Rashad Union, Yemen's first-ever Salafi political party, forms


A Yemeni man shows his ink-stained thumb after voting in Yemen's presidential election in Sanaa on Feb. 21, 2012.


Mohammed Huwais

Yemen's Salafis on Wednesday formed their first political party, mirroring a move made by their Egyptian counterparts with great success in recent elections there, reported Reuters

Egypt's Salafi al-Nour party recently took the second highest number of seats in the nation's first democratically-elected parliament in years.

Yemen's new Islamist party, Rashad Union -- Rashad a name based on the Arabic for "good judgement" –  on Wednesday issued a statement outlining their political priorities, among them the implementation of Islamic law throughout the country.

They also called for dialogue between Sunni Islamist militants and northern Shi'ite rebels, according to Reuters, with Salafi leader Abdel Wahhab al-Hamqani saying talks were critical in order to "get Yemen out of the cycle of violence."

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Yemen has seen rising violence as Al-Qaida-linked militants, taking advantage of the nearly year-long anti-government uprising that in November led to the resignation of longtime Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh after more than 30 years in power, moved into much of the country's south. 

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The government has been locked in an increasingly fierce battle to reclaim the region, with nearly 200 Yemeni soldiers killed by an insurgent-led assault last weekend.

The Yemen Times meanwhile reported that not all Salafis expressed support for Rashad Union, with criticism over the move coming out of the respected city of Damaj, birthplace of Yemeni Salafi ideology some 30 years ago. A leading religious leader there, Mohammed al-Wadei, on Wednesday lashed out against it, calling it "partisan" and saying "we as Salafists oppose the formation of any political parties."

Salafis, a hyper-orthodox branch of Islam, have traditionally stayed out of politics, focusing instead on religious education and charity work.