Critics on social media have blasted the Houthis for privileging one group of people based on their bloodline at a time when global protests are highlighting the ills of racism

Houthis reinterpret religious tax to steer more funds to Hashemites

Houthi authorities in Sana’a have issued a new bylaw on the collection and use of Zakat, an obligatory religious tax, which will directly benefit the ruling family and others in their hereditary class, according to a document issued by the Houthi-run Ministry of Legal Affairs. 

Signed by Houthi President Mahdi Al-Mashat on April 29, the executive bylaw imposes a 20 percent tax on all economic activity involving natural resources such as the oil, gas and fishing industries. Zakat is separate from traditional taxes collected by the state.

The legal maneuver is designed to benefit the so-called “Ahl Al-Bayt,” or “Hashemite” descendents of the prophet Mohammed, according to Yemeni lawyer Abdulrahman Barman, who questions the validity of the move.

“The bylaw goes against the constitution, which dictates equality between all Yemenis in terms of rights and duties and says no Yemeni is better than another," Barman said. 

Bylaws are meant to explain laws or clarify ambiguous aspects of a particular law.

In this case, the Houthis have expanded the interpretation of the 1999 law of Zakat, which states that the proceeds of the religious tax should go to underprivileged groups including orphans, stranded or needy travelers or the poor.

"The law of Zakat is clear and the bylaw issued by the Houthis contradicts the text of the law itself," Barman said.

Based on the new interpretation, the revenues collected from the tax would go directly to influential Hashemite leaders, religious scholars and other members of the Hashemite clan.

The Zaidi Shia Hashemite class, to which the Houthis belong, were regarded as Yemen’s master race during the dynastic rule of Imams over some parts of northern Yemen for about 1,000 years until the republican revolution of 1962. 

Yemenis on social media voiced their outrage at the decision, accusing the Houthis of trying to impose the Shia economic system of “Khums,” which obligates followers to pay 20 percent of their earnings. The critics lamented the fact that Houthis are privileging one group of people based on their bloodline at a time when protests around the world are highlighting the ills of racism and calling for the equal treatment of all people. 


Edited by Ahlam Mohsen and Casey Coombs



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