A local newspaper reporter attempting to mimic a media ‘sting’ operation has stoked apprehension among the Indian Sikh community in Kuwait by reporting of an unofficial ‘gurdwara’ or worship place in Sulaibiya.
The reporter was directed to the site from posts on Google Earth and Google Maps which identified the place as ‘Sulaibiya Gurdwara Sikh Temple’. He reportedly entered the premises under false pretext and filmed members of the Sikh sect cutting onions and tomatoes, washing utensils, chatting with each other, and sleeping on the premises. In the process, he also recorded sound bits of conversation with the people there, some of whom claimed it was a temple and place of worship.
On investigation, it was revealed that the site located along FIfth Ring Road was leased by a company for use as a warehouse about nine years ago and that it was being used for other than its intended purpose.
It will be recalled that in 2001 Gurudwara was discovered to be operating in a residential area since 1985 and was closed down by the authorities as it was operating in a private house without licence.
Article 35 of the Kuwait constitution states that freedom of religion is absolute and provides for freedom of belief and practice of religion. It stipulates, however, that the practice of religion must be in accordance with established customs and not conflict with public policy or morals.
The main religions acknowledged in Article 35, are Islam, Christianity and Judaism, while public worship of other religions are up to the discretion of the authorities in the country, and need to be licensed and approved by the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly.
The law prohibits the defamation of Islam or any other religions, including the denigration of Islamic and Judeo-Christian religious figures, and prescribes a punishment of up to 10 years in prison for each offense. However, the law does not specify which religions are included in the phrase ‘other religions’.
According to PACI there are an estimated 1 million Christians, around 200,000 Hindus and an estimated 100,000 Buddhists, as well as 13,000 Sikhs, and 500 Bahais in Kuwait.
Pictures provided from Al Rai media site.