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Al Qaeda loses religious ground in Yemen

THE LEVANT  – Even though Al Qaeda Yemen has often played on Yemenis’ attachment to tradition and their keenness to remain truly literal in their applications of the tenets of Islam, it appears terror militants are fast losing ground on the religious front as more and more clerics have felt compelled to rise in opposition and condemnation of the group’s unforgiving interpretation of Sharia law (Islamic law).

Sheikh Zaid bin Abdul Rahman bin Yahya, head of Al-Noor Centre for Studies and Research in the south-eastern province of Hadhramawt rose in anger this month after three of his fellow Hadhrami by al-Qaeda militants after they were accused of witchcraft.

Omar Abdel Hafez, Saaed al-Hadrami and Hussein al-Jifri were all killed by terror operatives, without ever being given the opportunity to defend themselves. The killing of such well-loved and respected figures of Tarim and neighbouring villages prompted residents’ ire.

Speaking to Al Shorfa, Sheikh Bin Yahia explained, “I knew al-Jifri personally … He was a capable educator and did not practice sorcery, but rather practiced healing with the Qur’an, or what is known as al-Ruqyah al-Shariah — a practice in which the Qur’an is recited over those who are sick — and herbal medicine.”

“I, along with all citizens, condemn the murders committed by al-Qaeda against those it labels as sorcerers,” he added.

According to witnesses and local residents, all three practiced Islamic healing techniques, a form of medicine which has been practiced since the dawn of Islam, in keeping with the prophet of Islam’s teachings. Al-Ruqya Al Shariah is actually quite popular in Yemen, especially in rural settings where access to medical care remains restricted and expensive.

Sheikh Bin Yehia argued that regardless of Al Qaeda’s claims, under Islamic law no death penalty can be handed out without due processing: a fair trial. More importantly only the state can authorize and execute the death penalty.

“The death penalty can only be exacted by the state according to rules and a fair trial … Furthermore the accused needs to be given the opportunity to repent if found guilty” he stressed angry.

As Al Qaeda seeks to impose its paradigm and vision upon Yemen, more clerics and tribal leaders like Sheikh Bin Yehia have risen in opposition, keen to reclaim their country and their faith for their own away from a narrative of hatred and fear.

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