Mr. Ambassador, what are the positive aspects of the Yemeni Malaysian partnership?
We see more and more cooperation between our two countries. The most effective and most active is in the sector of education because Malaysia has developed into a center of excellence in education and providing educational facilities to Malaysians and countries in the region. We have a lot of Yemeni students in Malaysia (more than two thousand now) and the number is increasing and we are happy to see this. We opened a branch of a Malaysian campus in Sana’a and we have Malaysian programs in the University of Science and Technology. We have seven hundred students there.
Concerning the educational sector, is there any difference in curriculum, standards or even certificates by those who study in Malaysia comparing to those who study in Yemen in Malaysian universities?
Well, the only difference is the environment. The universities that are offering courses here are offering so according to the quality that we have in Malaysia and when they graduate they get degrees from the universities in Malaysia.
So why are students travelling to Malaysia if they have the same option here in Yemen?
Well the option in Yemen has different facilities, and if you go to the main universities in Malaysia you have a different environment.
Are there any negative aspects in the Yemeni Malaysian relations?
If you ask me in general I will say everything is very positive. However, in any relation there are positive and negative aspects, but with regard to our relations I can’t think of serious negative things.
Hundreds of Malaysian students come to Yemen to study Arabic or Islamic law, but they find difficulties on coming to Yemen. Sometimes, these difficulties are more difficult than the ones that Yemenis face in Malaysia. What is your comment on that?
Well as I said earlier, we do have problems from time to time but these problems can be solved. We have more than four hundred Malaysian students studying in Yemen.
Do Yemeni students receive fellowships to Malaysia, or are they all paid by the students?
Majority are either by the sponsorships of the government or by the private sector, and Malaysia offers very little sponsorship because it is our policy. Malaysia is not a very rich country so we can’t offer many scholarships to foreign students.
However, universities offer scholarships and some Yemeni students get this sponsorship depending on the performance.
Mr. Ambassador, recently religious fighting has been happening in Malaysia, can it be compared to what is happening in Yemen, between Zaidis and Sunnis?
The crisis is a misunderstanding. The problem arises when the courts gave permission to Christian newspapers to use the word (Allah), and Muslims in Malaysia believe that this word belongs to the Muslim community. The sensitivity of the Muslims in this area is strong.
But it doesn’t seem to be a problem for Christians to use the word Allah?
To conservative Muslims it was a major issue.
Even with these problems, Malaysia has been known as the only Muslim country where democracy has not hurt its religious values; how was it able to do that?
Well, we have been since our independence practicing democracy. Also, the majority of the Malaysian population are Muslims and Muslims in Malaysia are very religious. They practice their religion seriously and the beauty of Malaysia is that we are able to make democracy walk within rights.
Over the last five years, thousands of Iranians have moved to Malaysia, will this affect the country’s stability in causing a Sunni-Shiite conflict like what is happening in Yemen?
Well we have a lot of Iranians but the majority of them are coming to Malaysia to study and we have our rules, internal rules like other countries, and so far we do not see that the Iranians who come to Malaysia are bringing the Shia beliefs. They can practice their own beliefs at their homes, that is all right with us. So far we are happy with that.
Malaysian universities opening branches in Yemen, has it been a success?
We have only one Malaysian campus in Yemen. It opened last June when our Minister of Higher Education opened it officially, and so far we are happy with that. Also, the respond is very positive. The beauty of this campus is that we are bringing not only a Malaysian university, but also lecturers who are all from Malaysia and this is what many students in Yemen like. As soon as the students come they ask if the lecturers are Malaysian.
The Yemen Malaysian festival will launch next month, what will it focus on?
This festival is going to focus on enhancing bilateral trade and investment between the two countries and we are bringing between 60-80 companies to Yemen and about 150 businessmen will come. The exhibition will be in the Apollo Exhibition Center and there are many sectors involved in this exhibition including the sectors of investment, education, tourism, culture and many more.
And we are also bringing a cultural group from Malaysia that is going to perform during the exhibition. They are going to perform at the Sana’a Cultural Center in one evening and this group will also perform in Tarim. We are hoping that Yemeni businessmen take advantage of the presence of many Malaysian companies so that they can start a new partnership and better future cooperation between Yemen and Malaysia.