Kuwaitis stand united after mosque blast

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait has moved to ward off sectarian tensions following a deadly bombing at a Shia mosque and taken measures to try to prevent another attack by the ISIS group.

Shias, who make up about a third of the oil-rich Gulf state’s 1.3 million citizens, have complained in the past of discrimination in the Sunni-ruled emirate.

But after the June 26 suicide mosque bombing, which left 26 people dead, Sunni and Shia religious and political figures presented a united front.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah visited the Al-Imam Al-Sadeq mosque in Kuwait City only minutes after the attack by ISIS.

He also ordered that the victims be considered martyrs for the nation, in a response that was well-received by Shias.

“They (the terrorists) wanted to stir a conflict between the two sects but found there is only one religion… and a united people,” parliament speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem said at a reception for relatives of the victims. “The Kuwaiti people gave yet another example of national unity — We became united as we were during the Iraqi invasion” in 1990, the senior cleric at the targeted mosque, Sheikh Abdullah al-Mazeedi, said at the same reception.

Shia MP Yousef al-Zalzalah said in parliament: “The Kuwaiti people have sent a clear message to terrorists that you will never divide this society.”

Kuwait’s largest Sunni mosque held three days of mourning and accepted condolences in a show of solidarity, while senior officials spoke out against Sunni-Shia divisions.

Kuwaiti political analyst Dhafer al-Ajmi said that if anything the bombing had brought Kuwaitis closer together.

“I believe this huge bombing will greatly contribute to boosting national unity,” he said.

 “Kuwait’s society is more immune (to sectarian divisions) than other Gulf societies because of democracy and the high standard of freedoms.”

Unlike most of its Gulf neighbours, Kuwait has a strong parliamentary tradition, though the emir retains ultimate authority and the country has faced calls for reform.

During a parliamentary debate this week some Shia members of parliament said the government needed to do more to end discrimination and combat extremism.

“We must win this war against terror and to do so we must end discrimination and instigation,” against Shias, MP Abu Khalil, a Shia, said in the debate.

Shia political analyst Abdulwahed Khalfan said strong measures were needed. ”Kuwaiti Shias are frustrated because the government has not done enough to curb sectarian instigation and practices against them,” Khalfan said.

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