In defense of the righteous [Archives:2005/851/Opinion]

June 16 2005

By Dr. Abdullah Al-Faqih
[email protected]

I was astonished by the article written by Mr. Yahya Al-Olfi in issue number 846 of the Yemen Times. While I have had trouble with some materials published in the paper before but did not bother to respond, Olfi's piece left me with no option but to react. Let me be honest with you Yemen Times and tell you a paper which publishes such an article is not the kind of paper the founder, Dr. Al-Saqqaf, would have been proud off. Nor it is the kind of paper that can advance the causes of human rights and democracy in Yemen.

An intelligent reader can not afford but to notice the contradictory messages the paper sent in issue no 846. In its front page, a good portion was devoted to denouncing the heinous slandering of two courageous journalists, Rahma Hujairah and Hafid al-Bukari. In page 11, the paper allowed a little known dogmatist with the name of Yahya al-Olfi to write some very divisive and slanderous comments, and to make some serious unsubstantiated accusations not only against those labeled as Houthists but also against the whole minority group they belong to.

Olfi's funny style writing and his attempt to throw dust in the reader's eyes so that he or she can not see the cheat in the game of cards mixing did not work at all. And Olfi was caught playing a monkey's monk, a role he accuses others but not himself of playing.

No matter how one reads Olfi's column, conclusions reached look alike. He justifies and calls for a genocide against 10 percent of Yemen's population because they are, from his standpoint, of “persian stock,” and because they disproportionately “control 80 percent of Yemen's fertile land and capital.” They do not deserve to be defended by Jane Novak because “they are like chameleons, ungrateful like cats, and sinister like vipers..” Olfi's call for a genocide against the group did not save even someone like Ibrahim Alwazeer who has left Yemen altogether and chose to reside in the USA. Olfi did not tell us what was Alwazeer's sin to deserve the same fate as other Houthisits except that they all belong to the same creed. They are all “the rulers, the opposition, and the clergy.” “They” the writer adds “are still complaining of being oppressed while they are the oppressors.”

There is a fine line between expressing one's opinion on one side, and inciting communal violence and strive, on the other. Mr. Olfi's prejudiced, derogatory, and disingenuous comments about and accusations towards a whole minority group in Yemen cross that fine line separating one's right to free speech, and others' right to life, liberty, integrity, and self-fulfillment.

Olfi's claim that he did not take sides with parties to the conflict is deceptive because it is apparent that he takes sides, the wrong ones indeed. The scariest part of Olfi's call for vengeance is that it is something Olfi did not invent. He was just a docile student that memorized everything he was told by his patrons. The writer's thoughts which are now intensely propagated by state media in Yemen begs the question of whether state actions in the northern part of the country had been motivated by such a racist, emotional, and vengeful attitude. If that is the case, one can say then that Olfi, in the course of condemning Jane Novak for defending the basic rights of innocent Yemenis, has made her case stronger.