Yemen Is Leading The Way.. [Archives:2001/09/Focus]

February 26 2001

By Dr. Ali Hassan Alyami
Berkeley, California – USA
I am writing as a mindful reader of Yemen Times and an admirer of its staff for their courageous resolve, under less than convenient circumstances, to challenge and expose questionable practices by political, religious and tribal groups in Yemen and beyond.
In addition, I am a native of the Arabian Peninsula who has a keen interest in the democratic evolution of Yemen and its implications for the surrounding, ultra conservative neighboring states. Yemen Times’ existence and ability to stay open in a region where political expression is not allowed to bear fruit is indicative of the Yemeni people and government’s confidence in themselves and in their heritage.
I have read many excellent articles in Yemen Times, but none seemed to have moved me into writing more than the one that was written about a Yemeni non-Muslim citizen, Azar Al-Nahri, issue six.
Mr. Al-Nahri is a Yemeni Jew, who was unable to run for an office, In Amran, because “the election laws” do not permit non-Yemeni Muslims to participate in their nation’s political process. As a Muslim who is a citizen of a non-Muslim country, I couldn’t help but reflect on the differences between nations that treat religions as personal and those that don’t. Nations and peoples who respect and tolerate the individual’s right to choose have always prospered and coexisted in a much more peaceful environment than those who make it their business to impose their religious and political will on others.
Mr. Al-Nahri’s story is a vivid testimony as to the use of Islam as a deadly weapon to discriminate against and deny non-Muslim citizens their right to contribute to their societies in Arab and Muslim countries. Such pretentious practice is also used against women, children and other minorities in Arab and Muslim countries. This is odd, because Muslims are always complaining unceasingly and profusely about non-Muslim criticism of such religious intolerance.
When Mr. Al-Nahri was asked about what he was going to do if the election laws were not changed in time for him to run for an office: He replied, “…If I am not allowed to be a candidate, we will still be voting for the best person of our brother Muslim Arabs.” He went on to say, “After all, religion is for Allah, but the country is for all Yemenis.” Amen. One can only hope that the Yemenis will change their election laws to pave the way for all Yemenis to participate fully in the political process, regardless of their religion, gender or status.
Having said the above, one can’t deny the fact that Yemen, with its meager income, centuries of isolation, high degree of illiteracy and impenetrable tribal traditions, has come a long way since its 1962 revolution. Yemen is more advanced politically than all of its wealthy neighbors. This reality makes Yemen and the Yemenis the envy of the citizens of their neighboring countries. That’s why the ultra conservative and autocratic regimes of the rich Gulf States feel threatened, therefore, will do what ever they can to torpedo the Yemeni precarious democratic process. This is because the populations of the rest of the Arabian Peninsula are yearning for freedom of expression and for full political, economic and social participation in decisions that affect their daily lives.
Democratization is a global movement that can’t be stopped even be the harsh application of swords. There is no going back on this trend because people, world wide, are discovering that their human and Divine rights will not be respected without their full participation in choosing the form of governments that will abide by the same laws and conducts that are being applied to the governed.
Yemen is going in the right direction, consequently, the long term benefits will outweigh all of the short term sacrifices the Yemenis are making to secure the continuation of their democratic process.