Relatives of mine called in from Sana’a, as they had heard the frightening noise of an airplane flying in circles over Sana’a for the first time. It was the first time I heard my mother insult the United States and that’s when I knew something was wrong.
When danger is far, you don’t feel it like you would have had it been over your head. Those in Sana’a never experienced the same feelings as those in Hadramout or Abyan, among others. However, now that the drones have reached their skies and embassies, including the U.S. and British missions are closed, they are concerned. They do not know what this bizarre plane with the scary noise is, nor do they know what it will do after it is done circling overhead. Some youths started filming it and posting the pictures on Facebook in the hope of getting an expert opinion to tell them this plane would not be delivering any bombs. One question emerges here: Had this plane been a bomber and had it killed people like in other regions, would this have caused moderate Yemenis who harbor no animosity towards America to hate terrorism, or the United States?
During Yemen's revolution, the support of an extremist movement was crucial in the disaffection of leftist figures and in causing the revolution to divert from its true path.Hind Aleryani
There is no denying that many extremists are equally opposed to the killing of their leaders in drone attacks, but we have to understand how terrorism started and reached Yemen’s schools and universities, how the government then encouraged – and is still encouraging – this extremist thinking and how these extremists helped amend laws in favor of their ideology while introducing their extremist orientations to education curricula. In a piece titled “How did I not become a terrorist?” I have previously written about the extremist thinking I was taught in a government school. I described how we were taught to hate the West, as they taught us that the West and all foreigners hate our religion and that it is our duty to declare Jihad and fight this religion, which is opposed to ours. This hate-packed speech was delivered in a government school in plain sight of the government, which was also encouraging such rhetoric as proven below.
The government encouraged the construction of the al-Eman University, which was founded by Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zindani, president of the Yemeni Islah Party’s Shura Council and one of the leading founders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen in 1993. Extremist ideology and persecution of anyone who defends human rights prevail within this university. For instance, this university rejects the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), arguing it is a Western, anti-Islamic convention, and is opposed specifically to granting women any of their rights. Despite their opposition to the participation of women in protests, women from the al-Eman University still took to the streets in 2011 against women’s rights. Indeed, these women were protesting the promulgation of a law banning the marriage of young girls, and the law was actually suspended as they cited a constitutional article whereby Islam is the source of all legislation, arguing that determining the [legal] age for marriage is foreign to the Shariah.
The government’s blessing
Let us go back to 1994 when the constitution was amended following the civil secession war between North and South Yemen during which Islamist forces sided with former President [Ali Abdallah] Saleh against the South. Their reward came afterwards in the shape of a constitutional amendment whereby the Shariah became the source of all legislation, an item they invoked in their war on the law on the marriage of young girls. Since then, their clout has increased and religious institutes spreading extremist ideology have multiplied with the government’s blessing. The government also contributed to spreading this extremist rhetoric in the media and encouraged Jihad in other states, which submitted to U.S. wishes at the time.
During the revolution, the support of this extremist movement was crucial in the disaffection of leftist figures and in causing the revolution to divert from its true path.
During the 2013 National Dialogue Conference, Aisha al-Zindani, Sheikh Abdel Majid’s daughter, delivered a speech at the al-Eman University in which she accused some female members of the NDC of being anti-Islamic, calling for gender equality and seeking to issue legislation that is foreign to religion. Her father had previously issued a fatwa saying that gender equality would pave the way for fornication and sexual deviance. This is the kind of rhetoric that would convince those who hear it, causing them and those who hear the al-Eman University rhetoric to have recourse to violence “to defend their religion” as they believe. These people are hostile towards anyone who professes enlightened thinking.
The National Dialogue Conference is currently drafting the constitution and, for the second time, the item on having the Islamic Shariah as the source of all legislation is causing a major controversy. 85% of participants agreed on having the constitution as the main source – albeit not the only source – of legislation. Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood are opposed to this article, and al-Zindani criticized in a YouTube video those who voted this decision, accusing them of being opposed to giving power to God alone and seeking to appoint partners for Him. The sheikh warned that the constitutional amendment may mean that a Jew or a woman might rule one day. This speech was addressed to Zindani’s followers, which are many thanks to this extremist rhetoric.
The point is that we must, first, ban this rhetoric if we want to fight terrorism. If the government is serious about fighting terrorism, it has to spread a different ideology in the media and schools under its supervision. This rhetoric should encourage respect for human rights instead of killing. It should ban any institution from spreading such inflammatory rhetoric, which leads to killings. If we don’t do that and continue killing their leaders with innocents and children as collateral damage, terrorism will not be ended, but rather promoted. Dear America, I hope you get what I am saying.
Hind Aleryani is a Yemeni activist and working as a journalist at NOW Lebanon. She can be found on Twitter @HindAleryani.