SILVER LININGYemen clergy & public concerns neglect [Archives:2008/1136/Opinion]

March 10 2008

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi
During the last two weeks, Sana'a witnessed several protests against the Danish cartoons and the Israeli attacks against the Palestinians in Gaza Strip. It is fine that politicians and clerics mobilize the public towards such issues. However, what is strange is that outstanding clerics like Sheikh Abdulmajeed al-Zindani never appear to be critical to the oppressions their fellow people in Yemen are going through.

Let us take, for instance, the question of the al-Ja'ashin citizens who have been facing the oppression of their influential Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed Mansur for several months. They have been campaigning in Sana'a, waiting for a positive response to their plight. They have been let down by their government, by their representatives in the parliament from Ibb. Only some NGOs and some newspapers are trying to raise awareness about their problem.

I can understand the motives of the ruling party in mobilizing school students last week to take to the streets and protest the Israeli aggression in Gaza. The party wanted to divert the public attention from their real concerns which is the crazy price hike of bread and soak up any angry feelings that might be there for some time.

But, why do not our clerics at least voice concerns over the dramatically increasing hardships of the people? Why do not they state that corruption is a major headache that urgently needs to be addressed? They are hypocrites and always look for internal issues like the conflict with Israel or the Danish cartoons to lash out at. I am not saying they should not talk about such issues. However, they should at least with the same or even less zeal and emotion talk about the ordeals of their own people in Yemen. They should be the voice of the oppressed people and stand by them.

Our problem in most of the Muslim countries is that the coalition between the clergy and the regimes has succeeded in thwarting any substantial and effective role for the clergy and clerics in adopting the real concerns of the public. Religion is not all about God worship but, as these clerics argue, a way of life. If this is the case, why do not you focus in your preaching sermons about the problems of the people? These toothless clerics have, in agreement with the ruling regimes, played an instrumental role in stupefying the people by creating phantom foes. It is simply running away from our main concerns.

Our major enemy in Yemen is not Israel or the West. It is corruption and corrupt crooks eating up the resources of the country and the generations to come. Our focus should be how to overcome development challenges.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.