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Politics disguised as religion
By Samar Qaed
Yemen Times
August 02, 2012


Coexistence and the values of sectarian tolerance differ between the Zaidi Shiite sect and the Sunni Muslims. Political speeches have been lined with doctrinal instructions as an attempt to spark off sectarian conflicts and disputes.

Wadhah Abdu Al-Bari Taher, a researcher at the Yemeni Center for Studies, said that many religious figures at all levels incite violence, hate and dogmatism.

“We are now in a very complicated phase due to bad curricula. If this problem is not seriously addressed, the situation heralds a genuine catastrophe.”

Doctrinal conflict is political at its core. Religion masks this conflict, according to Sharf Al-Deen Al-Murtadhi, the founder of Wahi Al-Thaqafi (The Educated Inspiration) Forum.

“The former regime took Salifism as a religious ideology; the Houthis embrace the religious Zaidi ideology. Thus, each political side has become glued to a particular religious orientation. Essentially, it is not a doctrinal conflict; it is political. The core of this conflict is religion or doctrine.”

Some think that Yemen has become a fertile ground for political and sectarian imbalances, with the absence of a strong state and an onslaught of political and doctrinal disputes.

Salman Al-Amari, a researcher with Islamic Movement Affairs, stated that this problem lies with the absence of constitutional law. He suggested all the conflicting parties and the civil society organizations must agree on the political and national identity of civil society organizations.

He added that some attempts have been made to fuel the conflict. Foreign forces attempt to nourish the disputes.

Doctrinal Conflicts

Many researchers agree that the six-year Houthi war has contributed to a stalemate towards peaceful change. Democracy was further weakened during the last years of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh`s reign.

This has served to boost support for the Houthis and Al-Qaeda; they are increasingly able to attract religious youth, living in an armed society teeming with illiteracy and poverty.

Yahyia Al-Dailami, sheikh and scholar, opined that people need to comprehend the doctrines and parties with which they are affiliated.

“The parties have to point out their fundamental intellectual ideologies. These parties are not supposed to enforce their doctrinal way; the living standards of people are to be cared for instead.”

For his part, Al-Murtdha Al-Mahtwari, a scholar, said the religious parties don`t serve God and Islam; they serve the party and seek wealth to be able to dominate.

He said what is occurring is due to worldly conflicts which have nothing to do with religion at all.

“When you tell them `God says`, people respond with `the party said` or `the sheikh did`.”

Al-Mahtwari called for readers to not to believe preachers who shed crocodile tears. These preachers intend only to raise funds or invite people to elect a particular person and attack another one. They are selfinterested, leaving Yemen divided, said Al-Mahtwari.

On many occasions the religious fatwa in Yemen was manipulated for political purposes as seen in 1994 and the six Sa`ada wars which ensued from doctrinal sensitivity. Each person is adherent to his viewpoint thinking that defending the doctrine is the way to survive.

Khalid Al-Madani, an activist of Al-Somoud Youth Movement, said that there must be particular fixed ideologies in the partisan doctrinal work which nobody is allowed to contravene; a fatwa shouldn`t be used to the advantage of politics so that doctrinal conflicts are not instigated.

He went on to note the abuse of religion in the past few years; there must be devoutness and piety in those who issue fatwas because they can trigger deaths and polarization within the country.

Coexistence is possible

However, there are fewer doctrinal arguments in Yemen than in other Islamic countries.

Mohammed Azzan, an Islamic researcher, said that most of the Sunni doctrine is taken from Shaafa`i trend, while most of the Shiite belief is taken from Zaidi trend. There were no disagreements between these doctrines. Each sect accepted each other`s beliefs which enabled them to live together and perform their prayers in the same place.

Azzan pointed out that the problems in Yemen worsened because of political, regional and international influences which found a way to achieve their aims doctrinally.

Therefore they worked on heightening the conflict and weakened the mutual understanding that was found before. Furthermore, they raised historical disagreements, which are of a political nature, connected them to religion and creeds and used media to facilitate that.

“After that, the Wahhabi trend infiltrated into the Sunni society and the Twelve trend, Imami Shiite Islam, infiltrated into the Zaidi society. Yemenis started to undergo either trend,” Azzan said.

“With passage of time, doctrines became a mix of religion and politics. They became military camps where followers of each trend gathered to fight followers of another. This indicates that doctrines in Yemen are victims of partisan policy and regional interests,” he added.

The idea of coexistence is related to the dynamics of power, according to Saeed Jaber, an Islamic researcher.

Jaber said that “the fight is only to gain authority. So if this problem is solved, I think, many doctrinal disputes will be settled too because many political disagreements hide behind doctrine and religion.”

Jaber added that the state must be impartial. It is supposed to have no relation with any doctrine and let people follow the doctrine they want.

Separating politics from doctrines

Researchers believe that there are political conflicts and doctrinal conflicts; some parties try to mix them and direct this conflict to a political-doctrinal conflict.

“The problem, in my opinion, isn`t because the political-doctrinal conflict in Yemen has its roots solely in local issues. It is important to understand the context of international and regional interests, as it is connected to what is going on in neighboring countries. The issues are not separate.”

Jaber added that the solution is to separate doctrine from the state because unlike political issues, the religious issues are agreed upon.

“The legislative issues are passed by majority in the parliament. Therefore, there is no separation between religion and state but between the state and different doctrinal sects,” he added.

A unified Islamic base

Researchers agree that one of the solutions to overcome the doctrinal conflict is to agree upon a particular political-Islamic methodology to be the base of ruling, agreed upon by all people. Another solution is fully to separate religion from state so that the political conflict cannot involve religion.

Al-Ammari said that if the state`s presence is reasserted, Yemenis will be able to live together and stop the fighting amoung each other.

“I`m worried that the situation will deteriorate further and doctrinal clashes that have no end will break out due to absence of the state” Al-Ammari added.

Abdullah Sa`tar, head of the Social Department of the Islah party, said that it will better for all doctrines to reach common ground.

“It is not possible for any party in a modern state to insist on its opinions; we need to discuss issues to reach agreement,” he added.

Sa`tar explained that doctrines did not exist at the time of Prophet Mohammed, but today many sects and disagreements have emerged. Therefore, it is not suitable to direct the youth towards them.

Doctrinal education

Jaber asserted that it is responsibility of the state to monitor religious education so that children won`t become victim to extremist groups.

Jaber pointed out that Al-Qaeda mainly attracts ignorant and uneducated young men.

Mojeeb Al-Homaidi, an author and a researcher, said that what must be agreed upon is to resist coercion by any party and give freedom of thought for all doctrines.

“We have to encounter Islamic emirates and prevent them from imposing their doctrinal domination on the society by military and economic power. Everyone has the right to believe in whatever he wants but what is important is that he doesn`t force anyone to follow his beliefs,” Al-Homaidi added.

“I agree with what Hassan Hanafi, an Arab thinker, said: the reason behind emergence of religious groups is the absence of a strong state and popular policy. Therefore, it is normal that these groups will emerge because the regimes are weak.”

Yemeni Expert: Sunni-Shiite War in Yemen Based on Power Struggle, Not Religion
Yemen Times Online
Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Commentary by Ali Saeed: “Yemen`s Unreported Holy War - Or Hidden Hunger for Power?”

SANA`A, Oct. 1 -- There are several active armed conflicts in Yemen which are based on religious affiliations. However, the facts of these remain unknown to all - including Yemenis themselves - due to a total media blackout imposed on the war- torn areas and a lack of thorough investigations of affected populations.

The Yemen Times here presents some details for one model of this war which essentially broke out between two warring Muslim parties as a result of different interpretations of Islam based on different Islamic sects.

Sunni-Shiites war in Al-Jawf

War broke out five months ago between Houthi rebels - who are Shiite Muslims - and the locals of Al-Jawf governorate - themselves Sunni Muslims - 143 km northwest of the capital city of Sana`a.

Around 470 Houthis were killed and over 85 of Al-Jawf` s citizens lost their lives in this four-month-long war, Sheikh Arfj Bin Hadban, a local tribal leader in Al-Jawf, told the Yemen Times.

“This is a religious war. The tribesmen here had fought against the Houthis after they (Houthis) came to our land and attempted to impose their doctrine, which is Shiite, and no one in our area believed in it. This doctrine insults the wives of the prophet Mohamed PBUH and his companions and this is not permissible in our religion,” said Hadban.

BOTh sides have used a large variety of weapons during the bloody confrontations, an exception being use of planes, according to the tribal leader.

“All of the population here is heavily armed, and the Houthis are equipped with advanced weapons because they occupied some state- military camps during their fighting with the government`s army in the six rounds of war,” he said.

Two months ago, a local tribal mediation committee was able to bring about a truce between the two sides. According to a tribal leader who participated in the battles with the Houthis, the ceasefire was conditional on the Houthis withdrawing non-resident elements from Al-Jawf, as well as on a cessation of their disseminating religious ideas in the governorate.

Local sources state the the Houthis did indeed abide by the conditions, leading to a suspension of war since that point. But this truce may break at any moment amidst a lack of state control after opposition forces took over the governorate last April, in line with nationwide protests demanding an end to president Ali Abdullah Saleh`s 33-year rule.

“Nowadays there is an uneasy calm in the governorate and we think it is merely a break; if they attack us again, we will fight back,” said the tribal leader in Al-Jawf. “They have no land, nor inheritance or power in our area,”

The same opposition forces affiliated with the traditional opposition coalition known as the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) - which itself participated in fighting against the Houthi Shiites - were also involved in a four-month war against the Houthis, but not for religious purposes.

“The local Islah opposition members who are affiliated with the JMP have entered into open battles with the Houthis over the 115th Military Brigade (which was occupied by tribesmen opposed to the current regime) and other state buildings in the governorate,” said Bin Hadban “They (Houthis) said that they are present in the change squares, so they want their share in the military camp and other state facilities.”

“The Islah members who are in control of the governorate have refused the Houthis` demand and said that they will not hand over the camp and state facilities until a new regime is in place,” he added.

Paradoxically, the Houthis are united in peaceful protest with JMP members in the change squares against Saleh`s regime but at the same time engaged in war in areas where allies have taken control due to different religious backgrounds or interests.

Other tribal sources told the Yemen Times that a tribal negotiation committee suggested that the 115th Military Brigade, now opposition-held, be handed over to leading army defector Ali Mohsen`s First Armored Division?

“Now some military teams of the first armored division are being prepared to be sent to take over the camp,” according to a local source.

However, Dr. Ahmed Al-Daghashi, an expert on Islamic movements, said in an interview with the Yemen Times that “in general, what has been taking place between the Houthis and their rivals is not based on religion, but they (Houthis) use religion to extend their influence.”

“I think that the Houthis are moving on the basis of expanding their influence in an attempt to take over as much area as they can,” said Al-Daghashi.

He highlighted that the recent developments in Al-Jawf have revealed that “the Houthis were not serious when they used to say in the past that they were defending themselves.”

He explained that the Houthis used to speak about self-defense during their fighting against government forces, but after moving to Harf Sufyan of Amran governorate, some parts of Hajja and, recently, Al-Jawf, “this has clearly emphasized that they (Houthis) are working to take control of as much as possible of Yemen`s northern areas.”

“It is irrational that the Houthis fight violently against their current allies in the political work (Islahis) who are well-connected to one another during this revolution against Saleh. They attempted to prevent the Islahis from protecting state buildings in the governorate until handing them over to the coming regime when the revolution succeeds, according to the statements of the Islahis,” he said.

“And this is the thing the Houthis did not like which confirms that religion has nothing to do with what is going on,” he said “ They are not moved by the religion in their conflict either before the 2011 revolution or after it, but only power longing to rule Yemen.”

(Description of Source: Sanaa Yemen Times Online in English -- Website of independent twice-weekly, Yemen`s largest-circulation English-language newspaper; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Yemen: Salafi Leader Says `Separation of Politics and Religion` Contradicts Islam
Yemen Times Online
Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Interview with Abd-al-Wahab al-Humayqani, Secretary General of the Yemeni Al-Rashad Union Party, by Yemen Times correspondent Ahmad Dawud; place and date not given.

The Yemeni Rashad Union is the first Yemeni Salafi party. It was officially declared June 17 after a large Salafi conference in mid-March expressing their willingness to take part in Yemen`s politics.

Ahmed Dawood of the Yemen Times met Abdulwahab Al-Homaiqani, secretary-general of the Yemeni Rashad Union and conducted the following interview. It is widely acknowledged that Salafis are against any form of political action. However, you surprised a lot people by announcing the creation of the Yemeni Rashad Union, the first Salafi political party in Yemen. What is the aim of this party? Firstly, I want to emphasize that Salafis are not against political action. We believe that the separation of politics and religion is secularism, and this is against Islam.

We think that politics are an intrinsic part of the Islamic laws which permeate throughout all aspects of life. Islam has given us laws for everything, politics included.

Salafis isolated themselves from politics. As a result, they neither formed a political party nor participate in elections. However, to suggest that we boycotted political action is misinformed. We support some parties, criticize others; this is political action. Why did you choose this time to announce the union? In fact, several things happened both inside and outside Yemen , which forced the Salafis to reconsider their attitudes toward politics. For example, there are several different conceptions of what is meant by `democracy`. Some understand democracy as granting humans the prerogative to set laws; this is prohibited since Islam has given us laws for everything. Others understand it as the right to choose who will rule them as well as the right to remove or prosecute this person. Clearly, it was better to refuse both sides of democracy.

Now, though, Salafis have started to understand the real meaning of democracy. We believe that people have the right to choose or remove whosoever they want. What is the best way for people to choose their president? We support any method, on condition that it is impartial and free of cheating.

During the presidential elections in 2006, some Salafi clerks condemned the elections, claiming that it directly disobeyed the president.

We have to take all Salafis into consideration. Some Salafis still refuse to participate in political dealings. They believe that people must obey their ruler without condition; this is very strange. The teachings of Islam stipulate that people have to protest against unfair rulers. Why are you only concerned with Salafis? This isn`t true. The people who created the Yemeni Rashad Union are Salafi clerks, but that doesn`t necessarily mean that we only accept Salafis. The union is established for all Yemenis. Anyone can join us. We have our own principles, and whoever subscribes to them is welcome to join us. Does internal disagreement affect decisions made by the union? No. The union did hold its introductory meeting without 40 of the founding members, but they had various excuses. Only a few of the members were absent because they didn`t like the view of the union. The elections were transparent, held in front of all people, and with a special committee in attendance. So, it`s a mix between the promotion of Islamic principles and political action? Yes. When taking decisions, all members have to adhere to the rules of the union. Any member can participate and all are equal. But during studying, clerics have the right to decide.

Salafi clerics are new to the principle that all people are equal in rights and duties. In time, though, they will get used to it. Are you thinking of separating these two issues? At the time of establishing the union, there were different views. Some Salafis, including me, believed that the union must be a separated institution with special principles, members and systems. However, other Salafis believe that the union must be ru n by clerks.

The leaders of the union overcame this dispute, and now we have our own system. No one, outside of this system, is allowed to intervene. But we take advice from others even if they are opposed to us. Some people say that the union has failed from the start. What do you think? I disagree. The Yemeni Rashad Union is the only union, among the unions and political parties announced recently, that has a sizeable number of members and is present on the political scene.

Though the union is newly established, we are participating in the National Dialogue Conference. We met the Communication Committee and now we have many young members who depend on the union. Only five members have withdrawn from the union since its establishment so far. What do you think have been the benefits of the uprising in Yemen? It is without doubt that the revolution achieved several things. We can`t say that the youth who died were killed in vain. It is also wrong to suggest that its only success was the toppling of the resilient president.

Nowadays, we have a new president, and after two years, we will choose another one. This is the most important achievement of the revolution. What is your view regarding the Gulf Initiative and its implementation mechanism? I have said in several interviews previously that we believe the Gulf `Initiative` to be a conspiracy, not an initiative. We completely reject it because it served internal and external interests without paying attention to demands of the Yemenis. However, our rejection of the initiative doesn`t mean that we won`t deal with it. Do you agree with the Houthis that the Gulf Initiative is a conspiracy against the revolution? Why not? We have our own principles and will agree with whoever says the truth, be they Houthis or any other parties. What is your attitude toward Ansar Al-Sharia? We agree with Ansar Al-Sharia`s belief in the implementation of the Islamic Sharia laws. However, we and all Yemeni scholars disagree with their policies of killing soldiers, controlling areas and forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes. We also disagree with them because they didn`t listen to clerks.

We call upon them to participate in the National Dialogue Conference, put down arms and stop violence. Moreover, we call upon the state to start dialogue with them and choose a peaceful way in dealing with them, away from foreign interference. They have all the rights Yemenis have if they stopped violence and obeyed the state. Salafis are accused of looking down upon women. What do you think? This isn`t right. Salafis follow teachings of the Holy Qur`an and Sunna. Women have the same rights and duties of men but there are a few differences between them. These are specified in the Sharia and we adhere to them.

(Description of Source: Sanaa Yemen Times Online in English -- Website of independent twice-weekly, Yemen`s largest-circulation English-language newspaper; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.





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