Mindsets Need To Change for A Permanent Peace in Yemen
National Yemen, September 30th 2014
The conflict of the last few weeks in Yemen seems to have stopped now that the Houthis have reached an agreement with the administration. That agreement contains articles referring to 'the establishment of a new government composed of technocrats, President Hadi bestowing the role of Prime Minister on someone who is not a member of any political party, lowering the price hikes on petrol products, one deputy each from the Southern Movement and the Houthis being appointed to the presidency, and the protest tents erected by the Houthis in the capital, Sana'a, being taken down.'
With this treaty, the long-lasting conflict is expected to come to an end, and it is hoped that Yemen will again enjoy stability. However, it seems that it will not be easy under the current conditions. According to information in the foreign press, foreign non-Yemeni elements have played a major role in both the conflict and in the agreement just reached.
Besides the statements in news reports that maintain that Saudi Arabia and Iran are actually fighting a proxy war in Yemen, and that the Houthis' justified demand for their rights is leading to fighting, there are also claims to the effect that what is really happening is, in fact, a fully-fledged sectarian war. If these claims are true, then it would seem difficult for the agreement reached with the Houthis to solve all the problems at once. As is well-known, it is not easy to put an end to a conflict of foreign origin in any country. What happened in Bosnia, although that was a struggle between Muslims, Orthodox Christians and Catholics, in contrast to Yemen, is the greatest indicator of this. The fighting occurred in Bosnia, but those who backed it were outside Bosnia, in Serbia and Croatia. The conflict came to an end with the Dayton Agreement, but Bosnia is still wracked by troubles that emerged because of that agreement.
First and foremost, we must not forget that solutions deriving from political agreements function from the top down. In other words, the agreement regulates power sharing and the use of resources within the state. In short, political agreements organize the state, but they cannot affect people's minds.
The basis of the fighting in Yemen is the radical and fundamentalist belief that incites division between Shiite and Sunni. The fact that 'Muslims are brothers' has been almost entirely abandoned on various pretexts that have nothing to do with religion, and the idea that other sects are mortal enemies has been encouraged. What Yemen and the entire Islamic world need is for that distorted mentality to be done away with. The fact that an agreement has been signed is without doubt grounds for rejoicing if it is instrumental in ending the bloodshed. However, different steps need to be taken if this agreement is to be made reality and if Yemen is to attain security and, most importantly, a lasting peace.
During these steps, it needs to be made clear that Shiites and Sunnis share the same book, prophets and faith, and that in the Qur'an, God tells Muslims to protect each other, not fight with one another. The superstitious conception of the faith that has infiltrated both Shiite and Sunni beliefs has spread the idea that these two Muslim communities are hostile to one another. That is the main reason why Muslims are killing one another in Syria and Iraq.
Only education can prevent this mentality based on superstition from spreading savagery, enmity and lovelessness across the entire Islamic world and turning people away from the true faith en masse. This religion of superstitions is the result of a false system of education. Many people exposed to this system, Shiite or Sunni, are unaware that they are doing wrong. The damage done by this false education can only be healed through correct education. So instead of settling with only political agreements in Yemen, there also needs to be further action in education right away.
Moderate and peaceable leaders, plus representatives of the Houthis and Sunnis, must seek ways of ridding communities of that false education at meetings among themselves. They must set about educating people with books and broadcasts and seminars setting out the correct concept of religion. For example, they must set out, with verses from the Qur'an, how killing and hatred are unlawful in the faith. The Yemeni people must be given detailed information about the weaknesses and illogicalities of the system of superstitions.
If a lasting peace is desired in Yemen, the way to achieve this is through setting out the correct conception of the faith and eliminating the false one. Every Zaidi and Sunni who advocates a moderate concept of religion has major responsibilities in that regard.
Civil society organizations in Yemen can come together to encourage the money spent on arms to be spent on such an educational mobilization instead. They can use the media organizations at their disposal for that purpose. It must not be forgotten that it is easier to grasp and spread what is right and true; therefore, instead of abandoning communities to fanaticism and enmity originating solely from ignorance, the best thing to do is to eliminate that ignorance. It will then only be short time for weapons and war in Yemen to lose all meaning.
Muslims must at once abandon their sectarian divisions and be united in the manner commanded by God. In the Qur'an, God commands Muslims to act as one, as a single community:
Hold fast to the rope of God all together, and do not separate. Remember God's blessing to you when you were enemies and He joined your hearts together so that you became brothers by His blessing. You were on the very brink of a pit of the Fire and He rescued you from it. In this way God makes His signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will be guided. (Surah Al 'Imran, 103)