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Kuwait court rules that women MPs can shun hijab

29 October, 2009

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KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait`s constitutional court on Wednesday rejected a petition brought by four voters to declare invalid the election of two women MPs because they refuse to wear the hijab headscarf.

The decision of the court, whose rulings are final, was announced to reporters by the chairman of the court, Yussef Ghanam al-Rashid.

Two of the four women who became Kuwait`s first female MPs in May refuse to wear the hijab, which has also been spurned by the only woman appointed as a minister in the Kuwaiti government following the May election.

The voters said the two MPs had flouted a clause in an election law stipulating that women voters and candidates must comply with Islamic sharia regulations, including wearing the hijab.

Explaining its decision in a written verdict, the court said the election law fails to specify the type of regulations women must adhere to or whether that included wearing the hijab.

It also pointed out that the Kuwaiti constitution, which is higher than any law, guarantees personal freedom and freedom of faith and does not discriminate between people over their religion or sex.

The emirate`s fatwa department, which issues religious edicts, ruled in early October that Muslim women must wear the hijab in line with Islamic sharia law.

Islamist MPs are demanding the authorities enforce the fatwa, but their liberal colleagues say it is non-binding, insisting the rule of law and the constitution should be the only points of reference.

Kuwait does not enforce any dress code on women among the general public, because of the constitutional guarantee of personal freedom.

The constitutional court also scrapped the election of MP Badi al-Dossari and declared former candidate Khaled al-Adwah a winner after finding mathematical errors in calculations of the number of votes they got in the May elections.

After re-calculating the votes, the court said it found that Adwah had secured more votes than Dossari. The verdict does not change the composition of the house, as both men are tribal representatives.

End.

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