Kuwait pulls cleric from TV for sectarian comments

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Government officials in Kuwait announced Tuesday that they pulled a prominent cleric off television over previous comments they say stoked sectarian tensions and promoted an al-Qaeda-linked rebel group in Syria.

Shafi al-Ajmi’s show, “Following the Path of the Prophet, “premiered Monday on state television in Kuwait. By Tuesday, Information Minister Salman al-Homood said that the show had been cancelled and that an investigation had begun into determining those responsible for putting the cleric on the air.

“The Ministry of Information does not approve of airing episodes for any individuals who instigates hatred and promotes such rhetoric, “al-Homood told journalists.

Al-Ajmi declined to speak to The Associated Press when contacted Tuesday.

Kuwait, one of OPEC’s top producers, has been battered by political unrest for the past two years. A variety of groups inspired by the Arab Spring have stepped up pressure on the ruling Al Sabah family, led by the 84-year-old emir, over alleged fiscal mismanagement, corruption and efforts to police social media.

Over the past two years, dozens of people have been charged with remarks deemed offensive to the emir, which is a crime in Kuwait.

Al-Ajmi regularly writes anti-Shiite comments online suggesting that the Shiite faith should be banned in Muslim countries. He also gained notoriety in the gulf kingdom when he appeared in an online video in which he celebrated the beheading of a Hezbollah leader and his son.

The cleric also actively raises funds for Syrian rebel groups and the al-Qaeda linked group Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front, which is fighting against the government of President Bashar Assad.

In a message Monday on Twitter, al-Ajmi wrote that that “all supporters of the Syrian fighters are welcome to my home. “ He followed that up with posting his home address.