Kuwait bans cleric's TV show after sectarian remarks

Shafi al-Ajmi called for rebels fighting Syria’s Assad regime to be armed

Kuwait has banned the television show of a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric, accused of instigating hatred with speeches and comments on social media calling for arming rebels fighting the army of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (pictured). Photograph: SANA/Handout via Reuters.

Kuwait has banned the television show of a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric, accused of instigating hatred with speeches and comments on social media calling for arming rebels fighting the army of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (pictured). Photograph: SANA/Handout via Reuters.

Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 09:57

Kuwait has banned the television show of a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric, accused of instigating hatred with speeches and comments on social media calling for arming rebels fighting the army of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Information minister Sheikh Salman al-Humoud al-Sabah said authorities would investigate how a show involving Shafi al-Ajmi was allowed to be broadcast on state television. It was cancelled after the first episode aired on Monday.

Ajmi has also called for supporters to torture and kill fighters in Syria linked to the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hizbullah, evidence of how the Syria conflict has aggravated Sunni-Shi’ite tensions across the Middle East.

“The ministry of information does not approve of airing episodes for any individual who instigates hatred and promotes such rhetoric,” Sheikh Salman told local media. His remarks were confirmed to Reuters by his office today.

Ajmi has nearly a quarter of a million followers on Twitter, and his comments, aired widely on YouTube, are regularly laced with sectarian references.

Kuwait’s parliament condemned a speech he made in June, outside the Lebanese Embassy, for inciting extremism and stoking sectarian tensions. This is a red line in the major oil producer which allows more freedom of speech than the other Gulf Arab states.

The Syrian conflict has split the Middle East, with Iran and Hezbollah supporting Assad, and Sunni-ruled nations such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar backing the rebels.

Kuwait, home to a sizeable Shi’ite minority, has denounced the violence and sent humanitarian aid for refugees, but unlike some other Gulf states it has not called for arming the rebels. Some Kuwaiti citizens have been campaigning privately to arm anti-Assad forces.

Reuters