Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Internet Site Set Up to Aid Kuwaiti Convert

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Internet Site Set Up to Aid Kuwaiti Convert

Article excerpt

SO FAR, ROBERT HUSSEIN has lost his wife, children and fortune, and, right now, his only safe home is on the Internet.

The trouble began when Hussein, of Kuwait, lost his Muslim faith and announced his conversion to Christianity. The prominent businessman - he was worth $4 million before the controversy - has lived in hiding since May 29, when a religious court ruled that he is an apostate.

Kuwait allows churches for foreigners and Arab Christians. However, Hussein is the region's first known Muslim to convert openly. His case is especially symbolic because Western leaders said one goal of the Persian Gulf War was to reinforce Kuwait's status as a relatively progressive Islamic regime. Still, tension between civil and religious laws remains.

"They have taken everything that I have," says Hussein, in an interview posted at a World Wide Web site backing his cause. "Christians in the Middle East have been suffering. . . . Enough is enough. In Algeria, they have been killed. In Egypt and Saudi Arabia they have been beheaded . . . and nobody is talking about them."

The Web site (www.domini.org/hussein/home.htm) is sponsored by a British religious coalition and contains government documents and media reports, as well as links allowing readers to fax Kuwaiti officials or to contact Hussein's protectors. The Islamic Court of Appeals will review his case on Sept. 15.

The May verdict noted that Kuwait's constitution guarantees religious freedom, but the verdict says this "does not mean a Muslim should be allowed to convert from his religion to another." It also said an apostate "who is born of two Muslim parents . . . must be killed. The Iman should kill him without a chance to repent."

Judge Jaafar al-Mazidi told Reuters that some might interpret the ruling as permission to kill the convert. This would, however, be considered murder under Kuwaiti civil law.

But to say Hussein will be protected by civil law ignores the pivotal question: Should those who commit crimes against Islamic orthodoxy be tri ed in civil or religious courts? Or, as Hussein asked a judge: "Your honor, how can a Sunni Muslim sue a Protestant Christian before a Shiite court? …

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