The Yemeni Defence Ministry launched a national counter-terrorism campaign last week alongside Yemeni scholars and clerics, the Egyptian Al-Azhar Mission and Yemeni officers.
The one-year campaign aims to spread religious awareness, lay a foundation for temperance and moderation, and combat radicalism and extremism. It primarily targets members of Yemen's armed forces but also includes delivering religious speeches and lectures to the general public in some cities.
Religious guidance counsellors for the armed forces attended a preliminary meeting for the campaign Wednesday (March 21st). The counsellors are responsible for conducting field visits to all armed forces units as part of the campaign.
The Armed Forces Department of Moral Guidance plays an important role in training combatants and infusing them with high morale grounded in faith to enable them to face all challenges, said Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed.
Ahmed highlighted the guidance and counselling role of sheikhs and scholars in spreading sound religious awareness, laying a foundation for moderation and combating radicalism and extremism.
He also called on sheikhs, scholars and members of the Al-Azhar Mission to intensify their guidance efforts to enlighten the armed forces about "the importance of foregoing the past and activating their pivotal role," which is preserving national unity.
Sheikhs and scholars should "instil in [the armed forces] a fighting spirit based on unity in the ranks and faith since they are two key factors in combating misguided and extremist ideology", Ahmed said.
Ahmed said he condemns the criminal acts practiced by Ansar al-Sharia, the al-Qaeda affiliate.
"Yemen is not seeking war, destruction or bloodshed between people of the same country because everyone rejects bloody sectarian conflicts between brothers," he said. "Whoever seeks to sow sedition is devoid of humanistic and praiseworthy Islamic values, and the duty falls on everyone to confront this destructive phenomenon," he said.
"The plan will be implemented over the course of a whole year and seeks to raise the awareness of armed forces personnel, inform them of the truth of what is going on and separate fact from falsehood to immunize them against misguided ideas and ideological breaches," said Sheikh Hassan al-Sheikh, undersecretary of the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance and developer of the campaign plan.
"The plan centres on religious, moral and political awareness and calls for disengaging soldiers completely from politics and confining their duties to protecting the country and the interests of the people [living] within its borders, regardless of whether they are Muslim or otherwise," he told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Sheikh said the campaign will start with a training course for officers and guidance counsellors participating alongside the scholars in the campaign.
It is important to have "the soldiers undergo physical, spiritual and moral training" through cultural and sports activities and by giving them access to scientific libraries at their bases to prepare them for any confrontation, be it military, cultural or ideological, he said.
Awareness caravans will visit military units to educate military personnel about the dangers of terrorism and extremism, said Col. Dr. Jamal al-Haidari, head of the studies and research division in the Armed Forces Department of Moral Guidance.
He said awareness activities will include public lectures and seminars in the provinces on the importance of the role of military institutions in preserving security and stability, and the need to spare them from personal conflicts, especially since they are not affiliated with any party or sheikh.
The lectures and seminars will also discuss the need for citizens to condemn extremism and terrorism and fight them alongside the armed forces, he said.
Sheikh Ramadan al-Kilani, head of the Yemeni Al-Azhar Mission, said scholars will do their part in opposing terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
"What we are facing today is demonic terrorism that no law or religion endorses, and everyone has a duty to confront it," he said.
Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim al-Issawi, a member of the Al-Azhar Mission, said terrorists have misinterpreted religious teachings.
"Terrorism is born of misconceptions about religion and its sublime teachings. It is the legitimate duty of speakers and preachers to take to the field to educate and immunise armed forces and security personnel against ideological breaches and terrorist operations carried out by outlaws," he said.