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Scholars of Yemen, What is This? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Despite all the problems the Arab countries are facing both internally and externally, many religious scholars, unfortunately, do not realize the danger of interfering in political affairs and do not really understand the consequences. The clearest example of this is the recent statement issued by 150 religious scholars in Yemen – a statement that can only be described as one that is capitalizing on the difficult phase that Yemen is going through.

On one hand the statement by the religious scholars was vague and could be interpreted in different ways. On the other hand however, it was very clear in expressing the scholars’ desire to take control of political affairs in Yemen, as the statement outlawed agreements and security and military cooperation with “any external party that contradicts Islamic Shariah and harms the country’s interests.”

This is odd. Should the Yemeni government sever its ties with the international community or does the statement seek to provide a cover for the Al Qaeda organization? Where do the scholars stand on the separatists? What is their stand on the Houthis? What is their stand on the ignorance that is widespread in Yemen, which used to be known as “Happy Yemen?” Where do they stand on poverty, as they warn people against harming “the country’s interests?” They even warned against the London Conference despite that Yemen is facing an endless list of problems and is in dire need of aid.

The intention here is not to offend or vilify the scholars of Yemen; but the question here is what is the difference between what the Yemeni scholars are saying today and what the Taliban under Mullah Omar said when it defended Osama Bin Laden and subjected Afghanistan and its people to more war and destruction? Isn’t it more beneficial to keep the country and the nation safe from harm?

It is very strange indeed for 150 scholars to issue a statement calling for Jihad against those who cooperate or who interfere in security matters in Yemen despite that the Americans said that they do not have any intention to send forces to Yemen. The statement also disregards and marginalizes the Yemeni government at a time when the Al Qaeda organization is dividing Yemeni governorates into Wilayas [provinces] and appointing Emirs [rulers] as if Yemen is a failed state. Moreover, Al Qaeda has begun to terrorize people and impose certain behavior in some Yemeni governorates, not to mention threatening schools in the exact same way as the Taliban, which set fire to schools and female students and teachers, in addition to establishing training camps and setting up accommodation for terrorists!

What must be said is that the statement issued by the Yemeni scholars does not pose a threat to Yemen alone but also to regional security, as it is a cover for Al Qaeda and further complicates matters in Yemen. We should not remain silent about this or play down its dangers. It is a matter that reflects political ignorance and detachment from reality and this is putting it nicely. The issue that we must make clear is that Yemen is in desperate need of an urgent and pure political initiative and treatment. If the problem of Yemen impacts Yemen alone then we could say that this is its own internal issue. However, what is happening in Yemen – in particular the increasing complexity of internal matters – requires efforts and a solid position to be taken quickly in order for us to help Yemen and ourselves, as the Yemeni threat has started to affect us all.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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