Conservative Kuwaiti MP threatens to use parliament to escalate veil issue against governemnt

March 18, 2010

MP Mohammad Al Hayef

Kuwait’s parliament is heading towards more divisions after a conservative lawmaker has pledged to bring up in the parliament the issue of making the veil mandatory for elected and appointed officials.

“It is obvious that according to the constitution that states that Islam is the country’s religion, and to the rules, women elected to parliament or appointed as ministers should wear the veil,” MP Mohammad Al Hayef said. “The government is not able to apply the law or to impose the veil on its minister, Moodhi Al Humood. The government seems not able to choose a veiled ministry. Therefore, we will take up the issue to the parliament and allow the nation to see how the law is being broken,” he said at the weekly parliamentary session.

However, MPs Abdul Rahman Al Anjari and Aseel Al Awadhi rejected Al Hayef’s claims while Justice and Endowments Minister Rashed Al Hamdan refused the pressure on the government and insisted that there were other parties concerned.

“From the religious point of view, the Endowments’ fatwa says that the veil is mandatory. However, the Constitutional Court is in charge of explaining the regulations in the electoral law,” he said. “In all cases, the government cannot on its own decide on the issue. We have one minister, but you have four women MPs. It is a common responsibility that we should shoulder together,” he said.

The issue of women MPs and ministers not wearing the veil inside the parliament has grated with Islamist lawmakers since 2005 when the Kuwaiti parliament voted 35-23 to give women the right to vote and run for parliament.

The situation was compounded when four women were elected in May 2009 to the parliament for the first time, with two of them refusing to wear the headscarf.

The results set the women and liberals on a collision course with conservative MPs who boycotted the swearing-in ceremonies of the women lawmakers.

The appointment in May of Moudhi al Humoud, who does not wear the headscarf, as the first woman education minister in Kuwait’s history was seen as a new challenge by the conservatives and in October, Al Hayef resurrected the controversy over the veil and asked the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments for its view on the hijab for women officials and MPs.

The ministry’s answer that the veil was a requirement for Muslim women prompted Islamist MPs to call again for its imposition inside the parliament.

However, the Constitutional Court on October 28 ruled that the veil was not necessary for women in politics and that the constitution guarantees personal freedom and does not discriminate among people on the basis of gender or religion.

The landmark court ruling was in response to a lawsuit challenging the election of women MPs Aseel Al Awadhi and Rola Dashti for not wearing the hijab.

The challenger, Hamad Abdulaziz Al Nashi, a Kuwaiti national from the constituency from which the two MPs were elected, claimed that the results of the two women should be nullified because the candidates violated the elections law by not wearing the hijab.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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