This article presents an overview of Yemeni society before proceeding to a detailed account of research undertaken by the author into the factors behind the rise of Islamic extremism in Yemen and its appeal, especially among the young and most deprived sectors of society. The author draws on and relates his findings to a number of theoretical works, including those of authorities such as Max Weber as well as more recent analysts, in a discussion of what drives extremist group formation and what attracts their adherents, in general terms and in Yemen in particular. The findings of a survey of public opinion in Yemen conducted by the author are recounted in some detail.


Political Islam is today the most important subject on the minds of researchers and stakeholders interested in the Arab world and related developments. In the immediate term, it is the issue with the greatest potential to impact the future shape of Arab–Islamic societies, given the important role that religion plays in these societies from the cultural, political and even economic points of view. This being so, the fundamental challenge is how best to understand the way Arab–Islamic societies are evolving today.

The subject of the present research is to identify and track the different political, economic, social, religious, and cultural factors at work and that are constantly in flux, and to do so specifically in the context of Yemen. The intention is to identify what has led to the rise and development of religious extremism in Yemeni society and, to do this, the article focuses on, among other things, the social, political, economic, cultural and intellectual dimensions of the issue. These are the dimensions that nourished the extremist Salafist current and made it the complex social, political and cultural phenomenon that it is in Yemen today.

Without digressing into a discussion of the various theoretical approaches which may apply here, despite their importance, the author has identified the Yemeni public scene as the central object and source of evidence for this research and, to this end, the research takes the form of a field study par excellence.

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