Yemen plans to police its mosques

Monday, June 14, 2004

CAIRO Yemen plans to supervise activities inside many of the nation's mosques.

Yemeni officials said the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh will begin to screen appointments for positions in mosques, particularly for the role of preacher. The officials said authorities will also review speeches made in mosques during Friday prayers, the largest gathering of the week.

Yemen has 70,000 mosques, officials said. The government effort would supervise 28,000 of these mosques.

Islamic Affairs Undersecretary Yahya Al Najar said the government has sought to prevent mosques from being taken over by Islamic extremists, Middle East Newsline reported. Al Najar, in remarks reported by the ruling General Congress Party, said his ministry would not allow preachers who belong to Islamic political movements to operate in mosques.

"Pluralism is in politics not mosques," Al Najar said in remarks that appeared on the ruling party's website. "It is unlawful to use mosques for partisan or political purposes."

The decision was the latest by the Saleh regime to limit the influence of Islamic insurgency groups over Yemeni educational and religious institutions. In 2003, the government ended the state-financed Islamic educational network, merging those schools with those from the general stream.

Yemen has been termed a major arena for Al Qaida and aligned groups. Yemen has also served as a source of weapons and explosives for the Al Qaida insurgency in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni mosques have often been the venue of deadly attacks between families and tribes. On June 11, a gunman shot dead four people in a crowded mosque in Dhamar, about 100 kilometers south of Sanaa.

The gunman, who had quarreled with two of his victims, was later killed by security forces. On March 5, five people were killed in a mosque in Dhamar during a grenade attack.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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