Houthis Use Mosques as Platforms to Spread Sectarianism in Sanaa

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Exclusive – Houthis Use Mosques as Platforms to Spread Sectarianism in Sanaa

Monday, 15 April, 2019 – 09:00
A view of the old quarter of Sanaa, Yemen August 6, 2018. (Reuters)
Sanaa – Asharq Al-Awsat

The Iran-backed Houthi militias have imposed their sectarian ideology in Yemen in their attempt to introduce a culture that is alien to the local population.

“We have abandoned our mission of delivering the peaceful message of Islam and its noble values after we realized that the Houthi agenda demands that we give up our principles and values to transform into a mouthpiece to stoke sedition and sectarianism among the people,” said Sheikh Abbas, an imam at a mosque in Houthi-held Sanaa.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat of the suffering and threats clerics and mosque imams have to endure at the hands of the militias that want to impose their ideology.

“Had I known the extent of the danger of the Houthi ideology on Yemeni society, I would not have quit the mosque and would have kept up my duty of guiding the people,” he lamented.

“The majority of the people are not aware that this militia harbors long-term goals. Its main purpose is to destroy the Yemeni identity, culture and social fabric to ignite a sectarian war,” said Sheikh Abbas.

Fortunately, he revealed that the Houthis are “at this moment facing monumental difficulties in convincing the people of their legitimacy.”

If they, however, continue to enjoy such liberties in delivering their hateful ideology, many people will be fooled into believing them, he warned, saying the high illiteracy rates among Yemenis is being exploited by the militias.

Among the lies they promote is the claim that heading to the battlefront to fight for their cause is a form of jihad.

Sheikh Abbas quit his mosque a year-and-a-half ago after he refused to comply with Houthi demands to promote their ideology during his Friday sermons.

Since capturing Sanaa, the militias sought to spread their sectarian ideology among the population. They took over the Ministry of Awqaf, which manages religious affairs, and transformed it into a platform to propagate their destructive Iranian agenda.

One mosque-goer recalled how the Houthis told worshippers that they should bring in their children to the mosque where they can benefit from “religious and cultural teachings, instead of wasting time on the streets.”

Most of the worshippers were angered by this last remark, saying they would rather spend their time on the street than attending sectarian lectures.

One Houthi official at a mosque in Sanaa follows up each prayer with sectarian sermons that incite the people to head to the battlefronts and fight the legitimate army and Arab coalition, describing them as “enemies of Islam.”

He even urged worshippers to abandon their prayers and head to battle.

A former Awqaf Ministry official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis have adopted a systematic methodology at mosques to spread their Khomeinist ideology.

It sought to take control of the majority of the mosques in Sanaa, appointed its own imams and clerics and confiscated religious books that contradict with their Khomeinist teachings.

Moreover, he revealed that the Houthis force imams to attend sectarian courses to train them on spreading sectarianism that is aimed at tearing apart Yemeni society.

Some of the changes at mosques include altering the call to prayer according to Houthi ideology, organizing exhibits that display images of their sectarian symbols and posting posters of their slogans and dead fighters.

The Houthis exploited the poverty among the people “to buy the loyalty of several clerics and religious scholars to act as mouthpieces to spread the Khomeinist ideology in Yemen,” said the ministry official.

Yemeni rights groups said that the Houthis have seized more than 300 mosques in Yemen and used them as weapons caches. They have also forced the displacement of 1,300 religious scholars and arrested 180 preachers. They also smuggled in Lebanese and Iranian figures, whose purpose is to spread Iranian ideology among the people.

Moreover, the Awqaf Ministry said that between 2014 and 2016, the Houthis bombed and looted over 750 mosques, including 282 in Sanaa. Some 80 mosques were completely destroyed. They kidnapped 150 imams throughout Yemen and held them in secret jails where they are tortured for refusing to accept the Houthi sectarian agenda.

Saudi Crown Prince MBS: A Partner We (No One) Can’t Depend On

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

A Partner We Can’t Depend On

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia long ago revealed his true character in impulsive and vicious actions.

Susan E. Rice

By Susan E. Rice

Ms. Rice was the national security adviser during President Barack Obama’s second term.

Image
A Yemeni child at the graves of schoolboys who were killed when their bus was hit by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in August. Credit  France Press — Getty Images

The crisis in United States-Saudi relations precipitated by the brazen murder of Jamal Khashoggi raises a critical question that the Trump administration plainly wants to avoid: Can the United States continue to cooperate with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The young prince’s almost certain culpability in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing underscores his extreme recklessness and immorality, while exposing him as a dangerous and unreliable partner for the United States.

No astute observer should be surprised to discover that Prince Mohammed is capable of such action. Yes, we may be shocked by how heinous Mr. Khashoggi’s murder was, and by how blatant the many lies told by the Saudis have been. Of course, many Americans, from Silicon Valley to the editorial pages of our leading papers, were snowed by the crown prince’s promises of reform and the deft marketing of his leadership. But, for those willing to see past his charm offensive, Prince Mohammed had already revealed his true character through numerous impulsive and vicious actions.

The deadliest exhibit is the war in Yemen, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and killed countless civilians, including children, because the Saudis arrogantly refuse to employ responsible targeting techniques. It has been a Prince Mohammed operation from the start.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen shares direct responsibility, along with the Houthi rebels and Iran, for the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, while the United States has continued shamelessly to provide support to their bloody war. Although the Obama administration initiated support to the coalition to help defend Saudi territory from Houthi incursions, it finally moved to curtail arms sales when the aims of the war expanded and the constraints we tried to impose were flouted.

At home, the crown prince has locked up civil society activists. He imprisoned for months hundreds of members of the royal family and other influential people in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton and demanded they surrender huge sums of money and valuable assets in exchange for release. He has forced out rivals and close relatives, including former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. And, as the Khashoggi case suggests, he has undertaken a global purge of Saudi dissidents wherever they reside.

The crown prince kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister and denied it. He imposed a spiteful, full-blown blockade on neighboring Qatar, another important American partner, and has sought to goad the United States into conflict with Iran. Stung by two mildly critical tweets by the Canadian foreign minister, Prince Mohammed abruptly downgraded diplomatic ties with Ottawa, yanked 7,000 Saudi students out of Canadian universities and limited transport and trade links.

Image
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Credit Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As this litany of lunacy shows, Prince Mohammed is not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable or rational partner of the United States and our allies. If we fail to punish him directly and target only those around him, the crown prince will be further emboldened to take extreme actions. If we do punish him, which we must, Prince Mohammed, petulant and proud, is equally likely to behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners. Either way, the Trump administration must assume that Prince Mohammed will continue to drive his country and our bilateral relationship over the proverbial cliff.

Unfortunately, King Salman seems unwilling or unable to rein in his rogue son. With critics cowed into submission and rivals pushed aside, there is no obvious alternative-in-waiting who might provide Saudi Arabia with sober, responsible leadership.

Absent a change at the top, we should brace ourselves for a future in which Saudi Arabia is less stable and more difficult to govern. In this scenario, the potential risks to American security and economic interests would be grave. The United States was wrong to hitch our wagon to Prince Mohammed, but we would be even more foolish to continue to do so.

Looking ahead, Washington must act to mitigate the risks to our own interests. We should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammed continues to wield unlimited power. It should be United States policy, in conjunction with our allies, to sideline the crown prince in order to increase pressure on the royal family to find a steadier replacement.

We should start by leading the push for an impartial international investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. We must be consistent and public in our judgment that the United States believes the killing could not have occurred without Prince Mohammed’s blessing or, more likely, his order.

Next, we should terminate all military support for the misbegotten Yemen campaign and pressure the Saudis to reach a negotiated settlement. We should immediately suspend all American arms sales to the kingdom and conduct a careful, comprehensive review of any future deliveries, halting all but those we determine, in close consultation with Congress, advance United States national security interests.

Finally, we should stop following Prince Mohammed down blind alleys and bring a healthy skepticism to our dealings with him, particularly any that require relying on his word or judgment.

We need to stop privileging Jared Kushner’s relationship with the crown prince, and finally fill the vacant ambassadorship to the kingdom, to engage with a broader range of senior Saudi officials. President Trump’s inexplicable infatuation with Prince Mohammed must end, and he must recalibrate American policy so that it serves our national interests — not his personal interests or those of the crown prince.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, is a contributing opinion writer. @AmbassadorRice

READ 167 COMMENTS

Houthi missile attack on Riyadh sparks global outrage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘ARAB NEWS’)

 

SAUDI ARABIA

Houthi missile attack on Riyadh sparks global outrage

The attempted attack comes just weeks after Houthi militias launched a missile at Riyadh on November 4, targeting King Khalid International Airport. The missile was downed by Patriot air defense batteries. (AFP)

DUBAI: A number of countries and organizations have condemned the launch of a ballistic missile by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen aimed at Riyadh.
Houthi forces fired a ballistic missile toward Riyadh on Tuesday, targeting the Al-Yamamah Royal Palace in the Saudi capital. Royal Saudi Air Defense forces intercepted the missile and shot it down and prevented damage.
The attempted attack comes just weeks after the group in Yemen launched a missile at Riyadh on Nov. 4, targeting King Khalid International Airport.
A UN Security Council-appointed panel confirmed the missile was manufactured in Iran, along with three other missiles fired from Yemen toward the Kingdom this year.
US
The United States strongly condemned the missile attack on Riyadh. In a statement issued by US Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert, it was confirmed that the US remains deeply disturbed by aggressive Houthi actions supported by Iran’s provision of advanced weapons, which threaten regional security and prolong the Yemen conflict.
“The United States calls on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to stop arming and enabling the Houthis’ violent actions against Yemen’s neighbors, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Nauert added.
Italy
Italy also condemned the launch of the ballistic missile. Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alvano said in a statement today: “This terrorist act constitutes a threat to regional peace and stability and undermines the prospects for a negotiated and comprehensive solution to the crisis.”
UAE
The UAE condemned the missile launch and said that the attack drew attention to the dangerous and negative role played by Iran in supporting the militia and its insistence on continuing its hostile practices by providing the Houthi group with ballistic missiles that threaten peace and security in the region.
In a statement, the UAE emphasized its full support for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any party that tries to threaten its security or harms peace and stability in its territory, while reaffirming the organic link between the security of Saudi Arabia and the security of the UAE.
The UAE reiterated its commitment to the Arab Coalition to achieve security and stability in Yemen.
Jordan
Jordan on Tuesday condemned the Houthi’s attempt to target Saudi Arabia and denounced it as a belligerent act.
Minister of State for Media Affairs and Government Spokesperson Mohammed Al-Momani voiced Jordan’s unwavering support for Saudi Arabia in its efforts to counter recurrent aggressions initiated by the Houthi faction.
Jordan, he said, unequivocally backs Saudi maneuvers to reach a peaceful settlement to the Yemeni crisis.
Bahrain
In a statement issued by Bahrain News Agency, the Kingdom of Bahrain stressed that it stands by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any attempt to threat its security and stability.
It renewed its commitment to support the legitimate Yemeni government headed by President Abdu Rabbo Mansur Hadi through participation in the Arab Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen.
Morocco
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement on Wednesday that the Kingdom of Morocco strongly condemned the missile launched at the city of Riyadh, while renewing its solidarity with Saudi Arabia against any act that harms the safety of its territory and the peace of its inhabitants.
Morocco also expressed its deep concern at the escalation, which further deepens the Yemeni crisis due to its negative impact on the stability of the region.
Djibouti
Ambassador of the Republic of Djibouti to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Dyauddin Said Bamakhrama condemned the act.
Bamakhrama expressed the solidarity of the Republic of Djibouti with Saudi Arabia and added that the country considers any act of aggression against Saudi Arabia as an act of aggression against Djibouti.
Lebanon
Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned the act in a released statement, saying: “The repeated targeting of Saudi territory by missile attacks from Yemeni territory not only threatens the security of the Kingdom and the safety of its people, but also exposes the region to serious dangers and exacerbates existing divisions and conflicts.
“We strongly condemn such attacks,” he said. “We stress that these aggressive methods must be abandoned and we must refrain from policies that fuel conflicts and conduct dialogue through solving the intractable problems.”
Organization of Islamic Cooperation
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) strongly condemned the missile launch.
OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen stressed that the continued launch of ballistic missiles toward the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia confirms that Houthi militias are continuing their hostile approach that aims at destabilizing the security and stability of Saudi Arabia.
The secretary general reiterated the OIC’s support and solidarity with Saudi Arabia in all actions and measures it takes to maintain its security and stability.
Meanwhile, the internationally-recognized government of Yemen also strongly condemned the Iranian-backed Houthi’s targeting of the city of Riyadh.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: “This aggressive behavior of targeting Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles reflects the extent of the danger that this extremist group has become and the level to which Iranian influence has reached it, which seeks to be used to harm regional and Arab security after helping them to cause massive destruction in all the Yemeni cities and towns that were invaded by the militias.”
The statement called on the international community and the UN Security Council to take strict measures against the Houthis and called for them to be considered as a terrorist organization.