Ethiopia’s Muslims protest against being “treated like terrorists”

Muslims gathered at Anwar mosque in Addis Ababa on July 15. Photo by @DimtsachinYisem published on Facebook
 
Long known for its religious tolerance, Ethiopia’s reputation now looks to be hanging in the balance as some members of its Muslim community have accused the government of treating them as if they were terrorists, resulting in a wave of protests in the capital Addis Ababa.
 
Mass demonstrations against religious discrimination erupted anew on Saturday, after scores of people gathered at Addis Ababa’s Anawar mosque. Clashes reportedly broke out after police attempted to break up the crowd, leading to the arrest of hundreds of protesters.
 
Last Saturday's protest at the Anawar mosque in Addis Ababa.
 
Over recent months, members of Ethiopia’s Muslim community have gathered at the capital’s Awoliya mosque every Friday to demand a new “majlis”, or Muslim Council. Many feel as though the current “majlis” is mostly comprised of government-appointed figures who do not represent them.
 
The demonstrations first turned violent on July 13, when thousands gathered at the Anawar mosque to call for a new “majilis”. Security forces were immediately dispatched to break up the demonstration, which authorities perceived as an act aimed at disrupting an upcoming African Union summit to be held in the capital. Police forced the mosque’s entrance open, before shooting canisters of teargas at the crowd and arresting 72 people.
 
Protesters at Anwar mosque on July 14.
 
While the majority of people in Ethiopia are Orthodox Christian, nearly 34 percent of the population is Muslim. Although the country has no official religion and its constitution guarantees religious freedom, there are some Muslims who feel as though their rights have been encroached upon and accuse the government of pushing the ideology of al-Ahbash – a Sunni movement founded in Lebanon during the 20th century that largely condemns Salafism and encourages religious pluralism.
 
These allegations arise from the belief that Ethiopian authorities have worked over the last several years to make sure that the country’s “majlis” is made up of an al-Ahbash majority. Protesters are calling for a vote to elect new members to the religious body.
 
Frustration over the issue first emerged in the beginning of the year after a number of teachers at the Awoliya mosque’s school were dismissed, only to be replaced by educators who introduced an al-Ahbash based curriculum. Shortly afterwards the government also shut down the mosque’s university and its Arabic language centre. The government’s actions outraged many in the community, who viewed it as evidence of the state’s interference with religious institutions.
 
Faced with mounting criticism, Ethiopia’s government has denied allegations that it has supported or backed al-Ahbash figures. It has, however, said that the fight against religious extremism is a priority, and has justified any measures it has taken as necessary to ensure the country’s stability.
 
Surrounded by predominantly Muslim countries, Ethiopia has always stood as something of bastion against Islamic extremism. However, in the past few years, the Horn of Africa has been no stranger to terrorism. Radical groups such as al-Shabab, which has close ties to al-Qaeda, have taken root in Somalia and Kenya – two nations that share borders with Ethiopia.
Contributors

“Fighting for the right to freely practice you religion is not terrorism”

Aman, 26, is a businessman in Addis Ababa.
  
Ever since the beginning of the movement, we’ve organised our protests at mosques. They have never turned violent – all our rallies are peaceful.
 
The protest movement began with a group of students from Awoliya mosque school, where they were made to learn from an al-Ahbash curriculum. They were quickly supported by a majority of Muslims in Addis Ababa. We’re asking for a new “majlis”. We feel that the present council does not represent all Muslims in Ethiopia because they were not elected to their positions. For us, they will always be government puppets. In other parts of the country, Muslims have even set up their own councils because they refuse to be led by the state’s “majlis”.
 
We’re not asking that al-Ahbash ideology be banned. Every Muslim has the right to practice their faith in the way they see fit. What we don’t want is that this one belief system be imposed on all of us, because some believe it promotes heretical ideas.
   
A crowd of protesters outside the Anawar mosque on July 15. Photo by our Observer, Aman.
   
“Our leaders are watched and harassed by the police”
 
As our movement grew over time, the government’s attitude toward us also changed. We named leaders to head up negotiations, who were watched and harassed by the police on several occasions. [Last April, an imam from the region of Oromia was detained by the police. According to many in the Muslim community, this was due to his support for the protest movement. The government, meanwhile, accused him of preaching radical Islam.] Young activists have also been detained and physically abused, and a woman from my neighbourhood was beaten by security forces and left for dead in another part of the city.
 
“The government systematically uses the threat of terrorism as a weapon against its opponents”
 
About a month ago, state television began broadcasting new programmes on peace and tolerance among Ethiopia’s different religious communities. The overall message was that the sense of cohabitation and acceptance that has always characterised Ethiopia is now threatened by extremism in all its forms, in particular by Muslims from the Awoliya mosque. The government now systematically uses the threat of terrorism as a weapon against its opponents. The moment someone doesn’t conform with the government’s political line, they are labeled a terrorist. Fighting for the right to freely practice your religion is not terrorism. We should not be treated like terrorists!
Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia have always lived side by side. Even Christians recognise that all of this is government propaganda. We have always been neighbours, friends and often members of the same family because of inter-religious marriages. I have two aunts and an uncle who are married to Christians. I think the government hopes to ensure its own survival by trying to divide us. 
 
 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.

Comments

TERRORISM HAS NO RELIGION

ETH muslims questions is legitimate;they ve the right to have their own elected council member:yes ETHIPIA is a land of christans but that doesnt mean;its not a home for the muslims too;they are our brothers n sisters :we knw how to live together;we knw how to respect one another !!wake up people!they r trying to divide us;why cant you see that;ETHIOPIA IS ONE OF THE FEW COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD CHRISTIANS N MUSLIMS LIVE TOGETHER,GET MARRIED WITH ONE ANOTHER N LOTS OF THNGS!!STOP HATING EACHOTHER!! i am a christian n muslims arent terrorist;TERRORISM HAS NO RELIGION
lets not be distuRbed wit our gvt s propanDa:they are marchin peacefully so let them ask what the have to ask
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA

And by the way, the videos

And by the way, the videos are all blocked by the regime! You can't access them from Ethiopia!

Overpopulation

From all the pictures/videos in this article and information that can be obtained on the Internet, The biggest problem Ethiopia has is overpopulation. How many people have to starve to death before they consider it a problem that must be addressed? Vasectomy must be free and widely available. Then they can have all the sex they want without bringing babies into the world that will eventually starve to death. Sure makes a lot of sense to me. There's even free spay/neuter clinics available for dogs and cats in the USA. Wise up. Quit having babies that other people are going to have to feed.

Underperception

Dogs u mentioned here has better understanding than u!

Thank you France24

What can i say? Just keep the good job of telling the truth. My Allah bless you all!

Reply to comment | The FRANCE 24 Observers

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THIS IS THE TRUTH ABOUT ETHIOPIAN MUSLIMS’ CURRENT UPRISING

According to Ethiopian constitution, religion and government are separate. Government should not involve in the religious affairs and vice versa. Regardless of this rule, the government used to interfer in Muslims affairs long time ago, by assigning his puppets on the hierarchy of Ethiopian Islamic Supreme Council (Arabic called Mejlis) who are not democratically elected by the Muslim society. The Muslim people used to express his opposition to this action in a hidden manner.

How ever, four months ago when the council was fully replaced by the government assigned ahbashi individuals, the Muslim society started to oppose openly at different places. The government insisted on his illegal involvement and started campaign of training Muslim scholars with the ahbash ideology by bringing ahbash-oriented sheks from Lebanon. This action intensified the opposition level of the Muslim society. When the council (Majlis) shut down the Awolia College to make it the training place of its ideology (Ahbash); the Whole Muslim society reacted against those government interventions by making tekbira after every juma prayers. Finally they establish committee that comprises 17 members to address their questions officially to the government.

The questions raised by the people to be addressed by the committee were:

1) Since the supreme council is a religious institution, the people responsible to run the council should be elected democratically by the Ethiopian Muslim society at masjids and the government should work to wards fulfilling this task and should not by any means interfere in religious matters,

2) The government should stop imposing teaching activities of ahbash ideology forcefully, with out the interest of the people and ahbash could propagate its ideology separately similar to other religious institutions,

3) Awelia is the only teaching institution that belongs to the Muslim society and should be returned back to the people to resume its teaching activities. The committee worked intensively to fulfill those tasks and within time of four months none of them was addressed by the government rather the government tried to turn the issue to political case by fabricating false accusations.

And now more than 11,000 Muslims alone are in prison at Addis Ababa, including the 17 committee members. It has been confirmed that some of the committee members are being highly torched currently. It is our question to all international human right institutions to regularly visit those prisons jailed. I would also request all journalists who stand for the truth to come to Ethiopia and investigate what the ‘pro democratic' government of our country is doing to his people.

Muslims we will not support

Muslims we will not support you at all. you want Ethiopia to be like other Arab countries. you have nothing to do with religious leaders. Ethiopia is a land of Christian not Muslim. This is historically and truly written. don't disturbe our peace. we are focusing on development. not election.

Reply to comment | The FRANCE 24 Observers

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Thanks.

we dont need u since u are government

its obvious u need us to react against Christians but u wish we wont

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