Saudi Arabia Enlists Imams In Yemen War

Mar 29, 2015 at 11:28 AM ET

The Saudi Arabian government sent memos to mosques across the country this week ordering religious leaders to use their sermons to create fear about the Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen as a way to build support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign there.

The country’s top imams responded by doing just that in their all-important Friday addresses to their followers. Their speeches often quoted directly from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs’ memo, which referred to the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen as “enemies of Islam” and “terrorists.”

Vocativ discovered the document, its trafficking and the general reaction to it by analyzing the social media of Saudis discussing the issue on Facebook and Twitter.

The Saudi ministry asked Imams to emphasize how the Gulf States must fight against the Houthi rebels in order to save Yemen and its people from “the Houthi aggression and oppression.” The memo highlighted the violent methods used by Iranian-backed rebels to conquer large swaths of Yemen, including killing civilians and destroying mosques and Islamic institutes.

The Friday prayer is the most important religious event of the week, and since the early days of Islam, the Friday sermons have been a traditional platform for spreading messages from the khalif, or Islamic leader. After the Friday sermons this week, the government’s document started circulating on Saudi forums and social media groups. The document itself matches up with the sermons, which were widely quoted by Saudi media, showing that Saudi Imams literally repeated the government’s prescribed talking points word for word.

The Saudi-led bombings raids, now in their fourth day, are aimed at restoring Yemen’s president-in-exile Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power. After fleeing Yemen for Saudi Arabia last week, Hadi spoke at a conference of Arab nations in Cairo, Egypt Saturday. At the same meeting, the Saudis vowed to continue bombing rebel positions until the Houthis withdraw. The fighting in Yemen is, at its heart, a battle between two proxy forces, backed by Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively.

Read More:

Saudi Arabia claims success in airstrikes on Yemen (Al Jazeera)
Rebels In Yemen Are Using Twitter, Facebook To Crowdfund Weaponry (Vocativ)
Pakistan prepares to evacuate citizens from Yemen (Channel News Asia)