Yemen’s Houthi Grand Mufti targets Baha’is—UN Security Council to consider Yemen next week
New York, June 09, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A bloodcurdling sermon filled with disinformation and hate against Yemen’s Baha’i community was delivered at Friday prayers on 2 June, in the capital Sanaa, by the Houthi’s Grand Mufti Shams al-Din Sharaf al-Din. The sermon, which lasted for more than an hour and which focused in large part on castigating the Baha’is, was also published on the internet.
The sermon came after armed and masked Houthi gunmen stormed a peaceful Baha’i gathering, on 25 May, where they detained 17 people, including 5 women, and took them to unknown locations managed by the Houthi security services. One individual has since been released. The Baha’i International Community (BIC) has reason to believe that the detainees are being mistreated in custody.
The Grand Mufti confirmed the arrest of the 17 Baha’is by security services before leveling several false and incendiary allegations, claiming that the Baha’i community is supported by foreign powers and had plans to harm the country.
“What does it say about the intentions of the Houthis when their Grand Mufti devotes an entire Friday prayer sermon to denouncing, demonizing and spreading vicious disinformation about the peaceful Baha’i community?” said Bani Dugal, the BIC’s Principal Representative to the United Nations. “We know from history that hate speech is the first step when those in power wish to incite violence against at-risk minorities.”
The Mufti claimed that the Baha’i Faith spreads thanks to the “generous support of Britain, America and the Jews,” before insisting that the Baha’is are “dangerous and secretly mislead the people and corrupt young men and women.”
He also impugned the moral integrity of Baha’is in family and financial matters. Both claims are absurd and intended to incite hatred and suspicion about the Bahá’ís in the minds of the congregants and the people of Yemen.
The Grand Mufti further emphasized that anyone who changes their religion from Islam should be killed.
The latest outpouring hate speech follows 2018 public remarks by the Houthi leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, in which he warned Yemenis of the “satanic” Baha’i “movement” that was “waging a war of doctrine” against Islam. Mr. al-Houthi urged Yemenis to defend their country from the Baha’is under the pretext that “those who destroy the faith in people are no less evil and dangerous than those who kill people with their bombs.”
“The de facto Houthi authorities are stoking insecurity and instability in Yemen by inciting their own long-suffering people against the innocent Baha’is, and ignoring real issues that need to be addressed in Yemen,” Ms. Dugal added. “The allegations made by the Houthis mirror those same threadbare accusations made over the past 44 years in Iran which no one any longer believes. While governments across the Arab region are striving for peace and looking to the future, the Houthis continue to violate the rights of the Baha’is and many others in Yemen, and by inciting their people against minorities they are driving them into the past and into the ground. The international community responded to last week’s arrests of the Baha’is with outrage; this must now be doubled, tripled and intensified without pause, until all detained Baha’is are freed.”
Background and response to Houthi disinformation
- See the Baha’i International Community’s full overview of the persecution of Baha’is in Yemen and the international response.
- The international headquarters of the Baha’i Faith are located within the borders of the modern-day State of Israel as a result of the successive banishments imposed on Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Faith, in the mid-nineteenth century by the Persian and Ottoman governments. Exiled from His native Persia, Baha’u’llah was sent to Baghdad, Constantinople, and Adrianople, and finally to the fortress-city of Acre in 1868, some 80 years before the State of Israel was founded. He died there in 1892.
- The presence of the Baha’i World Centre in Israel has not given rise to any preferential treatment to the Baha’is or to their religion. There has not been, nor will there ever be, any connection with any government or politics of the day, in Israel or any other country, other than the duty of individuals or communities to be obedient to the laws of the land in which they live.
- The accusation against the Baha’is of “spying” was contrived and used as a pretext to persecute Baha’is by the authorities in Iran more than 75 years ago. The Baha’i Faith was attacked by Iranian clerics in the mid-1800 on theological grounds. But with the emergence of Iranian nationalism, in the early 1930s, the Baha’i Faith’s antagonists also attempted to misrepresent it as a political movement whose aim is to weaken Islam while allied to foreign powers seen to be at odds with regional interests. The Baha’is in Iran have successively been accused of being tools of Russian imperialism, British colonialism, American expansionism and Zionism.
- Stipulated in a 1991 secret Iranian memorandum, signed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was a policy of exporting persecution of the Baha’is beyond Iran’s borders.
- Hamed bin Haydara, a Yemeni Baha’i who was first arrested in 2013, and who later endured prolonged detention and mistreatment by the de facto Houthi authorities, was sentenced to death by a Houthi court on 2 January 2018. The death sentenced was issued through the direct influence of the Iranian government.
- Mr. Haydara and five other jailed Baha’is were later released by the Houthis—after sustained international pressure—but were then exiled from their homeland by the de facto authorities.
- Houthi and Iranian religious and political authorities have also, on repeated occasions, accused the Baha’i community of a range of lurid moral and financial transgressions. No evidence has ever been produced to demonstrate such claims. But multiple human rights officials have noted that demonizing and “othering” at-risk minorities is a key part of spreading disinformation and inciting unsuspecting populations against a minority community.
CONTACT: Anthony Vance U.S. Baha'i Office of Public Affairs 202.833.8990 [email protected]
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