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Kuwait lawmaker faces charges over alcohol remark
January 6, 2015, 9:34 am

Al Fadhl told a fellow MP that he does not oppose lifting a ban on alcohol

A member of Kuwait’s parliament is facing charges of insulting the nation after saying he supports legalising the sale of alcohol in the predominantly Muslim country. Nabil Al Fadhl said that controversy was sparked after he first proposed repealing a law that bans dancing at public music concerts and festivals.

Al Fadhl says he was asked in parliament by an Islamist lawmaker if that means he would also support legalising the sale of alcohol during concerts. He says he replied by saying: “Why not?”

Al Fadhl says an Islamist lawyer has filed charges against him over the remark. Al Fadhl, who is an independent lawmaker, says that despite his personal views, he isn’t proposing a bill to legalise the sale of alcohol.

Kuwaiti media later reported that several lawmakers swiftly condemned Al Fadhl “for saying that liquor was part of Kuwait’s history and ancestors were tolerant toward allowing its consumption in the past.”

One lawmaker, Saud Al Huraiji, was quoted in the media as saying that Al Fadhl had “clearly undermined the image of Kuwaitis and the country’s history.” Lawmaker Humoud Al Hamdan said “the ancestors of Kuwaitis were well known for their fight against moral corruption, including the use of liquor.”

Al Fadhl said an Islamist lawyer filed charges against him for his remarks, accusing him of insulting the honour of Kuwaiti society.

Fadhl said he was only mentioning “facts about alcohol in Kuwait’s history.” On the black market, he said, people can buy a bottle of whiskey for 120 dinars ($408).

“It’s available in ample amounts, but only affordable to the rich,” he said. “A good start would be to allow people to bring in their own alcohol from abroad instead of confiscating it.”

Alcohol was prohibited by parliament in 1983 in a three-stage process starting in 1963, the year the National Assembly was established. Parliament first imposed its regulation, then its banning, then criminalised its consumption.

Al Fadhl said in parliament last month that the country has suffered “tremendously” from restrictions on music concerts. “The major effects include the rise of extremism, forcing several people to go to other countries on holidays and the emergence of a sense of loss among young people who keep parading with their cars to impress girls,” he said.

“The conditions that obliged the government to accept the restrictions do not exist now, so let us put an end to this masquerade that turned Kuwait into a country with no joy. I call upon the minister of information Shaikh Salman Al Humoud Al Sabah to take a bold decision that brings joy and happiness back into Kuwait,” he said.

Restrictions were imposed in 2004 after 31 of the parliament’s 50 lawmakers objected to a concert performed by singers from the Star Academy reality show. The lawmakers said that the concert and the television show were against the values and tenets of Islam and that they allowed the mixing of unrelated men and women, dancing and unacceptable acts.

A compromise offered by the government was refused by the lawmakers who threatened to grill the information minister and escalate the situation. The government eventually gave in to the demands, but its stance triggered angry criticism from liberals who said that the decision was a serious threat to public freedoms.

— With inputs from AP

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