This was clearly demonstrated after the Houthi group announced the executive regulations of the “Zakat” law, which stipulates allocating 20% of the country’s revenues to those whom they call the “Hashemites” (Banu Hashim).
The legal amendments approved by the Ansar Allah Authority (a Houthi Group), under which one-fifth of the natural ores and minerals are allocated to “Banu Hashim”, to which the group’s leadership belong, have ignited a storm of controversy among all political, media, and intellectual layers. The issue has become the focus of political and religious discussions within Yemeni society, with the group being accused of “racism” and exploiting religious texts to take additional stakes.
The storm started with the leaking of a photocopied document showing amendments to the regulations of the Yemeni Zakat Law issued in 1990. The document submitted to the parliament, which is under the group’s control in Sanaa, has included a new formula with updated amendments and contents that reflect the doctrinal and jurisprudential visions expressing the beliefs of the group and its religious wing, including those related to the “Khums” (one-fifth) tax.
The reactions centered specifically on Articles 47 and 48, as the first included, according to “Daraj’s” review, that “Yemenis must pay “Khums” (one-fifth) tax on natural resources and minerals extracted from the ground or the sea, whatever their natural state is, whether solid or liquid, such as gold, silver, copper, diamonds, Agate, Emerald, Turquoise, Oil, Gas, Bitumen, Water, Salt, Mercury, Gemstone, Cree, Gneiss , Marble, and any other minerals of value. Also, the “Khums” (one-fifth) tax must be paid on whatever is extracted from the sea such as fish, pearls, amber and others. In addition to honey, if obtained from trees or caves.”
The article that was added entirely in the latest amendment specifies the channels of the “Khums” (one-fifth) tax according to the interpretation of one of the verses of the Quran, in six shares. The first is for “Allah”, and the second is for his Messenger and is paid for the “guardian or ruler”, while “the third is for the near relatives of the Messenger, from Banu Hashim who were forbidden to receive charity, thus Allah granted them, the “Khums” (one-fifth), instead of zakat, with the priority of spending it for the benefit of their poor. The fourth, the fifth, and the sixth shares are for the orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer, including the orphans, and the needy of “Banu Hashim ”.
A Racially Discriminating Document
The release of the document’s photocopy, sparked a wave of comments on social media from activists, politicians, and media professionals, with the political parties also chiming in and issuing official statements. All the reactions condemned the bias of the regulation to the “Hashemites” exclusively, and considered the document an evidence of conviction, confirming the group’s approval of “racist” legislations, and regarding it as a new episode in the group’s measures aimed at taking levies.
“This discriminatory philosophy ―besides its catastrophic political, cultural and social repercussions― continues to be problematic on the economic side; as the philosophy of taxes and zakat is based upon redistribution of wealth, by transferring it from the rich to the poor.”
A statement signed by dozens of Yemeni intellectuals and public figures considered that submitting a regulation granting one-fifth of the natural ores exclusively to Banu Hashim is a measure that “demonstrates the explicit racism of the existing regime in Sanaa and contradicts the values of equality and justice, and ignores the constitutional texts that confirm that natural wealth belongs exclusively to the people”, according to the statement.
On the other hand, and in light of what the case has provoked, most of the comments and statements issued by the leaders of “Ansar Allah” varied between falsifying the campaigns, questioning the reasons behind raising the case and defending the “one-fifth” tax, whereas the group’s leader, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, admitted in a tweet on his twitter account, that their opponents achieved a temporary victory in the case.
The most prominent reaction of the Houthis ―after raising the case― came in a khutbah (sermon) by the Mufti of Yemen, Sheikh Shams al-Din Sharaf al-Din, who was appointed by the group. In his speech, he defended the idea of the ‘one-fifth’ tax and considered that its adoption was a form of “Enforcing God’s law in His land.” Furthermore, he stressed that all madhhabs―schools of thought within Islamic jurisprudence― agreed on the ‘one-fifth’ tax and that it should be given to the Hashemites who were banned from receiving Sadaqah (voluntary charity), in the past.
Additionally, Mustafa Nasr ―the head of the Studies and Economic Media Center― revealed to ‘Daraj’ the economic implications of that matter since “it imposes a different or almost unreasonable point of view, considering the natural ores and minerals, for instance, as some sort of booty, that part of which is allocated to a segment of the population.”
He added that, “This discriminatory philosophy ―besides its catastrophic political, cultural and social repercussions― continues to be problematic on the economic side; as the philosophy of taxes and zakat is based upon redistribution of wealth, by transferring it from the rich to the poor,” stressing that “The resolution adopted strikes directly at the heart of the ‘equitable distribution of wealth’’s notion, leading to future-tension which may have multiple risks.”
“The Constitution affirms that wealth and natural resources are owned by the people, stipulating that such resources should be redistributed equally among all kinds of people. The notion of equitable wealth distribution is a fundamental principle on which laws are supposed to be based. Furthermore, any discrimination in this matter has a significant impact on all aspects of life; politically, economically and socially. It is noteworthy that this regulation included many gaps and loopholes,” He continued.
“The resolution adopted strikes directly at the heart of the ‘equitable distribution of wealth’’s notion, leading to future-tension which may have multiple risks.”
The Houthi group seems determined to enforce the law. Mohammed Abdul Quddous, the pro-Houthi journalist, who is the Vice President of the Board of Directors of Saba News Agency, noted that: “The Zakat Act is nothing new as it was issued during the peak of the bipartisan control of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform and General People’s Congress, where it has been approved by those bipartisan members of the Parliament in 1999.”
“It is not a political issue, it is a jural one and its politicization does not make any sense; the Yemenis are known for adhering to the Quran and the legal provisions contained therein. Furthermore, all madhhabs ―even the most hostile groups to Ahl al-Bayt, the family of the Prophet Muhammad, (referring to Hashemites)― agreed on the matter”.
The Houthi militias present themselves as the only representative of “Ahl al-Bayt” in Yemen, since the armed coup against the legitimate regime in late 2014, it should be also noted that their policies have increased sectarian and ethnic strife among Yemenis.
Despite the group’s control over all the state’s wealth and resources in Sana’a and Al-Hudaydah, it is still trying to extend its control over the few resources that are still available, at a time when Yemenis are falling victims to diseases and pandemics without serious initiatives from the group to contain them and, worse still, with the militia continues to reinforce the sectarian, regional and racial discrimination between Yemenis.