An Unlasting Home: Author Mai Al-Nakib in Conversation with Katie Dancey-Downs

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In 2013, Kuwait’s parliament authorised a law that made blasphemy a capital crime. Although this decision was successfully vetoed by the Emir of Kuwait, it highlighted the precarious sanctity of freedom of speech in a religiously conservative country. In An Unlasting Home, Mai Al-Nakib imagines an alternative reality where this law comes to pass.

Join Mai Al-Nakib in conversation with Index on Censorship’s Katie Dancey-Downs as she discusses her debut novel’s approach to censorship and blasphemy in the Middle East. Described by Ira Mathur as ‘an exquisite discourse on the nature of freedom’, An Unlasting Home is out now in paperback and published by Saqi Books.

Meet the speakers

Mai Al-Nakib was born in Kuwait and spent the first six years of her life in London, Edinburgh and St. Louis, Missouri. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Brown University and is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Kuwait University. Her academic research focuses on cultural politics in the Middle East, with a special emphasis on gender, cosmopolitanism and postcolonial issues. Her short-story collection, The Hidden Light of Objects, won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award in 2014, the first collection of short stories to do so.

Her fiction has appeared in Ninth Letter, The First Line, After the Pause and The Markaz Review, and her occasional essays in World Literature Today, BLARB: Blog of The LA Review of Books, and on the BBC World Service, among others. She lives in Kuwait.

Katie Dancey-Downs is Assistant Editor at Index on Censorship. She has travelled the world to tell stories about people and the planet. She’s passionate about human rights, the environment, and culture, and has a particular interest in refugee rights. Katie has written for a range of publications, including HuffPost, i News, New Internationalist, Resurgence Magazine, Reader’s Digest, and Big Issue, and is the former co-editor of the Lush Times magazine. She has a degree in Drama and Theatre Arts from the University of Birmingham and an MA in Journalism from Bournemouth University, where she focused her research on the ethical storytelling of refugee issues.


When: Tuesday 30 May 2023, 1.00-2.00pm BST

Where: Online

Tickets: Book tickets here


Kuwait: Twitter user imprisoned for five years for ‘insulting’ Muhammad

A Kuwaiti man has been sentenced to five years in prison for a Twitter comment reportedly insulting the prophet Muhammad. 

Musab Shamsah was arrested by local police in May for posting on his Twitter account that Hassan and Hussein, the sons of Muhammad’s cousin, Ali, were more honest than Muhammad himself. He received a sentence of one-year imprisonment for mocking religion under article 11 of the penal code, and an extra four years for violating the 2012 National Unity Law for publishing content that could be deemed offensive to religious “sects” or groups.

Shamsah pleaded not guilty to all charges during his hearing on 18 November at the Kuwaiti Court of First Instance, arguing that his tweet had been misinterpreted by prosecutors. The tweet was deleted 10 minutes after it was published, with Shamsah following it up with two clarifying messages.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the sentence imposed on Shamsah, imploring that Kuwaiti prosecutors should stop detaining people for their peaceful expression of religious, political, or other views.

“It’s an insult to all Kuwaitis for the government to give itself the authority to decide what’s insulting to religion, and to jail Kuwaitis for it,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Let each Kuwaiti decide what he or she finds insulting, and as simple as clicking ‘unfollow,’ decide whether they want to see or hear a message.”

Shamsah’s lawyer will file for an appeal on 20 November.

Eerlier this week as an Emirati activist was handed down a two-year jail sentence for tweeting.

This article was originally posted on 21 Nov 2013 at

Index Index – International free speech round up 06/02/13

On 5 February, three former opposition MPs were sentenced to three years in jail by a Kuwaiti court for insulting the Emir. Falah Al Sawwagh, Bader Al Dahoum and Khaled Al Tahous were imprisoned under charges of causing offence to Kuwait’s leader and will appeal the court’s decision.  Opposition leaders, who denounced the decision as “political”, urged protestors to gather outside Al Sawwagh’s home on the evening of the verdict. The politicians are alleged to have made comments about Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah at a social event in October. They had warned that changes to Kuwait’s electoral system could lead to protests throughout the country. Opposition members boycotted Kuwait’s elections last month, claiming that the Emir unjustly favoured pro-government candidates. Mussallam Al Barrak, another former MP is facing similar charges.

Brittany Somerset - Demotix

Opposing Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah’s views can land you in jail — as three former MPs found out this week

An activist in Algeria has been jailed for participating in a protest against unemployment. Tahar Belabes, coordinator for the National Committee for the Rights of the Unemployed, was sentenced to one month in prison and fined 50,000 Algerian dinars on 3 February. Two other demonstrators — Khaled Daoui and Ali Khebchi — were each handed a two-month suspended jail sentence, as well as a 50,000 dinar fine. Two other participants were acquitted. Belabes was arrested with four others on 2 January in Ouargla during a demonstration for unemployed people protesting their right to work. Prosecutors had originally ordered a one year jail sentence for the men, which was later reduced. Belabes said he will appeal the verdict.

A female rock band in Kashmir has broken up after a Muslim cleric denounced their efforts as “un-Islamic”. Pragaash announced their early retirement on 5 February following complaints and intimidating comments on their Facebook page, which police are investigating. Teenagers Aneeqa Khalid, Noma Nazir and Farah Deeba made their first appearance at Srinagar’s national “Battle of the Bands” music festival in December and have faced threats ever since. They were the only female group at the concert. In an interview on Tuesday, one of Pragaash’s members said she couldn’t understand why they had been deemed un-Islamic when male groups were allowed to perform. Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad said on 3 February that their behaviour was indecent and could lead to the country’s destruction. Other groups in Kashmir have also disbanded in support of the girls.

Saga (Social Amenities for the Golden Age) will close its social networking site dedicated to over 50s because of racist, homophobic and anti-semitic comments. Reports today (6 February) said that spokesperson Paul Green blamed the closure on some “particularly vicious exchanges” between users over the Middle East, as well as trolling posts. Saga Zone, as the site is known, will be removed on 26 February, making the comments read-only and preventing users from contributing further posts. A statement on the Saga Zone page said the decision was taken to protect company interests, and avoid having negativity attached to the brand. Saga provides services for people over 50 in the UK.

The Sun newspaper has been banned from the University of Sheffield student’s union. The University’s Students’ Union Council decided to stop the sale of the paper at its union, it was reported on 5 February. Women’s Councillor Lucy Pedrick proposed the rule as part of the take page three out of The Sun campaign — a movement attempting to persuade editors to remove topless models from its papers. Council members voted on whether to take the motion to referendum, which fell after Pedrick said a “referendum would not be a fair debate.” London School of Economics Students’ Union banned The Sun in November last year following a vote.

Kuwait: 10-year sentence for Twitter blasphemer

A Kuwaiti man was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday after being convicted of endangering state security as a result of messages he sent on Twitter. The judge found Hamad al-Naqi guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad and Islam, and insulting the rulers of neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Al-Naqi pleaded innocent at the start of the trial last month, saying his Twitter account had been hacked and he had not posted the messages.