(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Exclusive – Houthis Use Mosques as Platforms to Spread Sectarianism in Sanaa
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.