Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi has inflamed tensions with Ethiopian Muslims over his increased interference in their religious affairs, a violation of the Ethiopian Constitution. Zenawi’s “iron-fisted” rule has also alienated large sections of the non-Muslim populace. (I want to add that Zenawi’s US-backed invasion of Somalia ousting the “Islamic Courts Movement” gave rise to Al-Shabab and the current quagmire of violence affecting the horn of Africa.)
International media and Islamophobic sites and blogs have been painting the protests in Ethiopia as the product of “radical Islam,” with such titles as “Muslim Protests Raise Fear of Radical Islam”, whereas the situation is far different. Ethiopian Muslims want basic rights and desire not to be treated as “terrorists.”
Ethiopian student activists organizing anti-Government protests emailed Egyptian news site BikyaMasr about the horrendous and Islamophobic nature of the coverage,
A group of Muslim activists from Ethiopia lashed out at the international coverage of protests in the country that have seen police violence meted out against Muslims in the East African nation.
In an email to Bikyamasr.com, the activists, who said they were “concerned Muslim Ethiopians,” argued that the current protests are not about a specific Islam being pushed, but the overall need for Ethiopia to maintain freedom of religion.
“We are a group of university students and we are frustrated with much of the coverage that has been existing in the international media concerning the protests that have been taking place in our country,” the email began.
“As Muslims living in Ethiopia we would like the world to know that we are not against Christians, but are against the government’s efforts to crackdown on our community and attempt to tell us which version of Islam we should be following.
“The police have attacked and even killed Muslims at mosques for not complying with the government on our faith. This is unacceptable and we would like to bring the international attention to our situation and warn against labeling us Muslims as radical. We are not. We are simply citizens who want to practice our faith as we want,” the statement continued.
The situation risks being inflamed further if government forces continue to use lethal force against protesters, disrupt sit-ins at Mosques and disregard the very democratic demands of protesters. (h/t: Arhet):
CAIRO – The iron-fist policies of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and harassment of the Muslim minority are fueling radicalization in Ethiopia and risk stoking civil revolt in the country, analysts agree.
“Heeding the demands of the protesters can resolve the issue,” Hassen Hussein, a human rights activist and assistant professor of leadership and management at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, told The Washington Times on Wednesday, July 25.
Protests have rocked Ethiopia over the past weeks over government interference in the religious affairs of Ethiopian Muslims.
Last week, four Muslims were killed when Ethiopian police stormed into a mosque in the capital Addis Ababa to disrupt preparations for a city-wide program called Sadaqa (feast).
Police also tried to storm the Anwar Mosque in the west of the capital on Saturday, prompting Muslims to gather to block their way in.
A week earlier, scores of Muslims were arrested after staging protests against government interference in their religious affairs.
In April, four Muslims were also killed in clashes with police in southern Ethiopia in protest at the arrest of a Muslim preacher.
Muslims say the government is spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called “Ahbash”.
The government of Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi has put the Ahbash in charge of the religious affairs of Ethiopia’s Muslims.
Muslims say the government move is in violation of the constitution, which prevents the government interference in religious affairs.
Muslims also accuse the Ahbash of launching an “indoctrination program” in predominantly Muslim areas, forcing people to attend “religious training” camps or risk police interrogation and possible arrest.
Founded by Ethiopian-Lebanese scholar Sheikh Abdullah al-Harari, Ahbash is seen by the West as a “friendly alternative” to Wahabi ideology, which the West sees as extreme and militant.
Muslims say Ahbash imams are being brought over from Lebanon to fill the Majlis and teach Ethiopians that “Wahabis” are non-Muslims.
Muslims make up about 34 percent of Ethiopia’s population.
Analysts warn that the government harassment of Muslims risks stoking civil revolt in Ethiopia as happened in the Arab world.
“The protesters know that they have the support of the majority of the population so long as their demand is for civil liberties and democratic freedoms,” Hassan Hussein, an Ethiopian human rights activist, told The Washington Times.
“Other sectors could press similar demands, and it might escalate into calls for regime change as has happened in the Arab Spring.”