News / Africa

Ethiopian Government, Muslims Clash about Ideology

A protester holds up a copy of the the Koran during a demonstration in front of the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 2012. A protester holds up a copy of the the Koran during a demonstration in front of the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 2012.
x
A protester holds up a copy of the the Koran during a demonstration in front of the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 2012.
A protester holds up a copy of the the Koran during a demonstration in front of the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 2012.
Peter Heinlein
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.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid