Frustration Breeds Extremism [Archives:1998/32/Viewpoint]

August 10 1998

Today, most Yemenis are frustrated. If you talk just about to any one, you will see that they are down. Talk to a layman. Talk to a housewife. Talk to a student. Talk to a government employee. Talk to a merchant. Talk to a soldier or an officer. Talk to a minister. No matter who you talk to, you will sense immediately a feeling of being let down.
This pervasive mood is dangerous. It is like a powder box, waiting to blow off. The mood leads to extremism and fatalism, mostly, religion-based. Already one can see signals coming from various corners of the country.
Consider the following:
1) Young Men and Women Go Back to Old Ways:
There are bad omens coming from many regions, especially Aden, Taiz, Lahej, Hodeidah and Ibb – the most densely populated parts of the country and together accounting for more than 60% of the total number of Yemenis. These omens show that young men and women are becoming fatalistic and extremist. The phenomenon includes quite a number of educated people who because they are unable to make in life with their certificates, fall back on simplistic solutions.
2) Anger at Foreigners:
An increasing number of frustrated Yemenis are beginning to blame foreigners for their misfortunes. In other words, the problems have made Yemenis more and more xenophobic. This dangerous development could soon lead to violence against foreigners, notably Euro-Americans and/or Christians, who they see as partly responsible for the local and regional complications and hardships facing Arabs and Muslims.
3) Fighting Over Mosques:
The fight over who gets the chance to brain-wash the general public has taken new violent twists. Over the last month alone, there have been eight incidents of murder, based on rival claims to lead the mosques. The agitations are expected to grow into open gang warfare as each sect and claimant unleashes his followers against the others.
4) More Dogmatic Public:
Yemenis are tradition-oriented people, but they were never dogmatic zealots. Today, their frustrations are making them more dogmatic. While technically puritanical religion is not necessarily a bad thing, if it leads to less tolerance and more fanaticism, it is going to be problematic.
5) Anti-Modernist Sentiments:
Since the government is blamed for the hardships, and as government is represented by so-called modernists, the general public has increasingly become anti-modernist. This quite dangerous development is further justified by rampant corruption among the bureaucrats. Even more dangerous is the conclusion of a rising number of Yemenis that the present system headed by these modernists needs to be changed, even if through violent ways.
It is important that the regime gives the majority of Yemenis a stake in its fortunes. If people have nothing to fear for in the system, they will not be inclined to defend it against any on-slaught. It is important that all Yemenis should feel that they have a stake in the system; otherwise they won’t identify with it.
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher