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Kuwaiti academic charged with blasphemy for Quran comments

If convicted the academic could be jailed for one year [Al-Shahed TV]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2016

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A university professor from Kuwait has been charged with blasphemy for suggesting the state's constitution should override the Quran and Islamic law.
A female academic and human rights activist has been charged with blasphemy for suggesting Kuwaiti constitution should override the Quran and Islamic law.

Sheikha al-Jassem, a prominent figure in the Gulf Arab state, made the comments in a television interview broadcast on Kuwait's al-Shahed TV last month.

"Anyone who believes the Quran or sharia [Islamic law] or any interpretation of these religious texts are above the constitution is betraying the state of Kuwait," said the Kuwait University professor.

"A citizen who thinks like that poses a danger to the state," she suggested, adding "his loyalties do not lie with Kuwait."

In the television interview discussing the rise of radical Islam and terrorism in the country, al-Jassem said those who do not abide by the Kuwaiti constitution are likely to "betray Kuwait" should someone "suggest something because the Quran says so".

But the academic went on to clarify "you cannot compare the two [the constitution and the Quran], none are superior over the other. Each has its own place," she said adding that the Quran is a book for the Muslims while the constitution is for the state of Kuwait.

The comments provoked a storm of criticism across the country with hundreds of social media users calling for action from authorities as well as her dismissal from the university.

"They were terrifying me - everywhere, not just from Kuwait, even from Saudi Arabia," al-Jassem told the BBC following the backlash.

"They were talking against me, they were saying bad things, and they were ridiculing me. But I'm used to it now."

Almost ironically, al-Jassem ended the controversial television interview discussing the state's response to those who criticise it.

"I think it's laughable that a state gets offended when some person in another country writes something on Twitter about it and it decides to press charges against him."

If convicted, the academic could be jailed for one year, according to Kuwaiti law.

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