Education reform to fight militants [Archives:2004/752/Local News]

July 5 2004

By Peter Willems
The Yemeni government announced last Tuesday that it will reform the education system and close unlicensed schools that might incite extremism to help continue its fight against Muslim militants.
“The cabinet decided to unify the curriculum of all institutions, including private institutions,” Minister of Education Abdusalam Al-Joufi told Yemen Times. “The institutions that are unlicensed will be closed.”
It is estimated that hundreds of religious schools operate in Yemen, and many of them are unlicensed. Some analysts believe that a number of the schools promote fundamentalism.
“Due to links between extremism and militancy and some curricula that promote deviant and alien ideologies he cabinet ordered the immediate closure of all schools and centers violating the education law,” said in a statement from the cabinet.
Closing unregistered schools is in line with Education Law No. 45, which was passed in 1992.
“The plan is to enforce the law passed in 1992,” said Al-Joufi. “When schools open in September, those without a license will not be allowed to operate.”
Al-Joufi added that to enforce the cabinet's decision “we will send inspectors from the Ministry of Education to make sure they follow the order.”
The decision by the cabinet came as the battle between government forces and a Shiite rebel group continued in the Saada region. The militant group is led by Hussein Al-Houthi, a Zaidi Shiite cleric known for founding a group, “The Believing Youth,” which is accused of carrying out violent protests against the United States and Israel at mosques.
It has been reported that the clash in the north has left over 60 people dead, including over a dozen soldiers.
According to the state news agency Saba, the program will focus on reforming religious education to enhance a moderate interpretation of Islam.
“This is within the government's plan to lead the Yemeni society to moderation and against terrorism and extremism,” said Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar, Head of The Dialogue Committee, an organization that works with Yemeni detainees suspected of being involved in militant groups. “It is very important to reform the curricula in education at every level because it will help bring Muslims together. Yemen will benefit from the schools after reforming education.”
The Yemeni government has been fighting militants since it joined the United States to fight terrorism soon after attacks on US soil on September 11, 2001. It has rounded up hundreds of suspects and captured a number of key members of Al-Qaeda, the international network believed to be behind the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The last major terrorist attack in Yemen was the bombing of the French tanker Limburg in 2002 off the coast near Mukalla. Fifteen people suspected of being involved in the attack on Limburg, plotting to assassinate US Ambassador Edmund Hall and attacks on Yemeni intelligence offices are now on trial in Sana'a.
It was reported in September 26, a state-run newspaper, that two suspects believed to be the masterminds of the bomb attack on the USS Cole in 2000 will go on trial this week. The bombing, which took place in the port of Aden, killed 17 American sailors.