Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Yemen’s views on Morsi

Political and religious activists in Yemen are at loggerheads over the fate of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, writes Nasser Arrabyee in Sanaa

Al-Ahram Weekly

A Yemeni cleric linked to global terror has said that the political changes taking place in Egypt are “a conspiracy against Islam and the Egyptian people”, and he praised the ousted former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi by saying that he was a president who had “refused to be an agent of Israel”.

In a lengthy statement on what he called the “conspiracies” against Islam in Yemen and Egypt, Sheikh Abdel-Majid Al-Zandani said the aim of such conspiracies was to eradicate Islam and to find “partners” for God’s rule instead of allowing God to rule alone.

“In the conspiracy in Egypt, they want to impose a president working as an agent for Israel,” Al-Zandani said, who is accused by the US and the UN of involvement in global terror. He is also accused of sending jihadists to Egypt.

In the alleged conspiracy in Yemen, Al-Zandani said there had been a similar attempt to by-pass Islam and to find partners for God in the country’s six-month national dialogue that ends on September 18. 

Al-Zandani, excluded from the national dialogue because of his extremist views, said the dialogue’s members were conspiring with the West to separate Islam from the state and make Sharia law a “main source of legislation” and not the only source of it.

Mohamed Al-Zandani, Al-Zandani’s son, later made his father’s statements more explicit by listing the names of 37 dialogue members who he said were “enemies of Islam”.

In a conservative country like Yemen where the rule of law is often not observed, mentioning people’s names as enemies of Islam may encourage extremists to kill some or all of them. 

The dialogue members suspended their work and filed a lawsuit against Al-Zandani and his son for calling them kafer (infidels). They also voted for an article in the new draft constitution that would criminalise religious fatwas calling people kafer.

In the committee responsible for this part of the constitution, 39 out of 44 members voted for the article. One voted no and four abstained.

The controversy over Al-Zandani’s comments comes as Yemenis are arguing over the downfall of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, following events in the country as if they directly impacted Yemen.

The country’s media, social media and public discussion forums are full of talk of deposed former Egyptian president Morsi and the future of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen.

Yemeni divisions are almost the same as those in Egypt, over whether or not Morsi was deposed by revolutionary or democratic means and whether the Muslim Brotherhood or other religion-based parties or groups can ever rule again after their failure in Egypt.

“Morsi is my president, Morsi is my president,” chanted angry members of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood in a Sanaa demonstration supporting Morsi and blaming Yemeni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi for supporting what they called the “military coup” against him.

Some leading members of the Brotherhood in Yemen threatened to take to the streets to overthrow president Hadi if he did not withdraw his congratulations to the new Egyptian President Adli Mansour and stop supporting the Egyptian army.

Fares Al-Saqqaf, one of Hadi’s advisors, called on the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood’s party, Islah, to stop inciting violence against the president, saying the congratulations sent to the new president in Egypt were a matter of diplomatic protocol.

They would have been sent whatever the nature of the president’s coming to power, he said.

Hadi again congratulated Mansour on the country’s national day of 22 July, ignoring the anger of the Islamists.

However, General Ali Muhsen, the president’s adviser for defence and security, strongly criticised the deposition of Morsi.

Muhsen, who is Islamist-oriented, seems to have encouraged the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood to protest against Hadi in a way similar to when he encouraged them to overthrow former Yemeni president Ali Abdallah Saleh in 2011.

On this occasion, Muhsen played the role of the protector of the revolution against his long-standing boss and kinsman.

The Nobel Prize-winning Islamist politician Tawakul Karman also yielded to pressure from her party, Islah, changing her mind about Morsi’s deposition.

Before he was deposed, Karman said that the demonstrators in the streets of Egypt were seeking “real legitimacy”, but hours later she apologised for siding with the Egyptian demonstrators against the Muslim Brotherhood and its president.

Karman said that she had been the victim of a “dangerous conspiracy”, adding that Morsi’s legitimacy had come about through the elections that had made him president.

Morsi had been elected in free-and-fair elections, she said, and he must be allowed to return to power. Karman is now using her social media sites to support Morsi and to argue against his dismissal.

Many Yemeni activists have criticised her, saying that she is “trying to please four groups at the same time”, among them the committee of the Noble Prize, the Americans, Turkey, Qatar and Al-Jazeera, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In support of the action taken by the Egyptian military to depose Morsi, 12 Yemeni civil society organisations have demanded in a joint statement that one of the main streets in Sanaa be called “Al-Sisi” in appreciation of the actions of commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in deposing Morsi.

Arguments continue in Yemen about whether or not Morsi should be allowed to return to power after his supporters have taken to the streets. There have been sarcastic comments about some devout Muslims wanting Morsi to return as a result of a miracle.

Gamal Mugahid, an Egyptian activist based in Sanaa, said that “the return of Morsi to power is impossible, because there is a new reality now. But Morsi and his aides should be released from prison, and the Muslim Brotherhood should participate in the coming parliamentary and presidential elections.”

The clamour in Yemen is about whether or not what happened in Egypt could also happen in Yemen. Will the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, for the moment close to power, also be sidelined as a result of Morsi’s fall?

Activist Adel Al-Kateb said that what had happened in Egypt must happen in one way or another in Yemen. “The Yemeni Brotherhood will also fall because it is doing the same thing as the Brotherhood in Egypt — excluding others from power and taking extreme decisions on the grounds that it is right, being closer to God than its competitors,” Al-Kateb said.

However, Mounir Al-Omari, an analyst, said that “the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood will not fall like its counterpart in Egypt, but it will not be able to recruit more people either, and people will not believe in the Brotherhood any longer as they did in the past.”

Al-Omari also said that Saudi Arabia and the UAE would not support the opponents of the Brotherhood in Yemen, such as leftists and secularists, as they were now doing in Egypt.

Military expert Wada Tahri said that the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood would not try to take power without the support of the army and tribesmen. “If they do manage to take power, I don’t think they will make the mistake of excluding others,” he said.

Yemenis from all walks of life exchanged congratulations via SMS after Morsi was deposed on 3 July, some of them celebrating by firing guns into the air, especially in rural areas.

Observers say that the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will reduce exclusion and discrimination against political opponents in civil and military institutions in Yemen, where the Islamists have the upper hand despite the fact that they formed a national unity government with the party of the former president and other secular forces.

“In some ministries, if you want to get promoted or continue in your post, you have to bring a recommendation from a Brotherhood-run mosque that you are devout,” said Mohamed Hamdan at the Ministry of Information. “I think this will disappear after what happened in Egypt.”

A spokesman for the Yemen Brotherhood Party Islah, Rajeh Badi, said that his party would not be affected by what had happened in Egypt but would learn from its mistakes.

“I think what happened in Egypt will positively affect Islah. The party will make use of the mistakes that took place in the Egyptian context, and it will do its best to avoid repeating them here in Yemen,” Badi said.

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