Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs to YT: “Fanaticism is not Unique to Islam” [Archives:2001/41/Interview]

October 8 2001

The latest terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have put the whole world on alert. Rapid changes are observed everywhere. To know about Yemen’s position in relation to such changes, Mohammed b. Sallam met with Mr. Abdullah al-Saidi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and conducted the following interview:
Q: The attacks on New York and Washington have created an unexpected worldwide crisis. What do you think this will lead the world to?
A: Obviously the events that took place in both Washington and New York are disastrous, a catastrophe that shocked the whole world.
Of course, international relations have, in general, been affected. And perhaps these inhumane events are going to reshape the conduct of some aspects of international relations. There is no doubt about that. There will be some ramifications of this event on the world in general, and the Arab and Islamic world in particular.
There is an unjustified campaign to identify both the Arab and Islamic world with fanaticism. We think that this is not justified. But the deed was done, and it is a horrible one.
Q: Muslims and Arabs think they are the target of the anti-terrorism campaign organized by the US. What is Yemen’s position in this regard? Does Yemen have a clear definition of terrorism or does it agree with the ambiguous definition given by the US?
A: I don’t think that the Arabs and Muslims are all officially targeted by the Western and US governments. They are not targeting Islam. What is understood from their arguments is that the target is the fanatics, and these are not unique to Islam. There are Christian, Jewish and other fanatics. Fanaticism is not unique to one particular religion. It is something that you can find anywhere. In the United States, you have people who attacked the the Oklahoma federal building who were Christians, but nobody said that they were Christian terrorists. Therefore, fanaticism is not unique to Islam.
Yemen condemns terrorism and we work with others for its eradication. Terrorism is the targeting of civilians and the senseless killing of people, like what happened in the World Trade Center in New York and in Washington. This is pure terrorism which one should condemn. Having said that, we argue on the basis of international law and United Nations resolutions which give people the right of self-determination. We argue that oppressed people should not be characterized as terrorists. This is a distinction that Yemen makes between terrorism and the legitimate right of oppressed people, like the Palestinians, to resist oppression and to seek the freedom of their homeland.
Q: Why did Yemen send Dr. Al-Iryani to the US immediately after the attacks? Does this reflect Yemen’s fear of being in the list of countries harboring terrorism?
A: Dr. Al-Iryani went to Washington in the spirit of good cooperation between the two countries. He was sent by His Excellency the President to convey his condolences to the American leadership on this sad occasion, and to assure the American leadership that Yemen would work together with the international community to combat terrorism. But Yemen also has a standing position with respect to the right of people to resist occupation, like what is happening now in Palestine.
Yemen is not afraid of the United States adding Yemen to the terrorism list. Yemen is not on this list. It is quite the opposite; aside from some irresponsible voices here and there, American officials always articulate a position that Yemen is a partner in this fight and that Yemen is a friend of US and the West. We have no fear of Yemen being included in this infamous list. There is no such thing.
Q: What kind of facilities will Yemen provide for the US in its campaign?
A: Nobody has asked Yemen to provide facilities. Yemen will not participate in all of the fight against terrorism, but we working in tandem with the Americans. We do not expect Yemen to take part in the military operations. They don’t need us. They have other bases which are close to where they want to go.
Q: It is rumored that some fundamentalists have been arrested. Is this true?
A: I think it may be advisable if you talk to the Minister of Interior about this. He has more information on this subject.
Q: What were the results of the visit of the Eritrean delegation? How will the pending problems between Yemen and Eritrea be solved?
A: The results were good. There are some different interpretations as to what traditional fishing is in their and in our point of view. But in the spirit of cooperation, the matter will be referred to the political leadership.
Q: What is Yemen’s stance towards what is going on in Palestine?
A: We are supporting the Palestinians’ right to fight to get rid of occupation and oppression. When we do this, we are conscious that this is consistent with the principles of international laws and the United Nations resolution pertaining to the right of people of self-determination.