Yemen to close 4,000 religious schools [Archives:2005/815/Local News]

February 10 2005

News Agencies
The Yemeni government is set to close 4,000 religious schools allegedly run by “suspicious” organizations, an official has said.

According to a government school survey, some of the private schools are affiliated to scholars and political parties, said Yahia Al-Najjar, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Religious Endowments (Waqfs).

“It showed that many others were being supervised by foreign and local charities on suspicion of being funded by outsiders under the guise of beneficence,” Reuters quoted the official as having said.

The Yemeni government decided in 2004 to shut down non-governmental schools against a backdrop of bloody clashes between security forces and followers of rebel leader Hussein Badrudin Al-Houthi, who was killed along with dozens of his supporters in September.


Najjar said a close scrutiny of curricula taught in these schools showed they preached violence and ran the risk of destabilizing society.

“The curricula include books written by hardliners and extremists – including Hussein Al-Houthi ) who don't tolerate the other,” he said.

The official further said a large number of foreign teachers did unpaid work for these schools.

“This, in fact, raises many question marks and the government decided to take it into consideration.”

The would-be closure seems part of a broader government's policy aimed at cracking down on private religious education.

Minister of Education Abdel Salam Al-Jawfi vowed in October to shut down unofficial schools or place them under the government supervision.

In 2002, the government decided to oversee religious schools administratively and financially and merge their budgets into the ministry of education's finances.

Yemeni authorities had temporarily closed Al-Iman University in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and asked its president Sheikh Abdel Majid Al-Zandani to expel 500 foreign students in line with the counter-terror policies.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been cooperating closely with Washington's in its so-called global war on terror.

During a 2001 visit to the White House, he inked a security cooperation pact on tracking down Yemenis allegedly linked to Al-Qaeda.

Parliament Speaker Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmer has accused the US of using the “fighting terror” slogan as a thorn in the side of Arab and Islamic peoples.

Several Arab and Muslim countries have come under intense pressures from the Bush administration to change religious curricula viewed by Washington as stirring anti-American sentiments.