Urgent Need for Addressing Doctrinal EducationSearch for al-Houthi Continues [Archives:2004/763/Front Page]

August 12 2004

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Despite the official announcement of the government on August 6th, the major military offensive against anti-US dissident cleric Hussein al-Houthi, in Sa'ada is still going on, local sources told Yemen Times.
The sources said that the house-to-house search for al-Houthi and his main assistants using warplanes and artillery are faced by resisting pockets as supporters of al-Houthi scattered in ten mountainous villages of the Jabal Mran wherein al-Houthi is believed to hide. Military sources said that tens of soldiers have been killed in the guerrilla fight inside the villages: Ratabah, al-Akeef, All Misbah, All Omali, al-Kaza'a, al-Daos, Malha, All Amer, and Shaeeb Salman. There are conflicting reports on the fate of the man which is still unknown; while sources close to al-Houthi expected that the man and his main supporters might have escaped outside Sa'ada, military sources dismissed this and said they are still hiding inside one of the rugged villages. Government troops intensified their search for the man.
On Friday, chief of staff Brigadier General Mohammad al-Qassimi vowed the army would soon end the rebellion and catch the outlawed preacher who was fighting government troops since June 18th.
However, the military operations against the rebels in areas of al-Ruzamat, al-Shafia'a, and Nihm led by Abdullah al-Ruzami are fierce, as the military forces used warplanes in shelling these areas.
The military earlier gave al-Ruzami, the second man after al-Houthi in running al-Shabab al-Mumen (Faithful Youth) militant group, an ultimatum to give up.
Even some tribal Sheikhs tried to conduct mediation between the two sides. However, all efforts have failed as al-Ruzami is insistent on fighting until the end. Tens of people have been reported to be killed in the recent confrontations.
Tens of soldiers are brought to Sana'a hospitals on a daily basis. President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed on Monday to press on with an offensive to crush a revolt as the army's losses continued to mount.
“Confronting this stray group … is a patriotic and religious duty,” Saleh said in an interview with the UAE-based newspaper Al-Khaleej. Saleh said that the rebellion which is violating the constitution and led by radicals associated with foreign parties is “doomed to fail.”
The onslaught which was more or less halted for a week resumed after the failure of efforts to broker the surrender of Hawthi and his estimated 3,000 armed supporters.
The latest mediation effort was carried out by a group of ministers, opposition leaders, clerics and tribal chiefs. However, the broker committee set by president Saleh was divided in its view of the clashes in Sa'ada. Some members of the committee accused military elements of undermining efforts to sort out the crisis peacefully. Some of them said they were not given enough time to reach a peaceful solution with al-Houthi. The broker committee whose members met Saleh last Friday was expected to release a report on the events in Sa'ada but reliable sources told Yemen Times that efforts have been exerted to undermine the release of the report and that the committee will present its report only to the president Saleh.
The clashes between the army and Hawthi's supporters have left a total of nearly 400 people dead. The full toll could be higher as the army has given few details of its own losses.
The Yemeni authorities accused al-Houthi of fomenting sectarian strife in the country through his militant organization the Faithful Youth, and getting foreign support to reach this goal. But, the man has denied such allegations and said that the conflict with the authority was a result of his anti-US stand. During the main weekly prayers each Friday, Hawthi followers chant slogans against Israel and the United States and call for a boycott of American goods. A reward of about $55,000 has been offered for his capture.
Consequence of Doctrinal Education
The most important consequence of the Sa'ada fight is that it has raised concern that religious doctrinal schools threaten the future of this country plagued with poverty and tribalism.
The cabinet decided in its meeting June 29th to shut down such schools operating without license. The cabinet said in its statement “due to the connection between extremism, militancy and certain curricular that promote deviant and alien ideologies he cabinet has issued orders for the immediate closure of all schools so as to realize moderation in Islam, preserve national unity, and to increase security and stability.” Some of these schools are being supported by the government like al-Houthi. The government plan was to stop funding these schools which will bring about their closure, and for the others which are being financed by people in Yemen or from abroad, the government will close them down. However, Saleh said in a meeting with security later that these “religious schools will not be closed down but they will be working according to the education law and their work would be organized so they can operate after completion of secondary schooling and under monitoring of the ministry of education.” This shows there is a lack of coordination at the power center over such a headache. The stupidity of the ruling regime lies in the fact that it tries to use such schools and religious sects against each other. In the beginning it supported the Salafia and Muslim brotherhood against the socialist party. Then, it supported al-Houthi against the fanatic Salafia. The consequence was the bloody killings of Sa'ada. Now, the political regime is flirting with the Sophists or mystics considering it as a group that presents a rosy and moderate picture of Islam. But, this is not in the interest of Yemen.
These schools teaching different doctrines in a society that is tribal, conservative and heavily armed can pose a potential threat if the government does not monitor and control. There must be control over all these schools including al-Eman University which has become a pain in the neck for Yemen. Even some voices in the Islah party have begun alarming the danger of this university which the US accuses of promoting extremism. Yemen really needs to address doctrinal teaching right now to avoid serious consequences.