Monday, September 10, 2007

How the British brought change to south Arabia

British rule in south Arabia from 1939 to 1967 brought education, modernity and equal rights. The Jews of Aden owe to the British the abolition of the poll tax paid by non-Muslims - the first time in a majority-Muslim country. Review of Without glory in Arabia: the British retreat from Aden by Aviva Klein-Franke in The Yemen Times.

"The British contributed much to social change in the area. The British changed the tribal, religious and social law: girls should not marry before the age of 16 and later the age of 18. Eating Qat * was allowed on weekends only and forbidden during the week. The sale of liquor was permitted under special circumstances. All inhabitants were considered equal before the law. Jews, Christians and Indians were not classified as Dhimmis and were free from paying the poll tax to the Sultan of Lahej. For the first time the poll tax was abolished in a country with a Muslim majority. The British established a new legal system for the entire population, which took hold alongside the Muslim Sharia and the Jewish Halakha.

"All the groups who were serving the British or working under the British enjoyed an urban environment. A proletariat was created in Aden who felt itself less committed to the traditional tribal order. Its members earned money, made an income, lived in houses or flats in the city and enjoyed the benefits of the city, such as food, health services and infrastructures. The younger generation of Aden was able to absorb western education in the past couple of generations. There were also a number of students who could continue their high school studies in Bombay and in Great Britain. A new elite class was created in Aden. Young educated people became advocates, physicians and businessmen. There were scholars and academics who were now teachers in British schools and colleges. The leading educated groups in Aden spoke openly on political issues, seeking ways to liberate Aden from the rule of the British, and succeeded in influencing the tribes and the local groups to join them. The population of Aden enjoyed patterns of democracy: they were allowed to assemble, to express their opinion even against the rulers, to establish parties, to demonstrate and to publish their decrees and aims in newspapers. The disruption of the tribal order enabled them to lead their folks towards a new national identity.

"Where else in the Arab world was it possible at this time?"

Read article in full


*popular plant chewed for its narcotic properties

No comments: