In the twenty-first century, the most prevalent model of ‘liberating’ defenseless nations from despotism, sectarianism, and terrorism is to turn them into playgrounds of hell. Following that deadly model, Saudi Arabia led a coalition that launched a military campaign in early 2015 to help ‘save Yemen from ‘Shia dominance,’ or Iran.
Now in its third year, the war in Yemen continues to worsen, with no end in sight. The situation is violently swirling into a pandemonium of mass destruction and catastrophic human suffering that makes Israel’s ruthless blockade and overall atrocities executed in Gaza seem mild.
Ironically, Israel is a Saudi ally in this whole catastrophe. However, unlike the U.S. and U.K., much of what Israel offers in this anti-Iran strategic collaboration is kept behind the scene; kind of.
The kingdom has ‘drunk the Kool-Aid’ regarding the urgency to intervene in Yemen before Iran takes over the entire region. This paranoia also paved the way for kingdom’s purchase spree of heavy weapons, take persecution of the Saudi Shia minority to an unprecedented level, and get on the conveyor belt for implosion or what I call junglification.
While Yemen is notoriously a clannish society that is on a par with Somalia and Libya, foreign elements have been making matters worse. Foreign-funded clan-based militias are mushrooming across Yemen.
The consequence of the blockade on the Houthi-held areas has been catastrophic. 60 percent of Yemeni people “don’t know where their next meal will come from.” This alarming number was revealed in a joint statement issued by the World Food Program, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Not to mention cholera epidemic, malnutrition and the severe shortage of medicine and nutritional supplements.
Airstrikes have been relentless and extremely reckless. There have been a number of attacks on civilians, hospitals, neighborhood areas that compelled rights groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) to charge that Saudi brutality rises to the level of crimes against humanity.
In Danger Zone
The custodianship of the holy sites—especially the pilgrimage season—marks the crown jewel of the kingdom’s services for the Muslim world. The selfless hospitality of the locals and efficiency and sense of professionalism of the official service providers leave lasting impression on pilgrims (hajjis). Though this is praise-worthy, neither this nor the spiritual value of the two holy sites and nor the preservation of the Prophetic ritual of the pilgrimage rise up to the sacredness of a single human life.
The Qur’an teaches that a wrongful killing of a single human-being is equivalent to the eradication of entire human race, and the saving of a single human-being is equivalent to the preservation of the entire human race. How many civilians were killed? How many hospitals, schools, hotels were recklessly, if not deliberately, targeted and destroyed?
Duplicity of Muslim Scholars
The most serious problem facing the Islamic ummah—in its nations, communities, and individuals—even more serious than good leadership, is the chronic deficiency of independent-minded religious scholars willing to scrutinize leadership and speak truth to power when and where necessary. This latter capacity is what Prophet Muhammad described as the best form of jihad.
Emboldened by the silence of those who should know better, systematically these so-called leaders amass absolute authority without much counterbalance, thus unleashing their brutal abuses against their own people until they are pushed into a state of public upheaval and chaos or are compelled to collaborate with any and all, including enemies of the state.
The most painful irony is this: None of the Imams of Al-Haramayn—the Holy Mosques of Mecca and Medina—have expressed or issued a statement of concern regarding the ruthless bombardments of Yemen let alone one criticizing King Salman or King’s son, the heir to the throne and the Kingdom’s Defense Minister. None of them objected the violent oppression carried against their Saudi Shi’ brethren. Unlike other Islamic scholars, Imams of the Grand Mosques of Mecca and Medina have a global constituency who admire their Qur’anic recitation and symbolically consider them the spiritual leaders of the ummah.
Alas, these Imams are selected through royal decrees issued by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques—the King. In addition to the prestige that comes with their positions they are paid handsomely and are honored with social and religious clout. Therefore it is hardly surprising that their first loyalty is to the royal authority. This convenient arrangement compels the King’s loyal scholars to function in a way that is inconsistent with the Prophetic model, if not outright hypocritical. The mentality that a King, a president or a commander cannot go wrong is an outright deviation from Islamic principles.
Questioning the tactical or strategic merit of leaders’ critical decisions, especially in wars, is an Islamic obligation. Even Prophet Muhammad was questioned on the tactical merit of an order he gave in a particular battle by a companion who had more expertise in the art of war. In recent centuries, that tradition of critical-thinking and critical engagement inspired by the Prophet and enacted by the ulama (scholars) who maintained their independence by refraining from getting the Caliph or King’s payroll started to corrode.
Today, Muslims lack ulama who adapt to this rapidly changing world- socially, politically, economically and spiritually.
Back to Yemen, the likely emerging scenario in the foreseeable future is two Yemens along the old borders of Northern and Southern Yemen borders. Then the Somalia model of ‘fragmenting the fragments along clan lines’ would likely ensue. Each fragment, or clan fiefdom, would start acting as an independent state that is capable of running its own affairs while surrendering its strategic security to international mercenaries.
Already Blackwater and companies, camouflaged as UAE ground troops are in full command of Aden. They are the de facto government that even President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi must adhere to their commands.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.