Something Missing! [Archives:2001/36/Focus]

September 3 2001

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
“Splendid! Just splendid” said Arif as he looked down the steep drop on one of those hairpin turns on the Sumara, continuing, “we really have a beautiful country, and take it too much for granted”.
Munir wanted to take advantage of Arif’s amazement at the verdant surroundings around him: “You have not seen anything yet. We are only half way up the Sumara and when we get to the top, you will not have any more words to describe what your eyes are beholding””From what I have seen so far, I am impressed. It seems to me that we are not really exploiting all this magnificence that Yemen has been blessed with. I know now that Yemen is ripe for a lively tourist industry, but what is wrong with us, why do not we make some strides in tourism?” said Arif.
Munir commented: “Arif, why are we not making strides anywhere? Like any sector in the economy, tourism needs a multitude of factors that work together to induce people to come to our country to enjoy this fascinating view and the other tourist attractions that abound in Yemen. We cannot put up posters all around the travel agencies of the world and expect tourists to flood to Yemen, while the CNN is reporting kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen, or explosions occurring here and there, not to mention what all the other things that filter out of foreign embassies to their home offices about the security situation. On top of that, there are all the annoyances that tourists are going to find here and there, like all these checkpoints on the road and q’s and a’s that are exchanged between security personnel on the road and the motorcades of visitors to Yemen. We have a long way to go before developing a tourism culture in Yemen.”Arif was still confused: “The fact of the matter is that the number of tourists has dwindled down to a fraction of what it was in the Eighties. Although there are more tour operators and tourist facilities now, tourists are still reluctant to come”.
Munir did not take long to respond as he slowed down noticing that there was a careless driver coming at him on his side of the road, because the imbecile forgot the cardinal rule that you do not pass on a curve: “Tourists are human beings and they are not about to bring in their hard earned money here, with the possibility of being kidnapped or embezzled by sleazy tribesmen, especially if their governments have told them that going to Yemen is at their risk and is in fact undesirable at this time. The fact of the matter is that tourists want to be sure that they are here to relax and have a good time, not to have to write their will before leaving their countries.””Is it these fundamentalists then, that are scaring tourists?” asked Arif.
“My friend, Islam is a far more mature religion than to call on its worshippers to carry out assaults against unarmed visitors, who can become a source of livelihood for a lot of our idle manpower. Islam does not accept embezzlement either and there is no way that any kidnapper can claim to be serving Islam, if he is in fact carrying out deeds that we never heard the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), or any of his disciples carry out. It is really incomprehensible to me on what grounds these people are claiming to advocate the cause of Islam, when they know, or they should know that Islam could never condone their misdeeds. They are really a disservice to Islam and to this country.
There is something that really worries me about these so called fundamentalists, which is that they are really either ignorant of some very basic fundamentals of Islam, or else they are striving to project the wrong image of Islam, knowingly or unknowingly”.
“Then, you think it is not fundamentalists who are responsible for luring tourists away from Yemen?” asked Arif.
Munir said: “The fact of the matter is that for obvious reasons, people like these have found ripe grounds to just about do whatever they please, thanks to the general lawlessness that prevails in the country and because people like these misguided people are allowed to roam the country exploiting the strong sentiment of Yemenis to Islam and to propagate their misconceptions of Islam, and insist that they are the defenders of the faith, as if Islam in Yemen was threatened! On the other hand, there is no real institutionalized effort to counter these imported misconceptions of Islam and prevent these seemingly well organized efforts from distorting our values and beliefs.”
“But what would tourists do to Islam in Yemen?” asked Arif
“That is not the issue with these people” pointed our Munir, continuing “these are opportunists who thrive on circumstances in which there is a helpless government that is lacking in clear policy towards a lot of the issues facing the country. Most likely they are driven to such acts by the leaderships of such “fundamentalist” groups, who usually sit behind the scenes, enjoying their “social status”, while they let the grass roots do all the messy work for them, even if it entails suicide.
The Government may have some idea as to who is really behind all these acts, but for some political reason is unable to act firmly to ensure the prevalence of law and order, and thus encourages more lawlessness. Therefore, you will continue to have these opportunists continue to create havoc in the land because the Government is not yet vent on noticing that there is a serious problem in the country posed by a lot of unmonitored activity under different nomenclatures that threatens not only tourists coming to Yemen, but will soon threaten the peace and serenity of our own Moslem population of Yemen. As long as this closed eye attitude prevails in Government; there is no reason to expect that we can ever exploit the blessings of God on Yemen to produce a dignified livelihood for our people like tourism. Moreover, the future course of the country will be difficult to predict with so many informal forces allowed to operate in Yemen to serve the interests of their leaders and some other interests from outside Yemen, while there is no institutionalized effort that works against such imported mischief, either by the Government or the society itself, which, at large is not supportive of the beliefs or the deeds of these groups and on the whole finds them suspicious and a probable threat to our future. As for Islam, we all know that Yemenis are in tune to its true teachings and can not be attracted en masse to such misconceptions about Islam. The Government should note this well and will find much popular support to any efforts to contain these misguided opportunists, if it only shows its willingness to do so, that is all. Only then can Yemenis and foreigners enjoy the peace that will allow them to enjoy all the beauty of our land”.