Most of Kuwait's citizen population is Muslim; there are no official figures, but it is estimated that 60-65% are Sunni and 35-40% are Shias. Some other minor Muslim sects do exist in Kuwait's society, but in very small or rare numbers. There are no estimates of the number of non-citizen Sunnis, but there are an estimated 150,000 non-citizen Shia. In 2001, there were 525,000 Sunni Kuwaiti citizens, 300,000 Shia Kuwaiti citizens and 820,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total thus Sunnis formed 64% and Shias formed 36.5% of the Kuwaiti citizen population. In 2002, the US Department of State reported that Shia Kuwaitis formed 30-40% of Kuwait's citizen population, noting there were 525,000 Sunni Kuwaiti citizens and 855,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total (61% Sunnis, 39% Shias). In 2004, there were 600,000 Sunni Kuwaiti citizens, 300,000-350,000 Shia Kuwaiti citizens and 913,000 Kuwaiti citizens in total.
Relations between the Shia and the Sunnis are inherently nervous because the Sunnis consider the rituals of the Shia to be the epitome of shirk, or polytheism.
According to a report, the Kuwaiti Sunnis feel that the Shiites' conduct ignores their feelings and doctrines. Whether intentional or not, such actions could lead some of the deputies’ Shiite constituents to undertake sectarian actions against the Sunni majority.
An example of such an act would be vandalizing the walls of Sunni mosques with disparaging slogans about the Prophet Muhammad’s companions, as has happened numerous times. In May 2011, for instance, someone broke into a mosque in the Mubarak al-Kabeer area, south of Kuwait City and graphitized the walls with curses against Umar bin al-Khattab, one of the senior companions of the Prophet. On June 4, 2012, Hamad al-Naqi, a Kuwaiti Shiite citizen, received 10 years in prison on charges of insulting the Prophet, his wife Aisha and the companions.
Mahmoud Haidar, a Kuwaiti Shiite, owns the newspaper Al-Dar and the Al-Adala TV channel, which a court ordered closed for a year in 2009 for insulting the companions and disparaging Salafist, figures in the Gulf. The internal conflicts and quarrels that Haidar and Dashti are involved in largely reflect Kuwait's sectarian tensions, instigated under the guise of politics and freedom of expression.
Kuwaitis view Dashti’s expressions of sympathy as sectarian acts that threaten national peace, especially as it was preceded by other actions also perceived as sectarian, among them Kuwaiti Shiite parliamentarian Adnan Abdul Samad’s eulogy for Mughniyeh, in which he called the commander a “martyr.” Samad's words caused a wave of political and popular anger in Kuwait because it was seen as provoking Kuwaiti Sunnis. As a result, the parliamentary immunity enjoyed by Abdul Samad and others was lifted, and they faced trial on July 23, 2008, on charges of destabilizing the country. Charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence.