Yemeni clerics intensify efforts to curb extremism

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Men gather to pray in Zabid's Great Mosque in Yemen's al-Hodeidah province. [Photo courtesy of Zabid Office of Endowments and Guidance] 

Men gather to pray in Zabid's Great Mosque in Yemen's al-Hodeidah province. [Photo courtesy of Zabid Office of Endowments and Guidance] 

Yemen's Ministry of Endowments and Guidance has been intensifying efforts to curtail the spread of violent extremist ideology with the help of religious scholars, imams and spiritual guides.

The ministry works actively throughout the year to raise awareness about the dangers of extremism, but has stepped up these efforts during the holy month of Ramadan, according to Minister of Endowments and Guidance Ahmed Attiyah.

Through its central diwan and affiliated offices, the ministry plays a major role in raising awareness about violent extremism "throughout the year, and not only in Ramadan", he told Al-Mashareq.

This includes the issuance of instructions and directives to preachers and guides, he said, as well as courses and workshops for orators and preachers.

"Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, workshops are held in many provinces to discuss the sermonic discourse in general," Attiyah said.

These include discussions on the need to combat terrorism "by raising awareness about it, and warning of the danger it poses to societies", he said.

The ministry also has been conducting an awareness programme for security personnel, he said, and has received "tremendous co-operation from the Moral Guidance Departments of the military and security institutions".

A plan to fight terrorism

The Wadi Hadramaut Endowments and Guidance Office has been following the ministry's guidelines with success, said director general Ahmed al-Saadi.

"The office's plan in fighting terrorism, violence and extremism with the help of mosque preachers and guides is implemented in accordance with the annual plan and directives by the ministry," he told Al-Mashareq.

Preachers and guides receive training on effective ways to combat violent extremist ideology, he said.

With the help of moderate scholars, the Wadi Hadramaut office has implemented a plan to develop training courses that address several aspects of this issue, he said, which is "focused heavily on warning against extremism and terrorism".

The anti-terrorism and extremism awareness programme is not limited to warning people about the dangers of extremism, al-Saadi said, but also extends to identifying and responding to false teachings.

The office also runs another programme that aims to nurture local youth, he said, and sponsors activities such as "annual Qur'anic competitions during Ramadan that involve many youth".

Preaching centrism, moderation

As part of the ministry's efforts to combat extremism, Attiyah last month chaired a meeting of scholars and preachers in the Wadi Hadramaut city of Seyoun.

"The Ministry of Endowments and Guidance is an umbrella for all sects and religious schools of thought and enjoys a good relationship with all," he said.

He called on preachers and scholars to stand behind Yemen's legitimate government and unite against the threats Yemen is facing, local media reported.

He also called on them to follow the path of centrism and moderation, and to preach the renunciation of violence, extremism and terrorism.

"It is the duty of scholars, preachers and guides to raise awareness against violence, extremism and terrorism, which seek to subvert, destroy and distort Islam," said Deputy Minister of Endowments and Guidance Jaber Ibrahim.

"Islam forbids taking human life," he said. It "calls for building the land not destroying it, and for spreading love, fraternity and peace among people, not to incite them to violence, extremism and terrorism, as terrorist groups do".

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