Islamic groups in Yemen under pressure [Archives:2004/767/Community]

August 26 2004

Hassan Al-Zaidi
As the Shiite sects consider themselves as the possible alternative to Wahabis by virtue of toleration, moderation and denunciation of bombings, Sa'ada events, ignited by Hussein Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi, have cast a shadow over their ongoing condition. The inclination of the government and the political leadership is now to tighten their grip over the Shiites. Actually the state has started reconsidering and recalculating ways of dealing with all these variously oriented sects.
In the past, since the start of tourist kidnap and murder tactics by Abu Hassan Al-Mihdhar's group, Yemeni authorities have been conducting wide-scale arrest operations of Wahabi-oriented Islamists from different Salafi religious centers. Since then, about 35,000 Islamists with different orientations, have left Yemen, according to statement by former minister of interior Hussein Mohammed Arab.
All Salafi centers and mosques, numbering roughly 70, are now under heavier surveillance than before, in order to identify the so-called extremist elements, as the statement said.
During this period, the Shiite current has been working hard to flourish and get support from the government to occupy the place of other sects. Yet, it did not reach its aim.
The Muslim Brotherhod (Ikhwan Muslimin) are unfortunate too. The Scientific Institutes they used to manage had a budget of YR 6 billion allotted by the Ministry of Education. However, the Sep 11th events have also reflected themselves in the situation here in Yemen. These institutes consequently have been converted into public schools, and the Muslim Brothers were presumed unable to educate extremist generations. They still possess Al-Eyman University and some other religious centers, but they are under continuous supervision.
Sa'ada events have brought about other effects, that is, the targeting and supervision of the Shiite sect which has started to increase in Yemen especially the Twelve-Imam Shiite. Also the state has begun to reconsider the Zaidi sect which is prevalent in northern areas of the country, and politically represented by two parties, Al-Haq and Yemeni Public Forces. Some call for dissolving these two parties since they are based on a sectarian principle, though they are in the Higher Opposition Coordination Council.
It is perceived that whenever the government and a religious sect are not on good terms, other sects attempt to seize the opportunity, trying to come closer to the authority and present themselves as the best alternative to the government-opposing sect, and deserving of consideration and support.
Mysticism is now trying to sell itself as an alternative to the extremist Shiite for preaching at mosques and elsewhere. Ismailis, on the other hand, who are residing in Haraz, Sana'a and Jiblah are trying to look different from Al-Houthi and Twelve-Imam Shiite. They have denounced Al-Houthi's actions in Sa'ada.
There remains Al-Hijra wa Al-Takfir group whose elements are being pursued for allegedly killing former Secretary of Sana'a Governorate Sheikh Al-Azzani.
Yemen has become teeming with contradictory religious sects and Islamic movements. This forebodes of danger, if sectarian strife flares. The authorities should therefore put rigorous restrictions to eliminate extremism, and sectarian fanaticism, whatever is their orientation.