim by birth or have embraced Islam for at least five years in order to be granted citizenship.

Previously, it is believed they only had to be living legally in Kuwait, having a steady source of income and have a good knowledge of Arabic. In 1966, a clause requiring professional competence was added to the conditions.

Kuwait, like other GCC countries, rarely issues new citizenships.

The expat-reliant country has announced plans to cut the number of expats by 100,000 annually for the next 10 years.

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