First Yemeni Salafi political party announced
In a three-day conference that lasted from Monday until Wednesday, Salafis from various parts of the country met in Sana’a to discuss their political vision and how to engage in Yemen’s politics in a manner in line with their ideology.
“Salafis in Yemen have made significant contributions, particularly in charitable works; it’s time for Salafis here to have their own political visions consolidated in one entity, one that represents all Salafi factions,” Sheikh Mohamed Al-Baidani, a prominent Salafi leader and co-founder of the party said in a speech made during the conference.
“Our political union is open to all Yemenis in line with Islamic Shariah law,” Al-Baidani said.
He added that the political party would not pose a threat to anybody and that “the party aims to bring about justice and shoura (consultation) in a united and stable Yemen.”
Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar, a former Minister of Religious Affairs who attended the Salafi conference, said that Yemen has experienced economic, political and security problems because of rampant corruption in all state institutions and a lack of justice and state of rule.
“This situation provided grounds for a peaceful revolution, in which the Salafis participated effectively,” Al-Hitar said.
Salafi activities in Yemen – from the 1980s until the present time - have remained limited to charitable works, including water projects, the founding of Quranic schools, and aid for orphans and internally displaced persons. The Yemeni Rashad Union will be the first Salafi party in Yemen.
“The justifications for performing charitable work in Yemen are the same as those for practicing political activities by way of political parties,” he said.
The newly-established party seeks to install Islamic Shariah law in the country's political system, according to Abd Al-Wahab Al-Humaiqani, party co-founder and leading Yemeni Salafi figure.
“The Salafis strive to rule the people using Islamic Shariah law and peaceful means,” said Al-Humaiqani.
Limited female political participation
The Islah party has filled the role of Yemen's sole Islamic party since 1990. It is also now the largest opposition party in Yemen.
However, Al-Humaiqani said that the Salafi party is different from the Islah party when it comes to women's political participation.
“The Islahis have no problem with major political participation by women, but for us it is still impermissible for women to take over major positions,” he said.
Basam Al-Shuja’a, a Salafi leader who traveled from Ibb to attend the conference, said there will be a space for women to participate according to their capacities as women and in line with Islamic Shariah law.
Salafis in Sa'ada boycott party
Following its announcement, Salafis in Sa’ada governorate's Damaj – the place of origin for Salafi ideology in Yemen - have spoken out against the party.
“They do not like to engage in politics. Without a doubt, they will make speeches denouncing this step of forming the political party,” said Salafi leader Al-Shuja’a.
For his part, Salafi leader in Dhamar Mohammed al-Wadei said, “This party only represents partisan Salfists, and we as Salafists oppose the formation of any political parties.
Sa’ada's Salafi faction still strictly adheres to what they understand as the original Islamic lifestyle of the prophet Mohammed in what is now Saudi Arabia. They live in tents and don't let anyone take pictures of them.
“When we attempt to take photos of them, they run away,” said Mohamed Al-Ahmadi, a journalist who visited Damaj last December.