Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Muslim learning, has decried a Houthi ban on Tarawih, special night prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in rebel-held areas.
In a statement, Al-Azhar said the Houthi ban “is contrary to the principles of religions and international conventions that call for respect of freedom of belief and protection of worship places.”
On Saturday, the Yemeni Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments), accused Houthi rebels of banning Tarawih prayers in rural areas under rebel control.
Houthi rebel leader Mohammad Ali Al-Houthi, for his part, criticized Al-Azhar's statement, describing the Tarawih prayers as a "heresy".
Yemen has been wracked by violence and instability since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
A Saudi-led coalition aimed at reinstating the Yemeni government has worsened the situation, causing one of the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crises with nearly 80% or about 30 million of its people needing humanitarian assistance and protection and more than 13 million in danger of starving to death.