An embarrassment to YemenWho will fight Qat’s terror? [Archives:2005/824/Opinion]

March 14 2005

By Rajjil al Nour
[email protected]
For The Yemen Times

The use of Qat continues to be pervasive in Yemen, and I know I'm not the first to say how harmful it is.

It's wasting important resources, one being water – an irreplaceable commodity. Secondly, it steals household resources available for children. A great percentage of money is used daily on Qat. Thirdly, time is wasted during the many hours chewing and discussing dreams that only can be achieved through serious discipline and hard work. Fourthly, “Qat chews”, disrupt family life, not only financially and educationally, but also in destroying bonding within families. Who else will teach your children that they are loved and that Allah provides for them? When these valuable concepts are not correctly passed on to children, the next generation is weakened, stagnant, and unfulfilled; this next generation is one of the most precious resources to lose.

The availability of Qat leads to many questions. Who is going to answer? It seems to me that Qat steals life from everyone who uses it, and everyone around them. Even though I have been assured that Qat is not addictive medically, it seems to be medicating a whole population from their problems. Why does it command a better selling price than healthy fruits and vegetables? Will farmers be encouraged to grow crops that bring in less money? Why is Qat allowed by the government in this country? A democracy based in freedom does not allow anyone to do whatever they want at the cost of someone else. Yet, this government allows the public usage of something that handicaps this country. Does Qat serve a purpose so that people don't do anything with their concerns about reform? Does the usage of Qat enhance this nation or tear it down? Those who might care about this problem are probably too influenced by Qat to do anything about it.

The disruption that Qat causes is seen in every day life here in Yemen. There are many tedious arrangements done to keep this pervasive and sinister evil alive and well. From something as practical as covering the plants with fabric so it isn't sun-burned, to traffic jams around a Qat market holding up hundreds of others from passing. Children's feet are burnt and hurt by the ground and pavement, but shoes for those same children may not be bought because buying Qat was considered a more important use of money. The same suqs that were established for the welfare of the people are now mixed with the selling of Qat. It doesn't make sense. It is causing more and more people to have illnesses, lack of nutrition (due to a suppressed appetite), and various mood swings that leave the wife and children out of the father's lives.

Is there no healthy (AhIybb) shame in this culture? The use of Qat is (AhIybb) a shame. Yemenis pride themselves on not being like those Westerners who drink that mind-altering alcohol; yet Qat is mind-altering, so it might be compared to drinking alcohol. It shames this nation, and allows people who visit here to believe that Yemenis are lazy, sluggardly, and strongly obsessed. Even the money spent on special Qat rooms high on the top of our largest buildings makes me wonder what Yemenis revere more, Qat or Allah? Which one gets more time spent on it? This is definitely a curse and a partial explanation for why this country and its people suffer.

Doesn't this curse demand some serious rearrangement of thought and practice? Why has the government not gone on full scale alert against this insidious “terrorist” Qat? Is this practice by so many going to be the downfall of a culture that has so many possibilities to be a leader in the Arab world? It certainly doesn't create any assurances that Yemen is serious about planting its flag in the 21st century; when it is so busy planting more trees of Qat.

Doesn't Yemen want to be recognized as an inviting place to the peoples of the world, a place where tourism is expanding and pulling in revenues? How can anyone hope for this, if for the majority of people three to four hours every day is spent sitting around, dreaming, and discussing the latest misinformation? Qat will never help us to build an aggressive economy.

We need to be a distinctive, moral people; able to know wrong from right. Am I the only one out there seeing these abuses? I can't believe there are not more lifting up a lament unto Allah about the scourge of Qat. I am so bothered, I took the time state my opinion, as others are starting to do.

Who is going to answer these questions? More importantly, who will take responsibility to so something about it?