Kuwait parliament condemns sectarian rhetoric over Syria

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 13, 2013 5:11 PM

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's parliament on Thursday condemned attempts to use the crisis in Syria to stoke sectarian tensions, calling for the government to crack down on "extremist behavior" and rhetoric in the Gulf Arab state.

The statement appeared to be a response to an anti-Hezbollah demonstration outside the Lebanese Embassy in Kuwait on Tuesday where a Sunni Muslim cleric gave a fiery speech against the involvement of the Lebanese Shi'ite group in Syria's civil war.

The Syrian conflict has aggravated Sunni-Shi'ite tensions across the Middle East, with Iran and Hezbollah supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Sunni-ruled nations such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar backing rebels.

Sunni militants have also entered the country to help anti-Assad fighters.

Kuwait has denounced the actions of Syria's army and sent humanitarian aid for refugees, but unlike some other Gulf states it has not called for arming the rebels.

The parliament said the government should act by "nipping sectarian seditions in the bud," and crack down on anyone "who may try to promote a discourse of hatred and pose a menace to our national fabric," the statement on state news agency KUNA said.

As the situation in Syria worsens, "some have come up with attempts to capitalize on such events to create sectarian tensions and to take our peaceful society to the battlefield," said the statement from the 50-seat parliament where around one third of MPs are Shi'ite Muslims.

Kuwait is home to a sizeable Shi'ite minority, and although sectarian rhetoric sometimes flares in speeches and online, different religious sects tend to live in relative harmony.

Kuwait allows more political dissent and freedom of speech than the other five states in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Kuwaitis outside the embassy on Tuesday burned a picture of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and a Kuwaiti cleric told a crowd of dozens that "mujahideen" across the Arab world were being armed to enter Syria and fight against the group.

In a speech at the protest posted on You Tube, the cleric Shafi al-Ajami called for torturing and killing Hezbollah fighters in Syria.

Kuwaiti Islamists have started a Twitter campaign called "Kuwaitis prepare 12,000 mujahideen" as well as an online fundraising drive to help arm Syrian rebels.

The parliament statement condemned attempts to mobilize young Kuwaitis and to break the law by raising funds for "external issues."

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; editing by Mike Collett-White)