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Opinion | umm Abdillah | Radio Islam Programming | 2015.07.31 | 14 Shawwal 1436


I have taken offence to the allegations that “the Ulama” are not doing enough about the Yemen crisis, nor are they playing any role in informing the South African Muslim public about the war on Yemen. I also take umbrage at the baseless allegations that South African Muslims have an uninformed soft spot for Saudi Arabia in the global political arena. I find these statements both patronising and ridiculous.


Saudi Arabia finally nailed the coffin for any sympathy in their inefficacy and silence about Gaza last year. Regardless of the space on the spectrum we may occupy, we have numerous issues with Saudi Arabia – their sectarian divide; their poor public service record; their racism and ethnic discrimination; their Wahabbi religious police and the non-existence of the right to speak freely, are the tip of the iceberg.


As Muslims we have a soft spot for the holy lands, period. Saudi politics revolve around incomprehensible turf wars, and if we pay attention to them, it’s because that was the birthplace of Islam. To assert that we, the South African Muslim public are dumb enough to swallow Saudi propaganda is messy. It is the starting point of duplicity – haranguing your own people to garner support for a humanitarian crisis in Yemen is hardly wise.


These allegations were made by MRN researcher Suraya Dadoo - who has done a sterling job in being a minority South African voice speaking about Saudi Arabia’s role in the Yemen attacks. Unfortunately in her detailed interviews over the latter part of Ramadan (that I heard on Radio Ansar) there was a peculiar jibe against the SA Ulama and the question is why?


To begin with, on the 25th of March 2015 I had spoken on Radio Islam about Yemen in the light of the Quran and Sunnah as soon as the Saudi coalition launched their attacks. I also played a clip of Sheikh Muhammad al Arifi, a scholar who’s been blacklisted by the Saudi’s, on that very program speaking about the virtues of the people of Yemen.


Various Yemini analysts have also been called on to inform and engage the public about the ongoing war - among them Hisham al Omeisy. Then, to further rally the “Ulama” cause there’s one of the only charities that have been opened to the Yemeni people from the South African public, being led by - an Aalim (!) Moulana Ashraf Dockrat of Laudium. This was given extensive coverage on Radio Islam’s drive time programmes, before and during Ramadan. Collections are being done via their bank account Muslim Zakaat and Charity Fund with collection points at the Jamiat offices too. All these are “Ulama” led entities.


To me this attack on the “Ulama” of South Africa is a strange way to create Yemen “humanitarian” awareness. Who is the enemy here? Our local Ulama, or the Saudi-led coalition? The Iran-backed militia groups who are giving back as good as they are getting? What is our aim? To help the Yemeni people, or create an unwarranted and misleading crisis, rather ironically, a proxy crisis. Aside from the “Ulama” efforts mentioned above, and those of The South African Council for freedom in Bahrain (who arranged a picket outside the Saudi embassy last Friday) who else is actually doing anything valuable or worthwhile to stop this war?


When I spoke to Suraya, who very kindly lent me the time to chat about her insight into the war in Yemen, her research, the political and sectarian football Syria (and Yemen) has become, Zionist hate towards her, and being an influential female voice in justice for Palestine, she made no bones about the fact that since Radio Islam, who according to her "are usually at the forefront of current affairs and political issues" had not contacted her about her article on Yemen (which made it to mainstream media) her contention was thus - Ulama were not doing enough about the Yemen crisis. I believe this is scarcely enough reason to warrant an attack on the local Ulama populace, especially since it is inaccurate and misleading.


Yemen Crisis


Late March this year, Saudi Arabia and several other countries announced that they had started military operations in Yemen against Houthi rebels. Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates issued a statement along with Saudi Arabia saying their goal is to "repel Houthi aggression" in Yemen. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan are also members of the coalition. While the United States and United Kingdom deny they are formally part of the coalition, they are both providing direct assistance—including logistics and intelligence—as well as serving as major weapons suppliers for the campaign.


The Saudi-led campaign aims to reinstate Yemen’s former President, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and prevent a Shia-led takeover by a hostile group with ties to Iran, the Saudi Kingdom’s long-standing rival. Despite the bombing, (often of civilian targets) the Houthi’s have gained more ground in Yemen, boosted via an alliance with forces loyal to ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in 2012 after the Arab Spring uprising.


The World Food Programme has reported that at least six million people in ten out of Yemen’s 22 governorates are facing starvation. 20 million Yemenis remain without access to safe drinking water, and a further one million have been uprooted from their homes due to the fighting. The maritime blockade has prevented commercial goods including food and medical supplies from entering the country. Fuel and food prices have also rocketed. More than 3000 cases of dengue fever have been recorded.


The Way Forward


Now that I’ve put to bed any suspicions against the hapless Ulama, who no doubt were deeply buried on their musalla’s this Ramadan praying fervently and earnestly for Yemen and her people (and every other crises in the world) – what’s the next port of call? Suraya told me of how grateful the Yemeni ambassador to SA was for her article and what it meant to the Yemeni people, and thus suggests we get involved in making people aware of the crisis. Tick. Then, we write about it and social media it to trending point. Tick. Then, we rally not only Muslims, but also non-Muslims into active awareness about human rights violations perpetuated by the Saudi-led coalition and make it stop. Insha Allah. She could offer no political strategy beyond that, because it’s “messy”.


If you have any suggestions as to further assisting the Yemeni people and getting the ceasefire to hold, let me know. We’re all listening.