Published On: Mon, May 21st, 2012

Ethiopian Government, Muslims Clash about Ideology

ADDIS ABABA — Unofficial committees within Ethiopia’s 30-million strong Muslim community are organizing demonstrations to protest what they say is government interference in Islamic affairs. Tensions are rising as the government tries to preempt what it sees as the rise of a hardline strain of Islam.

Worshippers arriving for Friday prayers at Addis Ababa’s Awalia mosque found a notice posted at the entrance, which read: “They managed to get in through the back door before. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The notice was signed by a mosque committee opposed to what it says has been a quiet government takeover of Ethiopia’s Islamic Affairs Supreme Council. The committee is demanding elections for new council members, to be held in the city’s mosques. They rejected a suggestion that the vote be held in neighborhood government halls called kebeles.

Standing at the entrance to the mosque, Ibrahim Hassan who teaches computer science at the Awalia Mission School, says holding the election in kebele halls would open the door to mischief.

“It should be inside the mosques, not in the kebeles because if it carried out in the kebeles there will be corruption, or some of the government authorities may participate. That is not fair. It is related to religion. There must not be interference of government in such tasks,” he said.

Awalia mosque has been at the center of protests against what many Muslims see as government efforts to ban the teachings of the conservative Salafist sect of Islam. The Islamic Supreme Council recently fired several teachers at the Awalia mission school and shut down an Arabic language teaching center.

Teacher Ibrahim accuses the council of trying to indoctrinate Ethiopian Muslims into the little known al-Abhash sect that preaches non-violence, as opposed to the more militant Salafist brand of Islam.

“They think that the committee may be terrorists,” he said. “They consider us terrorists, but it represents all the Muslim communities. They said that [some] Salafists are members of al-Qaida, but in Ethiopia all of the Muslims are not members of al-Qaida, they are simply regular Muslims.”

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi last month signaled a crackdown on those he accused of “peddling ideologies of intolerance.” In a speech to parliament, he said a few Salafis had formed clandestine al-Qaida cells in the southern part of the country.

Days later, four protesters were killed and many others injured in the southern state, Oromia when they tried to prevent police from arresting a Muslim cleric accused of promoting a radical ideology.

Last week, five men, including one Kenyan national, were arraigned in Addis Ababa’s federal court on charges of operating an al-Qaida cell out of a mosque in Oromia.

In another incident this month, Ethiopian authorities expelled two Arab men said to have been visiting from an unnamed Middle Eastern country. The two were detained after making what police called “inflammatory statements” and distributing materials at Addis Ababa’s main Anwar mosque.

And last Friday, dozens of young men were reported to have stood outside Anwar mosque with tape over their mouths in a silent protest. Young men standing at the entrance to Awalia mosque at last Friday’s prayers said another big demonstration is planned for this week.

More than half of Ethiopia’s roughly 90 million people are Christian, while an estimated 35 percent are Muslim. The Horn of Africa nation has long prided itself on its religious tolerance.


May 21, 2012

Displaying 11 Comments
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  1. G/Mesqel Dagne says:

    What the Ethiopian gov.t did was clearly interference in religion affairs!It brought Al-Ahbash sect from the near by middle east countries and tried to preach it forcefully.It is a new era in the history of Ethiopian gov.ts passed so far in its intervention!!The funny part is that the gov.t enshrined secularism in art 11 it's constitution.And we see that it is abrogated deliberately.

  2. Tiglu says:

    i think all relgion love peace .so unit our self with love…..

  3. HMObsiye says:

    The Ethiopian government should not play with fire. Religion and state affairs should never be mixed.
    The moment the authorities try to interfere with religious issues, they are no longer considered neutral.
    And this is how most of Ethiopian muslim sees what the current government is doing.

  4. Allemagan says:

    The word Ahbash means “Abyssinians” which is the Arabic derivative of the name of the ancient Christian kingdom that used to exist in the far northern corner of Ethiopia. It is very clever on the part of the government to make an organization with a name like that to control the Muslim populace.

    According to Catholic Encyclopedia “Abyssinia answers to the Upper, or Eastern, Ethiopia of the ancients, and comprises four provinces: Tigré, Amhara, Goggiam, and Shoa, four small kingdoms entrusted to as many Ras, or Negus, whence the title, negus-se-néghest, i.e., "King of Kings", assumed by the emperor of Abyssinia”. See here for more information. It does not include the Oromo, Ogaden, Afar and scores of other tribes that Menelik, the king of Shoa conquered and subjugated with European supplied guns.
    The Ogaden and Oromo people are still suffering under the ruthless occupation of Abyssinia see here and here . Ethiopia denies the majority of its population equal rights. Even today, one has to convert to Christianity to either rise in the ranks of the military or aspire to any position of power in Ethiopia.
    The Abyssinians must allow what they call “Ethiopian peoples and nationalities” to either have their self-determination or make Ethiopia an authentic inclusive democratic society where the majority of the people who are not Christians are not barred from ever leading this nation. Ethiopia’s demise as a nation will not be brought about by imaginary extremist evil forces and Muslim fundamentalism but by the injustice that has existed in that land for centuries.

    • mursal ahmed says:

      well said mate probably you understand better Than anyone else in This topic,unlike osman5 who will sell his own people two cent to get fake recognition.

  5. osman5 says:

    Ethiopia is known for a religion tolerant and friendly atmosphere nation for centuries, despite the famines induced by humans in the recent decades. Ethiopians should not let shortsighted leaders to alter their old traditions and values.

    Osman Qaal

  6. ComeAgain says:

    Freedom of Religion and Freedom FROM religion! If someone is preaching hate or terrorist stuff then yes the ethiopian government should step in. However, people should be able to worship in peace as well so they have to walk a fine line. No one wants crazy religous nuts in their country no matter what religion, and no one wants to be told what to believe either.

  7. Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi says:

    The government must not mix between the religion and state; it will lead to further instability in the country; surely using force will not ensure fair between the people, and if you get even 5% of your population who feel treated unjust than remember one day the state will fall into chaos just like Somalia.

    Freedom of worship for all and Ethiopian government must think million times before interfering the religion particularly the Mosque because Ethiopia is fighting Al-Shabab in Somalia, which can easily use Ethiopian anger against the government.


  8. Allemagan says:

    @Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi,

    It is interesting to see that you are very much concerned about Ethiopia ending up in a fate that similar to that of Somalia. Why do you always stoke the fire and tribal division amongst Somalis by promoting the cessation of Somaliland from Somalia? Why don't you call Somali people to end their internal strife, tolerate each other and live in peace and harmony? You have produced countless articles inflaming Somali tribal passions.

    Your comment here is not one from a man of peace. I wish I could understand the root cause and motive of your enmity towards Somalia and its people.

    • Abdiwahab says:

      rubbish abdulaziz is not stoking tribal hatred because Somaliland is not a tribal entity but a sovereign state not recognized worldwide unjustifiably. Somaliland will be an independent country based on the pre 1 July '60 borders without the tribal politics of Zoomalia but instead in a democratic atmosphere

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