| Religious Freedom Ranking:
1.5 out of 5 stars: Serious Violations
The Constitution declares that Yemen is an Islamic state and that its law is based on Shari’a. Of 14.7 million people, most are Muslims, either of the Zaydi branch of Shi'a Islam (45 percent) or the Shafe'ei branch of Sunni Islam (55 percent). There are also some Ismailis in the north. Note: current civil strife may affect the religious freedom situation and the current report is based on information from the first part of 2011.
The law has little to say about religious freedom. People are generally free to practice their own religion, but Muslims may not convert to any other faith and proselytizing is illegal. Apostasy is considered punishable by death.
Most of the 3,000 Christians in the country are either refugees or temporary foreign residents. Four churches exist in Aden, three Roman Catholic and one Anglican. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and some Protestants hold weekly worship services in Sana’a. Church services are regularly held without harassment in private homes or schools. Christian clergy belonging to the Baptist Church provide medical and educational services to the small communities of foreigners. There are approximately 40 Hindus living in Aden who trace their origins to India, and attend one Hindu temple. Reports say there are 150 Baha’is. No non-Muslim public places of worship exist in the former north Yemen.
The Jewish community is the only indigenous religious minority. Nearly all of Yemen's once sizable Jewish populations have emigrated out of fear. Since January 2007 the historic (northern) Saada Governorate community of 60 remaining Jews has lived in (southern) Sana'a, under the protection of the government, after abandoning their homes in the face of threats from the Houthi rebels. The US government has offered them asylum. Jews who have remained, are restricted to living in certain sections of the cities and villages.
No non-Muslims may run for parliament, Jews may not serve in the military or federal government, and the constitution indicates that the president must "practice his Islamic duties." Records of an individual's religious identity are not kept and no religious group had to register with the state, but the government did require permission to build a house of worship. Private Islamic organizations may maintain ties to pan-Islamic organizations and operate schools, but the Government monitors their activities.
Religious Freedom and women: Under Yemen’s Shari’a law, women come under the control of a male relative and have fewer rights than men, especially in inheritance, divorce and custody of children. Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men, although Muslim men may marry Christians and Jews. Non-Muslim women may wear their religious clothing, but must be modest. Married women need the written permission of their husband to travel abroad. Female genital mutilation is reported in rural areas but it is unknown if this is a religious practice.
Religious violence: In 1995, a Christian-run hospital was threatened by militant Islamists in a mob attack. The greatest area of violence is between the government and the Houthi rebels. Houthis are a variant of Zaydi shi’ism. There are considered Twelver Emam shi’ites like those in Iran. Yet Houthis claim they are Zaydis who follow slain cleric (during the 10 week rebellion in 2004), HusseinBadr Eddine al-Houthi. Some Zaydis report discrimination and harassment due to perceived sympathy with the Houthis rebels. Human rights groups report that hundreds of Zaydis are still in jail without proof of connection to the fighting between government forces and the rebels. It may be that the government’s actions are more political than religious. In an effort to decrease the growth of the Houthi’s power, the government limited the hours of business of mosques and limited the political rhetoric in sermons. Some imams were reassigned if they were heard teaching radical doctrines. Sunni imams replaced Zaydi (Shi’ite) imams in the north.
2010 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Yemen There was no significant change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.
2010 US State Department Report on Religious Freedom in Yemen