After denouncing the Sa’ada campaign and calling it unjust:Sana’a mosque preachers arrested [Archives:2004/751/Front Page]

July 1 2004

Reliable sources told Yemen Times that the government has launched a campaign to arrest any sermon preachers who speak out against Israel or the American occupation of Iraq, or for speaking out against the government in general.

Arrest in Rawdha
The people of Rawdha, a suburb of Sana'a 5 km to the north and midway to the airport were surprised to learn that the Friday sermon preacher at the Grand Mosque in Rawdha has been arrested for speaking out against the large military campaign against Hussein Badr Al-Din al-Hothi. Mohammed Miftah, a vocal advocate of human rights and anti-corruption issues, as well as a strong campaigner for genuine Muslem causes, was said to have given a strong sermon denouncing the use of heavy force to apprehend al-Hothi and his followers in Sa'ada, in which many civilians have been killed needlessly.
The speaker was urging the government not to be deceived by those who exaggerate the claims against al-Hothi and his followers. He said that the real reason for the campaign against al-Hothi and his followers is that they were vocal in their outrage at what is happening to their brethren in Palestine and Iraq. The people of Rawdha contend that Mr. Miftah was also strongly opposed to terrorism and is not in any way affiliated with any organization that has any violent inclinations.
The Grand Mosque in Rawdha has been the platform from which Mr. Miftah has been delivering his sermons for almost ten years and the 400 year old mosque is always packed on Fridays (capacity about 4000), because of the popularity of Mr. Miftah's sermons.
Mr. Miftah has never called for any violence against the government and has always preached restraint and non-violent means of protest, and has secured the approval of the government for any protest marches he has participated in. The people of Rawdha and the many people from outside of Rawdha who come to hear him speak urge the Government to release Mr. Miftah, since he is a strong critic of those movements that advocate terrorism and misconceptions of Islam.
They are worried also that the public will interpret the arrest of Mr. Miftah as bowing to American pressure to arrest all those who speak against Israel and the United States and fear that the arrest of Mr. Miftah is a warning to all preachers who speak out against the United States or Israel. They are also surprised that the government has done very little against preachers who are known for their extremist renditions of Islam and who were very active in supporting and preaching their dogmatic inclinations and the call for violent jihad.

Ishaq Mosque preacher in custody
At least one further arrest of a well-respected religious preacher and scholar took place last week. The sermon preacher of Ishaq Mosque, Abdullah Mohammed Qati' was the second to be arrested for similar reasons. Locals in the neighborhood of the mosque said that they were outraged and surprised at the arrest which for them signals an infringement of human rights and a violation of public freedoms.

Arrests not helpful
People are also worried that such arrests signal a retraction in the government's approach towards democratic rule and are aimed to clamp down on any outspoken speakers calling for government reforms and policies that coincide with the nationalist and religious sympathies of the people.
In fact, many people see the arrest of Mr. Miftah and Mr. Qati' as proof that their initial guess was right and that it is possible that the real cause for the campaign against al-Hothi and his followers is their vocal anti-American and anti-Israeli attitude.
They argue that there is no unusual theme followed by Miftah and Qati' in their interpretations of Islamic dogma as they were well known for their adherence to moderate teachings of Islam.