HM: Do Houthis pose any dangers on Islam in Yemen?
HQ: Houthis do not pose any dangers on Islam if they call to Islam in their own way. However, Islam does not call for raising arms against the ruler, and this is forbidden. Their religious view might be narrow due to the fact that it appeared in a rural area which is totally away from urbanization.
HM: Is the state helping the Salafis against other doctrines?
HQ: The post-revolution and the post-unity constitutions stated establishing a democratic Yemeni society free from sectarianism and regionalism. It calls on social development based on Islamic basis. The state can never instigate one stream against another or one sect against another. The state in its own structure used to have Islamic Brotherhood Movement and we have the Sunni doctrine; e.g. Shaf’ee. No party was subdued against another. The appearance of Salafis and their closeness to the state and the facilitation provided by it have helped them to spread out. The state has used them to deal with the rising threats like that of Houthis. Salafis are the only party that backed the army forces despite the fact that other political forces abstained.
HM: Hostility between religious groups is very common nowadays, is state responsible for that?
HQ: Deepening the hostility among religious groups is autonomous as each group is trying to make its own religious viewpoint win over other group’s viewpoints. The state could exploit this to instigate one stream against the other, to weaken a certain stream or to curtail it. We find that Salafis have different aspects and they are against the Hadawis (attributed to Imam Al-Hadi Yahya bin Al-Hussein). Salafis who claim to be the people of Hadith should have not acted so. In fact, all Islamic doctrines are based on Hadith. The state sought to downscale a certain political phenomena with another phenomena but marked with a religious tint.
HM: As a university professor, is differences of religious affiliation existant among students as well?
HQ: As of 2000, I started to feel that a Shiite stream exists inside the university, specifically among the students of Arabic and Islamic studies. Students in other departments are not interested about religious affiliations. Perhaps, the curricula in Islamic and Arabic studies lead to discussions about sectarian influences. Thus, we find that some Hadawi doctrine followers call for distributing books among students. Teaching the Hadawi Zaidi doctrine is acceptable but fanaticism should not be there. There had been quarrels between male and female students over a book titled “For Allah and then for History” by Al-Mousawi and I noticed this.
HM: The government supported Houthis, Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood, Makaremah and Ismailis, is this a strength or weakness?
HQ: The government might be soft with some of these groups through allowing them to spread out or providing them with financial support; however, they have not realized that they weaken the state’s philosophy. It is supposed that the state must have a certain philosophy and vision for treating the social, religious, economic aspects of life and not to allow any social or religious phenomena which makes some faction defy the state. We want a comprehensive state for all Yemenis that contain people with their different political and religious affiliations. The state should not escalate the struggles and should not allow any religious struggles which weaken the society’s unity.
HM: Since when have the religious struggles existed in Yemen?
HQ: We cannot claim that there were no religious struggles. It has always been there and this is clear from the books of Hadawis and Shafa’ees and they were presented in answer and question forms. The differences turned to be political as to the 1970s.
HM: In Yemen’s history, is there any evidence of hostility between Zaidi and Shafa’ee doctrines?
HQ: There have been some hostilities and they are politically motivated, but they are not religious hostilities. When Imam Al-Qasem and his sons succeeded to power following the evacuation of Othmani forces, they put some juristic rules e.g. we have to invade some areas and annex them to their state like the southern areas which were ruled by Sultans. This happened during the 1920s under Imam Yahya who gave priority to Hadawi doctrine. He also encouraged followers of this doctrine to expand into other areas. By the mid of the 12th century and Under Imam Al-Mahdi bin Hasan, the number of people being killed in clashes in areas like Dhamar and Al-Baidha reached about 40,000.
HM: What is the best way for the government to deal with Houthis?
HQ: The best way is to convince them to resort to dialogue. They must be convinced that we are one society. One tribe might have its sons divided between Shafa’ee, Sunni, Salafi Hadawi and Zaidi. The state should tell them that the religion is the same and the mosque is for all. Further we do not have what is known to be Hawzat and the state used to choose the Mufti of Yemen. This was applicable under Imams too. The state should have a vision and policy as to the religious side.
HM: The Yemeni is brought up with weak patriotic and national weak national affiliation, why does the government neglect a highly sensitive issue?
HQ: Most Arab countries including Egypt, Syria, Jordan, etc. give prime importance to the national affiliation issue through education and media. Economic, financial and administrative reforms are means for strengthening the national affiliation e.g. when a student graduates from the university and does not find a job or purchases his own job, his national affiliation is shaken. When he realizes that his job and rights are guaranteed and when he feels secure about his future, he will take pride in his affiliation. The state falls short as to reinforcing the national affiliation in terms of education and media. This has been more common during the recent time, but it was not so in the past.
ABOUT Yemen Post Publisher & Chief Editor:
Hakim Almasmari is an American journalist and Middle East expert based in Sana'a, Yemen. His work has appeared for many of the worlds top media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Washington Post, AlJazeera, Fox News, The Guardian, The National, USA Today among numerous others. He has also worked with some of the world’s top organizations. Reporting out of Yemen for nearly eight years, he is the current editor in chief for the Yemen Post. He is a university lecturer in the field of international media and also studied business and law. Considered one of the top experts on Yemen, Almasmari has closely worked with international strategic centers and think tanks helping them better understand Yemen. He is a frequent guest on many international TV outlets discussing current local and international affairs. Almasmari's ancestors are from Yemen, and was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. His mother tongue is English and is fluent in Arabic.