Abdulwahab Al-Homaiqani, secretary-general of the Yemeni Rashad Union to the Yemen Times
Ahmed Dawood of the Yemen Times met Abdulwahab Al-Homaiqani, secretary-general of the Yemeni Rashad Union and conducted the following interview.
It is widely acknowledged that Salafis are against any form of political action. However, you surprised a lot people by announcing the creation of the Yemeni Rashad Union, the first Salafi political party in Yemen. What is the aim of this party?
Firstly, I want to emphasize that Salafis are not against political action. We believe that the separation of politics and religion is secularism, and this is against Islam.
We think that politics are an intrinsic part of the Islamic laws which permeate throughout all aspects of life. Islam has given us laws for everything, politics included.
Salafis isolated themselves from politics. As a result, they neither formed a political party nor participate in elections. However, to suggest that we boycotted political action is misinformed. We support some parties, criticize others; this is political action.
Why did you choose this time to announce the union?
In fact, several things happened both inside and outside Yemen , which forced the Salafis to reconsider their attitudes toward politics. For example, there are several different conceptions of what is meant by ‘democracy’. Some understand democracy as granting humans the prerogative to set laws; this is prohibited since Islam has given us laws for everything. Others understand it as the right to choose who will rule them as well as the right to remove or prosecute this person. Clearly, it was better to refuse both sides of democracy.
Now, though, Salafis have started to understand the real meaning of democracy. We believe that people have the right to choose or remove whosoever they want.
What is the best way for people to choose their president?
We support any method, on condition that it is impartial and free of cheating.
During the presidential elections in 2006, some Salafi clerks condemned the elections, claiming that it directly disobeyed the president.
We have to take all Salafis into consideration. Some Salafis still refuse to participate in political dealings. They believe that people must obey their ruler without condition; this is very strange. The teachings of Islam stipulate that people have to protest against unfair rulers.
Why are you only concerned with Salafis?
This isn't true. The people who created the Yemeni Rashad Union are Salafi clerks, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we only accept Salafis. The union is established for all Yemenis. Anyone can join us. We have our own principles, and whoever subscribes to them is welcome to join us.
Does internal disagreement affect decisions made by the union?
No. The union did hold its introductory meeting without 40 of the founding members, but they had various excuses. Only a few of the members were absent because they didn't like the view of the union. The elections were transparent, held in front of all people, and with a special committee in attendance.
So, it’s a mix between the promotion of Islamic principles and political action?
Yes. When taking decisions, all members have to adhere to the rules of the union. Any member can participate and all are equal. But during studying, clerics have the right to decide.
Salafi clerics are new to the principle that all people are equal in rights and duties. In time, though, they will get used to it.
Are you thinking of separating these two issues?
At the time of establishing the union, there were different views. Some Salafis, including me, believed that the union must be a separated institution with special principles, members and systems. However, other Salafis believe that the union must be run by clerks.
The leaders of the union overcame this dispute, and now we have our own system. No one, outside of this system, is allowed to intervene. But we take advice from others even if they are opposed to us.
Some people say that the union has failed from the start. What do you think?
I disagree. The Yemeni Rashad Union is the only union, among the unions and political parties announced recently, that has a sizeable number of members and is present on the political scene.
Though the union is newly established, we are participating in the National Dialogue Conference. We met the Communication Committee and now we have many young members who depend on the union. Only five members have withdrawn from the union since its establishment so far.
What do you think have been the benefits of the uprising in Yemen?
It is without doubt that the revolution achieved several things. We can't say that the youth who died were killed in vain. It is also wrong to suggest that its only success was the toppling of the resilient president.
Nowadays, we have a new president, and after two years, we will choose another one. This is the most important achievement of the revolution.
What is your view regarding the Gulf Initiative and its implementation mechanism?
I have said in several interviews previously that we believe the Gulf ‘Initiative’ to be a conspiracy, not an initiative. We completely reject it because it served internal and external interests without paying attention to demands of the Yemenis. However, our rejection of the initiative doesn’t mean that we won't deal with it.
Do you agree with the Houthis that the Gulf Initiative is a conspiracy against the revolution?
Why not? We have our own principles and will agree with whoever says the truth, be they Houthis or any other parties.
What is your attitude toward Ansar Al-Sharia?
We agree with Ansar Al-Sharia’s belief in the implementation of the Islamic Sharia laws. However, we and all Yemeni scholars disagree with their policies of killing soldiers, controlling areas and forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes. We also disagree with them because they didn't listen to clerks.
We call upon them to participate in the National Dialogue Conference, put down arms and stop violence. Moreover, we call upon the state to start dialogue with them and choose a peaceful way in dealing with them, away from foreign interference. They have all the rights Yemenis have if they stopped violence and obeyed the state.
Salafis are accused of looking down upon women. What do you think?
This isn't right. Salafis follow teachings of the Holy Qur'an and Sunna. Women have the same rights and duties of men but there are a few differences between them. These are specified in the Sharia and we adhere to them.