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Ethiopian Muslims Protest Indoctrination by Government Sponsored Sect Written by Muslim Link Staff Thursday, 24 November 2011 12:16

 

About a thousand local Ethiopian American Muslims protest in front of the State Department on November 21. Photo courtesy of Ethio-American Ad-Hoc Committee.

Muslims concede that things have changed radically since America launched its global “war on terror” after the 9/11 attacks. Bush's “with us or against us” ultimatum left most government's of the world little choice but to put their air and land in service of America's war.  

Ethiopia is a striking example of how far things have changed for the world's Muslims.

The Prophet Salallahu 'alyhi wa sallam ordered the oppressed Muslims of Makkah to migrate to Ethiopia because there they would find a just ruler.

But on a rainy Monday, November 21, 2011, about one thousand local Ethiopian-American Muslims staged a protest in front of the State Department, asking the United States to prevent US taxpayer funds from supporting the Ethiopian government's oppression of its Muslim minority. [UPDATE: Ethiopian Muslims say their status as a 'minority' is doubtful, and their numbers account for 50-60% of the population. They say the government intentionally misrepresents their numbers in order to keep the balance of power in its favor. -- TML]

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Ethiopian Muslims Protest Indoctrination by Government Sponsored Sect Written by Muslim Link Staff Thursday, 24 November 2011 12:16

The protest was organized by an Ad-hoc Committee of local Ethiopian American Muslim consisting about around 15 members.

In a letter to Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs at the US State Department, the Ad-hoc Committee wrote “our concern lies in the government’s unconstitutional restrictions imposed on the peace loving Ethiopian Muslims through the promotion of a religious sect of its choice.” The religious sect referred to is a group commonly known as the “Ahbash” or “Habashis”, founded by Ethiopian-Lebanese Muslim scholar Sheikh Abdullah al-Harari . The sect is best known in the United States for claiming the qibla direction in North America is south-east instead north-east, the direction agreed upon by all major Muslim organizations in the nation. In the west, the sect operates under the organization name “Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (AICP)”. The government of Meles Zenawi put the Ahbash in charge of the religious affairs of Ethiopia's Muslims earlier this year, and the Ahbash have started a heavy handed indoctrination program throughout areas with heavy Muslim populations, forcing people to attend “religious training” camps or face police interviews and possible arrest. Ethiopian Muslims say this move by the government is in violation of the Ethiopian constitution which prevents the government from getting involved in religious affairs, but is tacitly supported by the United States, in large part because the Ahbash are seen as a friendly alternative to “Wahabi” Islam which the West sees as extreme and often militant. Ahbash Imams being brought over from Lebanon fill the country's Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and teach Ethiopians that “Wahabis” are non-Muslims.

First Hijrah Board Member and Ad-Hoc Committee member Zenith Muhammad said reports about the indoctrination camps including video and audio footage are being circulated throughout the Ethiopian Muslim diaspora.

“They are taking people from work and from school and forcing them to attend these camps, and then teaching them that 'wahabi' means kafir, and then asking them to take the shahadah [declaration of faith] again, all this while they are surrounded by police,” said Sister Zenith. Many local Ethiopian Muslims refused to speak to the Muslim Link on record, for fear that their relatives will face harassment by the Ethiopian government. Sister Zenith said she cared for her religion more than her family, so it was important for her to speak out.

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Ethiopian Muslims Protest Indoctrination by Government Sponsored Sect Written by Muslim Link Staff Thursday, 24 November 2011 12:16

At the protest, marchers held placards and chanted as a group in Amharic and in English, saying things like “We don't want a foreign ideology to be imported with our tax dollars”. The United States has been providing foreign aid to Ethiopia for decades, but with Ethiopia being a staging country for fighting Muslim groups in Somalia and hosting a drone base, more US dollars are flowing to the Ethiopian government.

The protest startd around 9 AM and ended around 1 PM with thuhr prayer on the sidewalk. Ad-Hoc Committee members said they plan to deliver messages to all the embassies of Muslim nations in the DC area, and to human rights and other non-governmental organizations involved in African affairs.

Asked what he felt the protest achieved, Awel Ahmed said awareness. “We identified the problem and are [going] to tackle it as Muslims together. [The protest] helped strengthen our unity In Shaa Allah.”

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