x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

From podcasts and Friday sermons, a new start for Yemen

We have selected 100 of the Muslim world's most respected and renowned preachers whom we will bring to Yemen to be trained to broadcast true Islamic teachings using the latest technologies to reach out to the country's youth.

It was my honour to be in the beautiful city of Aden, Yemen's famous Bride of the Sea last week. A port that for centuries has been open to the world, where nations have profited through peaceful commercial and cultural exchange, was an appropriate place to launch a bold new campaign against terrorism and extremism. The timing of our new venture is also auspicious, announced as Aden is playing host to her seven neighbours in a joyful celebration of sport: the Gulf Cup 20 football competition.

Yemen is a country of peace and moderation, praised as such in the holy Quran. Yet a small group of extremists has damaged Yemen's reputation in the eyes of the world so that those who do not know this beautiful country now associate it exclusively with terrorism. We know that this is far from the truth. It is time for us to defeat the extremists and let the world know of our success.

I call this project A New Hope. It will be a battle for hearts and minds and it will be fought and won with the youth of Yemen. It goes without saying that these boys and girls are the country's future. We must deny the fanatics space in which to operate and allow the peace-loving youth to lead the agenda.

I am delighted to be working in close partnership with the government of Yemen, which has already demonstrated admirable seriousness of purpose in this monumental confrontation. The Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has been taking concerted action against the extremists and achieving success. We are highly fortunate to be supported by the ministries of youth and sports, culture and tourism, together with two pioneering Yemeni non-governmental organisations.

Our project has three elements to it, all confronting the hateful and destructive ideology of extremism: First, we will wage a vigorous media and information campaign. Working closely with our partners in the ministry of information, we will roll out a campaign rejecting extremists' ideology and promoting temperance and moderation using every medium available, from television and print media to the internet and the pulpits of mosques the length and breadth of Yemen. We will be relentless, remorseless and ruthless in the battle against extremism.

Second, we will identify and train a new generation of young leaders, selected from every town and city in Yemen. I will train these young men and women personally and through my Right Start Foundation. They will be the beacons of A New Hope in Yemen, spearheading a campaign that confronts and exposes the utter emptiness of extremism wherever it lurks in the country.

Finally, we have selected 100 of the Muslim world's most respected and renowned preachers whom we will bring to Yemen. With the support of Yemen's Ministry of Endowments (Awqaf), they will be trained to broadcast true Islamic teachings. We will use the latest technologies - podcasts and the internet - as well as the most traditional - Friday sermons in the mosque.

This will be a year-long project, involving extensive training and repeated reviews from my team.

Violence does not succeed in confronting violence, and governments alone will not succeed in confronting it. It is the youth who are most able to move strongly against it. Remember the words of the Prophet, peace be upon him, who said the true Muslim is the Muslim who doesn't harm anyone with his tongue or his hand. The extremists have lost sight of this fundamental truth and they have departed from the eternal teachings of Islam.

The success of A New Hope will be underpinned by four organisations: Life Makers International Union, which has operated all across the Muslim world, from Morocco and Algeria to Sudan and Iraq, and the Right Start Foundation International will be joined by our valued Yemeni partners, the Al Saleh Foundation and the National Awareness Association. This last organisation, which was established in January, is already succeeding in its efforts to counter fanaticism and to demonstrate how alien the ideology of extremists is to the ancient nation of Yemen, the birthplace of Arab civilisation.

Wherever we seek to undermine the extremists, we find the youth willing and ready to take up arms. Yemen is no different. I have already met many young men and women here who are excited to be in the forefront of this epic struggle. When in 2007 I asked for Arab youth to send me their dreams, I received 700,000 replies. A third of these were Yemenis. The message is clear: Yemen is ready.

Our project will pull up the roots of extremism in Yemen and the Arab world more widely. It will show the true beauty of Yemen. God willing, we'll prove to the world within a year that the terrorists have lost and that Yemen once again is bright and beautiful.


Amr Khaled is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Right Start Foundation International