Saturday, June 19, 2010

zaidism under threat in yemen?

The following links about attacks on zaidi political leaders and zaidi schools in yemen, and the governments use of al qaeda fighters to supress zaidis, indicate that zaidism is under threat in yemen (the only country with a large zaidi population):

The Zaidis in the Sa’ada region of Yemen are embroiled in a 6 year war which threatens their very survival. The cease fire since February 2010 may not hold. The roads to the region are blocked so that journalists and supplies cannot pass through. It is a war that has been largely hidden from the outside world. The forces allied against Sa’ada Zaidis include the government of Abdullah Saheh, AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), the Salafis of Yemen, the Ikhwani group led by Sheikh Zindanee, and the Saudi government, including its airforce of flying wahhabis.

  1. The Yemeni government:

Although Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh’s family are originally Zaidi, he feels threatened by the Zaidis in Sa’ada region because they regard his government as illegitimate, as he is not a Hashemite. He knows that half of Yemen’s population are Zaidi and of these, most would therefore prefer a Hashemite leader over him (except perhaps for members of his own tribe, who he has given the important jobs to.) Saleh uses money and training from the U.S., that was meant to be for wiping out al Qaeda in Yemen, to suppress the Zaidi insurgency. The U.S. turns a blind eye to this. As well as massacring Zaidi civilians in the Sa’ada region, (a Yemeni journalist who recently uncovered a mass grave near Sa’ada is now spending 6 years in prison for reporting it) President Saleh is arranging to have Zaidi political leaders assassinated, so that people won’t be able to vote for them. The Zaidi’s political party in the so-called “democratic” government is the al Haq Party (i.e.the truth party). The recent attempt on the life of the al Haq party’s leader, by gunmen in government marked vehicles, is an example of this. The Yemeni government used, as an excuse to start military operations, the Zaidi’s fierce criticism of Israel and the U.S. (some Zaidis had begun chanting anti-Israel slogans in mosques after Friday prayers). However, considering that almost all Yemenis are anti Israel, including the Salafis whom the government encourages, this seems like a flimsy excuse. The Yemeni government also tried to convince foreign powers that Iran is behind the Zaidi insurgency. However, considering that there was once an autonomous Zaidi state in northern Iran, and the Iranians mercilessly wiped them out, it seems unlikely that Iran would encourage Zaidism in Yemen. Whether or not the Zaidis in Sa’ada were really trying to overthrow the government remains unclear, but it is a fact that Zaidis are committed to supporting Hashimite leaders who meet certain criteria, not leaders who are widely seen as being corrupt, like Saleh.

  1. AQAP:

Al Qaeda fighters who’ve been kicked out of other countries including Saudi Arabia have come to Yemen with their training, weapons and Saudi dollars. Abdullah Saleh is so desperate to keep the Zaidi insurgency under control that he even employs AlQaeda militias to fight alongside his troops against the Zaidis. The alQaeda are happy to co-operate, because they class Zaidis as unbelievers, and want to spread Salafism throughout Yemen without having to debate against Zaidi clerics.

  1. The Salafis of Yemen.

Salafis who returned from Afghanistan and set up schools and colleges in the Zaidi region, and then lobbied to have the Zaidi schools and colleges closed down, have recently taken up arms against the Zaidis alongside the recently arrived al Qaeda militias. Salafism has spread quickly throughout Yemen since the Afghan jihad, with the funding of the Saudis and the assistance of the Ikhwani group. The Zaidis have taken a strong stand against Salafism. Even though Zaidis and Salafis are united on the issue of anti-Zionism/anti-U.S. support of Israel, they are diametrically opposed on theological issues. The Salafis believe, among other bizarre things, that Allah is separate to and above his creation, that He literally “descends” (yanzilu), and that he literally has body parts among His attributes, including shins and feet, and furniture, including a throne and footstool. They dispute the free will message of the Quran, promoting instead a view of exaggerated pre-determinism in human deeds. Even orthodox Hanafi sunnis, who believe, like Zaidis, that “Allah has no body or mass (jism), no substance (jawhar), no width (ard) and no boundary or limit” (in the words of Abu Hanifa), find many of the Salafi fundamentalist theological views unacceptable. Salafi scholars (who are really Hanbali scholars) like Ahmed ibn Hanbal and Ibn Taimiya, were jailed by the Sunni leaders during their lifetimes for propagating their bizarre views. These days in Yemen it is the Zaidis who are being jailed for promoting reason and rationalism in Islam.

  1. The Ikhwanis:

Sheikh Zindanee is a very influential sheikh in Yemen who gets a lot of publicity because of this red beard (it’s just henna) and his free of charge “university” where salafi and alqaeda converts go to learn Arabic and meet jihaadis. Zindanee regards Zaidis as the same as 12er Shi-ites, i.e. outside Islam. He and his Islah party are very close to Saleh, who needs them because nobody else likes him (apart from his own tribe). Zindanee makes public announcements supporting the government’s military operations in Sa’ada, as well as supporting child marriage and other backward practices in Yemen. The red beard does the trick, and people believe whatever he says on TV. There doesn’t seem to be any difference between his version of Islam and those of the salafi/wahhabis. The only difference is that he and his party take part in the elections while Salafis plot behind closed doors. Next door to Zindanee's Al Iman University is an army training camp run by the President's half brother who happens to be, you guessed it, a Wahhabi sympathizer who used to recruit jihaadis for Afghanistan, and now co-ordinates the offensive against Zaidis. The land for the university was given to Sheikh Zindanee by the President. All very convenient. see this link for more details:

  1. The Saudi government:

There was a time when the Saudis supported the Hashemite Zaidi royal family against the Egyptian backed republicans (in the 1960’s) but then they switched sides, and as a result the Zaidi Imam (Muhammad Badr) was forced to flee to the U.K. For some reason, the Saudis preferred communists over Zaidis (perhaps because there are millions of Zaidis living in Arabia who would rather see a Hashemite family as custodians of the ka’bah than the Saudi family?) Ever since then, the Saudis have supported the republic and encouraged Salafism by funding Salafi schools and colleges in Yemen. Nowadays they are happy to provide military air power to President Saleh, using the excuse that Zaidi militias have crossed their border. Zaidis say they are being attacked from acroos the saudi border by the alqaeda fighters who come and go across the border freely.

It is difficult to get the full story because journalists are not allowed in. See Jane Novak's web- site "Armies of Liberation" for the latest developments on Sa'ada.

One Zaidi summed up their position two years in these words:

"President Saleh has been trying to implant by force the Wahhabi school of thought in Zaidi areas.... We are fighting a defensive war against a dictatorship, not republicanism. We also demand substantial autonomy in the governorate." (from Jane Novak's site in 2008)


  1. nice article

    i would share with some CIA report that talk about the sixth war in sa'ada

    Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen
    The Huthi Phenomenon

    u can download the report from here
    By: Barak A. Salmoni, Bryce Loidolt, Madeleine Wells

  2. it is interesting how you claim salafis have bizarre beliefs when it comes to the names and attributes of Allah and that it defies reason and rational. but who's reason and rational is this based upon?

    salafi belief states that they affirm the names and attributes as mentioned by Allah and His Prophet. yet don't try to interpret them anymore then has been described, as Allah says:

    "...There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer." [Surah Ash-Shura 42:11]

    so how can we begin to understand their full meanings let alone reinterpret them in a fashion that suits our desires.

    if you had never seen a clock before, could describe its face or hands?, the legs of a table? the eye of a storm? the bladder of a football?

    without further information its not befitting we delve into explaining that which we have little or no knowledge there of.

    "Say: The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are al-Fawaahishah (great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.), whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppession, joining partners (in worship) with Allaah for which He has given no authority and saying things about Allaah of which you have no knowledge." [The Noble Qur'aan, 7:33]

    and Allah knows best.

  3. Salaam, brother, Salafis don't just affirm the names and attributes, they liken them to material things, by saying, for example, that Allah resides in a specific place, or that the Hellfire will be filled with Allah's foot... the knowledgable sunni scholars state that Allah exists without a place, without shape, without form...scholars like Abu Hanifah, al Bayhaqi, az-zabeedi, Abu Ja'far At-tahaawi,Ibn Hajar, Ibn Asakir, Imam al Ghazali, and the modern day Sunni cleric Sheikh Ninowy... and about saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge, I don't see in this verse a pohibition of speculating about the many layers of meaning which Arabic words have, and the symbolism which many Arabic words evoke in the minds of people who are educated... but thanks for your respectful and perceptive feedback....