A liberal Kuwaiti lawmaker has come under fire by Islamists for his appeal to lift bans on dancing and alcohol consumption, calling the oil-rich Persian Gulf state "a country with no joy."
Nabil Fadhl provoked angry objections from fellow members of parliament when he proposed repeal of a 2004 law that prohibited dancing at concerts and festivals as contrary to the mores of Islam that dictate separation of unrelated men and women in public.
Asked by Islamist lawmakers -- apparently with sarcasm -- whether he also would support the legalization of alcohol, Fadhl reportedly replied, "Why not?" He said that drinking was tolerated in earlier times and that banning alcohol had led to the emergence of a black market where a bottle of spirits can be sold for more than $400.
Alcohol has been banned since 1964 and drinking has been a criminal offense since 1983, according to an account of the lawmaker's comments on the Gulf News website.
"Let us put an end to this masquerade that turned Kuwait into a country with no joy," the newspaper quoted Fadhl as telling fellow lawmakers. "I call upon the minister of information, Shaikh Salman Al Humoud Al Sabah, to take a bold decision that brings joy and happiness back into Kuwait."
Media in the gulf area, where most countries have severe restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, quoted Fadhl as saying he had been hit with a lawsuit by fundamentalist colleagues accusing him of besmirching Kuwaiti history.
"Fadhl is distorting the history and the image of Kuwait and its people who have elected him," the Kuwait Times quoted lawmaker Saud Huraiji as saying.
The newspaper said the Islamist Social Reform Society had also strongly condemned Fadhl's position on behaviors that it said violated the principles of Islam.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are the only two states with an absolute ban on alcohol, although access to liquor is restricted to hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners in much of the region. Iranian courts as recently as 2012 upheld death penalties for people convicted of drinking alcohol.
Fadhl has previously stirred controversy with his challenge of the constitutionality of Kuwait's nationality law that prohibits naturalization of non-Muslims, the International Business Times reported.
The nationality law's blocking of citizenship for adherents of other faiths "is a disgrace to the law and does not in any way reflect the values of the Kuwaiti people," the Gulf News quoted Fadhl as saying.