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News from Ethiopia: Militancy Film Upsets Ethiopia Muslims

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  • Zafar Khan
    Militancy Film Upsets Ethiopia Muslims OnIslam & Newspapers Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2013
      Militancy Film Upsets Ethiopia Muslims
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/africa/461379-jihadi-film-angers-ethiopia-muslims.html

      CAIRO – A film linking Muslim protests against a government campaign to indoctrinate their community with Ahbash ideology to militant groups is inviting the ire of Muslims in the east African country.

      “The whole thing was coordinated by the government," Kedir Mohammed, a Muslim taxi driver, told Christian Science Monitor

      The film, titled Jihadawi Harekat (Holy War Movement), was aired on state-TV at peak watching hours last week.

      It starts with shots of fighters from the militant Somali group Al Shaabab and scenes of carnage following attacks by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.

      Then, inexplicably, clips of interviews with some of the 29 Muslims on trial for participating in anti-government protests.

      Interviews with ordinary Ethiopian citizens appeared later, saying that the Muslim group’s demands for more religious autonomy were bogus because there is ample religious freedom in Ethiopia.

      The film was repeated later on consecutive days at peak-time after the news.

      The documentary comes following weeks of Muslims protests against government interference in their religious affairs.

      Muslims accuse the government of spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the umbrella Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (Majlis) to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called “Ahbash”.

      The Ethiopian government 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.

      Protesters also accuse authorities of fixing elections for the Majlis, the community’s main representative body, after jailing Muslim leaders who would have participated in the vote.

      Muslim Image

      Analysts also opine that the documentary is an attempt by the government to tarnish the image of the Muslim community.

      “The risks posed by violent religious radicalism in Ethiopia are not imaginary,” said Jon Abbink, senior researcher from the African studies center at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

      “But the documentary is probably over-doing it; the susceptibility of Muslims in Ethiopia to Al Qaeda-like radicalization is slim,” he says.

      Abbink thinks that the film would appear to “delegitimize” peaceful political disagreements by Muslims and set up the possibility of a “backlash.”

      Gathering after Friday prayers last week, Muslim protestors held signs reading “ETV is a liar” and “ETV. Made in False.”

      “There's no fear but people became more angry with the government,” says 17-year-old trader Abdulkarim Mohammed.

      Angry comments were not limited to Ethiopian Muslims.

      Opposition politicians were similarly outraged when ETV, the only Ethiopian broadcaster, screened a comparably skewed program, Akeldama [Field of Blood], when critics of the government Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage were being prosecuted last year.

      Dissidents view the latest broadcast as the natural act of a police state that is intolerant of dissent and dependent on divisive propaganda to focus public attention away from its misrule.

      “Keep on recording at least half of your crimes, that is part of our collective memory,” exiled Addis Neger newspaper editor Mesfin Negash wrote in a statement addressed to “Dear Oppressors” on Facebook.

      “The only thing I like about your court drama is this aspect of recording your history of injustice and the crime you are committing in the name of justice.”

      Muslims make up about 34 percent of Ethiopia’s population, according to a government census in 2007.

      Yet, other sources put Ethiopia Muslims at about 50% of the country’s population.
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      Ethiopia Abuses Muslims: US Panel
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Saturday, 10 November 2012 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/africa/459950-ethiopia-abuses-muslims-us-panel.html

      ADDIS ABABA – In a shift from decades of support for the horn of Africa country, a US government panel has condemned Ethiopia’s massive crackdown on peaceful Muslim protests, accusing Addis Ababa of tightening its grip the country’s Muslim population.

      "The arrests, terrorism charges and takeover of Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) signify a troubling escalation in the government's attempts to control Ethiopia's Muslim community," the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in a statement cited by Reuters on Friday, November 9.

      The arrests also “provide further evidence of a decline in religious freedom in Ethiopia,” the commission added.

      Over the past year, thousands of Muslims have staged weekly mosque sit-ins and street protests in Addis Ababa.

      Muslims accuse the government of spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the umbrella Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (Majlis) to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called "Ahbash".

      Protesters also accuse authorities of fixing elections for the Majlis, the community’s main representative body, after jailing Muslim leaders who would have participated in the vote.

      To quell the protests, the Ethiopian government launched a major crackdown, arresting scores of Muslim protest leaders.

      In July, security forces raided the Awalia Mosque in Addis Ababa, arresting more than 70 Muslims on claims of planning protests.

      Among those arrested were the chairman of the committee chosen to be representative of the Muslim community Abubakar Ahmed, spokesman Ahmedin Jebel, and other committee members.

      Two local non-governmental organizations were also charged with "rendering support" to terrorism.

      Change of Attitude

      Supported for years by the West as a bulwark against Islamists in neighboring Somalia, USCIRF’s criticism reflected a growing anger with Ethiopia’s policies.

      "USCIRF has found that repressing religious communities in the name of countering extremism leads to more extremism, greater instability, and possibly violence," commission Chairwoman Katrina Lantos Swett said.

      Moreover, Swett called on the US government to raise the issue with Addis Ababa.

      “Given Ethiopia's strategic importance in the Horn of Africa ... it is vital that the Ethiopian government end its religious freedom abuses and allow Muslims to practice peacefully their faith as they see fit,” she added.

      “Otherwise the government's current policies and practices will lead to greater destabilization of an already volatile region.”

      Ethiopian officials were unavailable for comment on the statement from the Commission, whose members are appointed by President Barack Obama and senior Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

      According to government 2007 census, Muslims make up about 34 percent of Ethiopia’s population.

      Yet, other sources put Ethiopia’s Muslims at about 50 percent of the country’s population.

      The Ethiopian government’s crackdown on Muslims has drawn fierce criticism to the horn of Africa country.

      Earlier this November, Amnesty International accused the Ethiopian government of targeting Muslims, arresting and charging them with terrorism offensive for no reason but participating in peaceful protests demanding religious freedoms.
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      Ethiopia's 'jihadi' film and its boomerang effects
      The film seeks to transform the "demands for freedom of religion" into a joint criminal enterprise with terror groups.
      Last Modified: 04 Mar 2013 15:10

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/02/201322864454855976.html

      On February 5, 2013, Ethiopia's only and publicly funded Television Station, ETV, aired a controversial documentary during prime time in violation of an outstanding court injunction. Oddly subtitled "Boko Haram in Ethiopia", Jihadawi Harekat - Arabic for "jihadi movement" - ­denounces leaders of Ethiopia's year-long protest movement for alleged links to foreign terrorists.

      Muslims in Ethiopia have been protesting the government's control of the Supreme Islamic Council and its imposition of al-Ahbash, an unknown Islamic sect across mosques in Ethiopia. In a press statement last year, the bipartisan US Commission on International Religious Freedom said: "The Ethiopian government has sought to force a change in the sect of Islam practiced nationwide and has punished clergy and laity who have resisted." Elected to represent the movement, the accused Muslim leaders were arrested and charged under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law when negotiations with the government failed last July.

      A joint production of the Ethiopian National Security Agency, the Federal Police and ETV, the film draws a parallel between a local protest movement recognised for its peaceful acts of resistance with Africa's most notorious terrorist groups such as Nigeria's Boko Haram, Mali's Ansar Din and Somalia's al-Shabaab.

      With dozens of journalists, politicians and activists already charged or convicted under its vague and broad anti-terrorism law that criminalises all forms of dissent, the fight against terrorism has become the primary juridical framework within which to legitimise and justify war against political foes. It is the new legal ideology in which these political motives are institutionalised to provide long-standing relationships of domination some legal pretext. In Ethiopia today, America's "war on terror" is used to short-circuit both the constitution and international criticism.

      Making fiction intelligible

      Made to portray the Muslim community's struggle for religious freedom as a terrorist ploy designed to "establish an Islamic state", Jihadawi Harekat is less about what it describes so much as the alternative reality that it depicts and crystallises. By drawing politically explosive parallels between groups with radically different political presuppositions, the film dramatises and escalates the gravity of the threat. It replays deeply held narratives of the past and accentuates the "evil" embodied by the committee in its attempts to frame them as "public enemies" working towards a common goal with groups that inhabit an entirely different political universe.

      To amplify this new reality, that is, the cinematic production of new subjects of terrorism, the film appropriates pre-existing frames of reference that sociologists call "processes of signification". To augment the parallel, it situates the protest movement in the context of terrorism - a discourse whose antecedent is always Islamic and "whose stereotypical characteristics are already part of socially available knowledge".
      ...
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      The Spread of Islam Through Trade & Conquest
      by Michael Brenner, Demand Media

      http://people.opposingviews.com/spread-islam-through-trade-conquest-5046.html
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      Harassment of Muslims Risks Ethiopia Revolt
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Wednesday, 25 July 2012 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/africa/458149-harassment-of-muslims-risks-ethiopia-revolt.html

      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.

      African Spring

      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.”

      Complicating the risks are reports about the health of the Ethiopian premier, who was last seen in public several weeks ago appearing thinner than usual.

      Last week, Communications Minister Bereket Simon said Zenawi’s health condition “is very good and stable”, but declined to go into specifics.

      Opposition websites, however, say Zenawi, who has been in power since 1991, is terminally ill with brain cancer.

      Jawar Mohammed, an analyst on Ethiopian affairs, said information from the Ethiopian government on Zenawi’s health and whereabouts is “conflicting and confusing.”

      “All indications show that he has not been in charge of the state at least for a month,” he said.

      “He has not been responding to the Muslim protests either.

      “While the government claims that Meles will resume his duties soon, most people believe that the regime is just buying time for orderly succession.”
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      Ethiopia in talks over restive region
      Addis Ababa holding talks with rebel group for restoring peace in conflict-ridden Ogaden region.
      Last Modified: 15 Sep 2012 13:14

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/09/201291513714867584.html

      [VIDEO]
      Over the past 15 years, the Ogaden area in Ethiopia has been ravaged by conflict that's killed thousands of people.

      The region borders Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia and many of its residents are ethnic Somali Muslims.

      In 2007, Ethiopian forces waged an offensive against the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)..

      But recently, the government held peace talks with the ONLF in Kenya. Another meeting is expected in the coming months.

      Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow reports from Ogaden.
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      Ethiopia Muslims Deny Christian Conflict
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Sunday, 29 July 2012 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/africa/458244-ethiopia-muslims-deny-christian-conflict.html

      CAIRO – As tension remains high in Ethiopia over government interference in the religious affairs of the Muslim community, Ethiopian Muslims deny reports about an imminent conflict with the Christian majority.

      “Muslims in Ethiopia respect our Christian brothers and sisters and are hopeful that the recent fights and violence will not lead to a larger conflict between Muslims and Christians,” a group of Muslim activists and university students calling themselves “Concerned Muslim Ethiopians” said in an e-mail to Bikyamasr website.

      “We have other more important issues to deal with now in Ethiopia.”

      Protests have rocked Ethiopia over the past weeks over government interference in the religious affairs of Ethiopian Muslims.

      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.

      But some media reports said that the current tension in Ethiopia could turn into a wider conflict between Muslims and Christians in the east African country.

      “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 Muslim activists said.

      “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.”

      Fear Tactic

      Muslim activists also dismissed government claims that it was battling “radicals” as a fear tactic to silence the Muslim community.

      “We just want our freedom and to get the government to let us have it,” the activists said.

      Security forces have attacked Muslim worshippers and mosques in the past weeks in a bid to stop ongoing protests in the country.

      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.

      “The police have attacked and even killed Muslims at mosques for not complying with the government on our faith,” the statement said.

      “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.”

      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.
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      Ethiopia Muslims Killed for Sadaqa
      OnIslam Staff
      Sunday, 15 July 2012 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/africa/457967-ethiopia-muslims-killed-for-sadaqa.html

      CAIRO – At least four Muslims were shot dead when Ethiopian security forces stormed into a mosque in the capital Addis Ababa to disrupt preparations for a city-wide program called Sadaqa (feast).

      Sources told OnIslam.net that Ethiopian federal police stormed the Awolia mosque compound late Friday, July 13, and attacked Muslim volunteers inside.

      Sources said security forces fired teargas and beat Muslims gathering inside the building.

      At least four people were reportedly killed in the attack, while several others were seriously injured.

      The volunteers were preparing for food and drinks for a city-wide program called Sadaqa (feast) on Sunday, July 15.

      Witnesses also confirmed the brutal police attack on Muslims inside the mosque.

      "They broke the door and entered and started shooting at Muslims,” Ahmedin Jebel, representing a mosque community group, told Bloomberg.

      “Many were attacked and they arrested almost all of those there.”

      After a call to prayers, Muslims who gathered in response to the incident were involved in further clashes, he said.

      Police closed all roads leading to Awolia from all directions.

      Thousands of Ethiopian Muslims streamed toward the capital's largest mosque on Saturday in response to distress calls that were heard from minarets throughout Friday night following the police attack.

      Ahmedin said thousands of Muslims gathered at the mosque in the Mercato area to demand the release of all those arrested.

      Friday's attack follows the arrest of two members of a committee elected by Ethiopian Muslims to formally voice protests of Muslims against government's interference in their religious affairs.

      In April, four Muslims were killed in clashes with police in southern Ethiopia in protest at the arrest of a Muslim preacher.

      Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, is home to 60 percent Christian and about 34 percent Muslim, according to CIA Factbook.

      Muslim Unity

      Several feasts of unity have been organized across Ethiopia.

      The feasts of unity are seen as a practical response to the government’s attempt to divide the Muslim population along sectarian lines, accusing some Salafi Muslims of “extremist tendency.”

      Awolia is the center of Muslim protests against attempts by the Ethiopian government to interfere in their religious affairs.

      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.
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