Aden imams blast co-education and student exchange program [Archives:2008/1183/Local News]

August 21 2008

ADEN, Aug. 20 ) Several mosque imams in Aden have issued a fatwa banning coeducation at the American Language Institute in Aden under the pretext that “the institute pollutes students' minds, spoils their innate nature and moves them away from Islam.”

According to Al-Arabia web site, the religious leaders accuse the institute of carrying out a plan to compel youths to embrace Christianity and become apostates of Islam. “The result of this plan is obvious because it spoils future Muslim generations,” Al-Arabia quoted from the imams' press release.

The imams' fatwa came after the Aden branch of America-Mideast Educational and Training Services, known as AMIDEAST, sent a group of students to the U.S. as a part of its exchange program run by the U.S. State Department, known as the Youth Exchange Student (YES) program, which seeks to change the perceptions of both Yemenis and Americans.

Numerous religious leaders in Aden governorate, including Mohammed Abdurrab Jabir, a leading figure within the Islah Party, Mohammed Bazara'a, imam of Azzam Mosque, Ahmred Bij Othman, imam of the Grand Mosque in Al-Beraiqah district, and Mohammed Saleh Rajab, imam of Al-Nur Mosque in Sheikh Othman district, said in a press release that the institute attracts smart, school-aged students and grants them a place to study at the coeducational institute for one year.

“Whoever copes with the institute's policies is considered to be among the top [students],” the imams' press release stated, “The institute then sends the selected students to study in the U.S., where male students live alone with female students with American families for a year. During this time, the students receive ill training, away from Islamic Sharia [law].”

The release added that the imams advise both the teachers and parents of these students to “fear Allah in this regard and abide by Islam. Our advice to the parents of these students is not to throw their children where they will perish morally.”

They further suggested that, “The Yemeni government shouldn't allow students to travel to the U.S., lest they may not keep to Yemeni traditions and culture, which are taken from Islam.”

They further called on Yemeni families to stay away from whatever incurs Allah's wrath and stick to what pleases God.

They also called families to “fight those Christianization organizations prevailing in Yemen under the pretext of doing charity for the government and Muslims.”

Sixteen-year-old Mutaz Alawi, who was part of the YES student exchange program, recently returned from spending 11 months with an American host family in the U.S. and studying at an American high school.

“I've heard that many imams have criticized us (the returning students), saying that we came back with new Western attitudes and became Christians,” he said, condemning such statements.

“This experience taught me a lot. It expanded my knowledge, made me more confident and patient and more acceptable to listen and respect others' views,” he added.

Alawi says he lived with a family that respected him as a Muslim and never imposed their society's culture or rules on him, stressing emphatically, “I was never forced to do anything I didn't want to do.”

Although it's not the first time the American institute has sent students to the U.S., Alawi assumes it may be the previous delegation, which consisted of some 20 students, many of them females, attracted the religious leaders' attentiondue to media coverage.

Founded in 1951, AMIDEAST is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. It has 20 field and project offices in 12 countries: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank/Gaza, Cyprus and Yemen.