Yemeni religious scholars step up efforts against extremism during Ramadan

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

Yemenis listen to a lecture during Ramadan following the evening prayer at al-Qadisiyah Mosque in Sanaa, in which the lecturer warns against zealotry and extremism. [Faisal Darem/Al-Mashareq]

Yemenis listen to a lecture during Ramadan following the evening prayer at al-Qadisiyah Mosque in Sanaa, in which the lecturer warns against zealotry and extremism. [Faisal Darem/Al-Mashareq]

Yemeni religious scholars, preachers and murshids (religious counsellors) are stepping up efforts to counter extremism and terrorism through daily short lectures following prayers in mosques and at public gatherings during Ramadan.

The lectures are part of a plan developed by the preaching and guidance department at the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance to raise awareness against extremist ideology in Sanaa and all other provinces.

"Guidance activities are varied and intensive during the holy month of Ramadan," said Abdul Rahman al-Moshaki, deputy director general of the Sanaa Office of Endowments.

"The objective of the guidance activities is to raise the community's awareness on issues that maintain security and stability in society, including awareness against extremist ideology, which has devastating negative consequences on the individual and society," he told Al-Mashareq.

"Yemen has suffered enough from these groups who seek to kill and destroy, and project a wrong image of the Islamic religion," he said.

Broad efforts to counter terrorism

Al-Moshaki said the awareness programme includes stressing the importance of "national loyalty, patriotism and strengthening the internal front".

The guidance department is using all possible means, including the delivery of short speeches following prayers in mosques, seminars and lengthy lectures after the evening prayer, he said.

Efforts to reach community members are not confined to mosques, al-Moshaki said, as preachers and murshids are also dispatched to assemblies and public places to reach all segments of society.

The guidance programme is the result of an extensive meeting among scholars, preachers and murshids held by the ministry a week before the start of Ramadan on May 19th.

At the meeting, the experts prepared and agreed on the guidelines that must be implemented during Ramadan and circulated them to all mosques in Yemen.

Raising awareness against terrorist ideology is an essential element of the guidance programme during the month of Ramadan, said Numan al-Munjar, director of the guidance department in al-Safiya district of Amanat Sanaa.

"Extremist ideology is alien to Yemeni society and has been detrimental to its interests, security and stability with the bombing of mosques, targeting security forces with IEDs and other terrorist crimes," he told Al-Mashareq.

Al-Munjar said the educational activities are held at mosques throughout the district. They consist of daily lectures at two different mosques in the district and the delivery of short speeches or reflections to worshippers at other mosques.

Preachers also visit places where people gather in the evenings to hold awareness raising activities and expand the target audience, he said.

Promoting 'religion of moderation'

Guidance activities focus on mosques in population centres that draw large numbers of worshippers, said Abdullah al-Dhammari, deputy director of guidance in al-Sabeen district of Amanat Sanaa.

"The guidance lectures focus on issues that concern religion and the daily lives [of worshippers], including raising awareness about the detriments of extremist ideology, which has harmed the true Islamic religion, the religion of moderation, and projected an image to others of [Islam] as being bloody and extremist," he told Al-Mashareq.

Ramadan is an important time of year to promote positive phenomena in society, al-Dhammari said, urging the public to pursue education and guidance from imams, scholars and murshids to correct any misconceptions some may have.

"Islam is a religion of life and construction, not ruination and destruction," he said.

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