Salafists start political party in Yemen
SANAA // Salafists in Yemen announced yesterday the first Salafist political party in the country.
"We have been discussing the idea for the past five years and we have been motivated and encouraged by the Salafists' success to engage in politics," said Murad Al Qadasi, a Salafist leader, referring to the political gains of the Salafist Al Nour party in Egypt's last election. The party won 121 seats or 24.29 per-cent in the People's Assembly, second to the Freedom and Justice Party, which won 235 seats.
Salafists follow a strict interpretation of Sharia derived from Saudi Arabia's fundamentalist Wahabbi sect and normally shun electoral politics as un-Islamic.
Mohammed Al Ameri, head of the committee preparing for yesterday's meeting of 1,500 Salafists, said the Al Rashad Union party would be open, with the question of political involvement of women to be discussed and determined later by their leaders.
"We will not be sectarian or ethnic and we do not want the fragmentation of our nation. Our hand is extended to all faithful people seeking after Yemen ruled by religion, wisdom, justice and Shoura (consultation); we want a secure, stable, prosperous and united Yemen," said Mr Al Ameri.
Salaf is an Arabic word that refers to practicing Islam in the manner of the Prophet Mohammed's followers in 7th and 8th century Arabia.
Mohammed Al Saman, another Salafist leader, said the formation of the ultraconservative political party is a response to the "risks of the expansion of the secularist thought - the Persian thought".
He was referring to the growing secessionist movement in the south and the influence of Shiite Houthi rebels whom the Yemeni government says receives support from Iran.
* With additional reporting by Erin Cunningham