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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs