In Ethiopia, trial of Muslim leaders reveals simmering unrest
November 30, 2012
The Eid-Al Fitr celebration in Addis Ababa, 2011 (Photo: Awramba Times)
Last month, in a courtroom in Addis Ababa, 29 defendants listened intently as the prosecution summarised charges. The accused were Muslim men in their thirties, elderly sheikhs in religious attire, and Habiba Mohammed, the wife of Junedin Sado, Ethiopia`s Minister for the Civil Service and Chairman of the Board of Addis Ababa University. The crime? Organising protests against the government and participating in a far-reaching conspiracy to dismantle the constitution and establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia.
The trial has: exacerbated existing tensions between Ethiopia`s Muslim community who make up about 34 per cent of the population and the national government; has claimed high-profile victims like Mr. Junedin, a once-powerful regional politician who has disappeared from the public eye; and revealed the tangled nexus between religion, politics and public life in Ethiopia.
Temam Ababulga, the lawyer for the accused, said his clients were being persecuted for opposing the government and had been tortured in prison. Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom have criticised the government`s heavy-handed treatment of its Muslim minority; charges that the government denies. Government spokespersons did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
Ethiopia has served as the incubator for both Christianity and Islam; the Christian majority traces its lineage back to the fourth century reign of Emperor Ezana, while Muslims speak of the “First Hijra” when Prophet Mohammed`s followers fled persecution in Arabia and sought refuge here in the seventh century. A Christian monarchy ruled the country up to 1974 when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown by a secular communist military regime that gave way to the current dispensation in 1991.
The 1994 constitution established the secular nature of the state, but many Muslims feel that the government has consistently marginalised their community and restricted their freedom of worship in the guise of enforcing secularism. Ethiopia has no history of sectarian violence, and Muslim leaders have emphasised that their ire is directed at the government, not the Christian community.
Influence of radical groups
In background interviews, government officials who did not want to be named said they were concerned by the influence of global radical Islamist groups like the Al Qaeda affiliated Al Shabab in neighbouring Somalia, and that wealthy Islamic charities in the Middle East were funnelling money into Ethiopia in a bid to radicalise Muslim youth. “There is a very real concern amongst the people that radical Wahhabi groups are establishing themselves in Ethiopia, and that the government is not doing enough to stop them,” said an official. In this particular case, for instance, the government accuses two non-governmental organisations — the Albir Development Cooperation and Association and Nema — of providing material support to the defendants.
Albir was established in 2005 by Sheikh Sultan Haji Ahman, who lived in Saudi Arabia for several years before returning to Ethiopia. He is one of the 29 defendants currently in jail.
“Albir is not a religious organization. It is a registered NGO that works on water and sanitation, provides cash assistance and educational support for 1,401 destitute families in 21 sites across Ethiopia. About 50 percent of the families are Muslim,” said an Albir representative. While Albir used to get money from Saudi Arabia, the representative said that, for the past three years, the NGO received all its money from Turkey and was working on a health project funded by the Islamic Development Bank. Activists, academics and Muslim elders interviewed by The Hindu said that government was wrongly conflating legitimate protests against the ruling party with terrorist acts directed at the state. Most requested anonymity as they feared harassment, and pointed to the arrest of Habiba Mohammed as proof that the entire community was under siege.
Conflict began in 2011
The current conflict began in September 2011 when the government withdrew the licence of the International Islamic Relief Organisation, a Saudi NGO funding the religious school at the Awolia Mosque in Addis Ababa. “We wanted confirmation that they would not engage in religious affairs, which they could not provide,” said a government spokesperson. Under Ethiopian law, the official said humanitarian organisations cannot run religious institutions.
While the withdrawal of the Saudi NGO was not contested in December 2011, the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC), a body that claims to represent the country`s 30 million Muslims, removed the Arabic language teachers at Awolia and dismissed several administrators. “They dismissed 50 teachers [in total] without any reason, and closed the college. The council is not authorised to do that,” said a Muslim activist, “The students began protesting against the council.”
The protestors questioned the legitimacy of the EIASC, accused the body of acting on the behest of the government, and noted that the council had not held elections in over 10 years. They also accused the council of promoting a particular sect of Islam, known as Al-Ahbash, by dismissing imams who refused to preach Ahbashi doctrines at their mosques.
Al-Ahbash was established by Shaykh Abdallah Muhammad al-Hariri, an Ethiopian imam who left Harar for Lebanon in the 1940s after he fell foul of Emperor Haile Selassie. In Lebanon, the Shaykh preached a non-political reading of Islam, opposed the Wahabi school promoted by the Saudis, and urged his followers not to oppose lawfully established governments. Prominent Wahabis and Al-Ahbashis have each accused the other of heresy.
“The Ethiopian government brought 15 Lebanese Al Ahbash ulama during the summer of 2011 to help spread the `moderate` version of Islam in Ethiopia,” writes anthropologist Dereje Feyissa, in his paper Muslims Struggling for Recognition in Contemporary Ethiopia , “The coming of Lebanese ulema and a series of subsequent training…conducted during the fall of 2011 for religious authorities and students angered many Muslims …who have condemned what they consider an imposition of an `alien` religion.”
The protests against Al-Ahbash reached a head in July this year when the police opened fire to disperse a crowd gathered at Awolia mosque. The mosque suffered significant damage and is yet to be reopened. Several people were injured and many were arrested in connection with the summer demonstrations, including the 28 men currently on trial for allegedly trying to set up an Islamic state in Ethiopia.
Habiba Mohammed was arrested when the police found a large amount of money and several copies of the Quran in her car as she drove out the Saudi Embassy. The police have accused her of using the money to fund the protests. The Saudi Embassy did not respond to requests for an interview.
In an open letter to the press, Mr. Junedin explained that the money was in fact intended to build a mosque in his village in accordance with his mother`s dying wish. He has retained his ministerial post thus far, but has been expelled from the Executive Committee of his political party. “You can`t build mosques with undeclared money from the Saudis if you are a senior minister in the government,” said a senior official, suggesting that Mr. Junedin had acted irresponsibly. Mr. Junedin has been forbidden from travelling abroad until the case is resolved; he was unavailable for comment.
In an interview this September to The Hindu , Ethiopia`s Minister of State for Communications Shimeles Kemal said there was no move to promote Al Ahbash. “This is wide propaganda, there is no such sect [in Ethiopia],” he said, “The Islamic council has started to educate with the view to issue certificates for imams and other religious preachers to prevent any extremist creeds from being circulated in the mosques.”
This month, the EIASC finally succumbed to pressure and held elections for a new group of leaders. However, the voting was held in local government offices, rather than in mosques. Muslims activists across the country responded by calling for a boycott of the elections. “The government has already decided who will win the election,” said a protestor at one such demonstration, “Those living in government houses are threatened that they will be forced out if they don`t participate in the election.”
In the September interview, Minister Shimeles denied these allegations, and said that the community was coming out in full force to vote.
“Ninety three per cent of the 7.5 million registered voters participated in the elections,” said Rachid Mohammed, “According to the by-laws, elections should be held every five years. Due to certain mismanagement and incompetence, the previous Majlis missed one cycle. Apart from that, there were financial problems as well.” Mr. Rachid, who described himself as a professional management consultant providing technical assistance to the EIASC, said the new executive would do a much better job in serving the Muslim community. He dismissed the divisions over Al-Ahbash, claiming that Ethiopian Muslims didn`t see themselves as belonging to any particular sect, “We are all Muslims,” he said, “everyone has their own individual ideas and thoughts.”
Community claims government conflating legitimate protest with terrorism.
© 2012 Kasturi & Sons Ltd
Al-Ahbash: Their History And Their Beliefs
By Z. Alzamil
May 25, 2012
Abdullah Al-Harawi Al-Habashi
This group called Ahbash relating to their first leader Abdullah Al-Harawi Al-Habashi. He came to Lebanon from Ethiopia (Habashah), that why they called him Al-habashi. He left Addis Ababa after he made a Fitnah there its called Kolob Fitnah. The Addis Ababa`s people know him as Sheikh Al-Fitnah according to evidence from some of his relative. What he did there, he work with the ruler of Endraji -the son in law for the Ethiopia`s president Helaselasi - against Islamic Associations there, and he helped him to close all the Islamic National Association`s schools for memorizing the Holy Quran in Hrar city in 1940 ( 1367 Hejrah), and they issued their judge on the schools` manager - Ibrahim Hassan- to jail him twenty three years, also he helped the that ruler to internment the scholars there. He did that for those people, because they are Wahabi. For that reason, the people called him after that is the Sheikh Al-Fitnah.
When he came to Lebanon, his followers there forgot his history, and he still does there - in Lebanon - as what he did before in Ethiopia, if you disagree with him in any problem you will be Kafir automatically, he said Al-Albaani and Ibn Baaz are Kufars, Ibn Taymiyah is Kafir and Murtad and Zendeq and he asked his followers to lit Ibn Taymiyyah`s books, Imam Al-Dhahabi is wicked, Sayed Sabig is Majusi (The people who worship the fire) and in the other side he praised Jamal AbdulNasir because he killed Syed Qutb. He asked his followers to hit or kill anyone who has beliefs different than their beliefs, to make sure ask the Lebanon`s Mosques Imams, ask Adnan Yasen, how many times they tried to kill him, ask Hassan Katuji, what he did for them to let them following him to hit an hurt him, ask Jamal Al-Thahabi and Abdul-Hamed Shanuha and others why they leave Lebanon. Try to listen to their Radio, and see what they described Sheikh Mohammed Al-Juzo, they describe him as lewd man.
In front of all these things, we could not find him or his followers did something toward the Batiniyah, but what he did in one of his lectures, he encouraged the people to appeal the aid from AL-Albeit, and there is no problem to say O` Ali or O` Hussein ( Ya Ali , Ya Hussein).
He also, gave some strange fatwas for his followers, he allow Al-riba (the interest) Some people said he is Jew man, however there is no clear evidence for that, but at least he has a lot of the Jew`s characteristics.
Habashi`s Beliefs :
Al-Ahbash claimed that they follow Al-Shafi`e. To make sure about that let us see their beliefs to know if they follow Imaam As-Shafi`s Beliefs or not.
1- They change the meaning of Allah`s attributes based on the desire. But Al-Shafi as all Ahlu-sunnah beliefs Allah`s attributes as what Allah (S.W.T) mentions them in His book and in the Sunnah of His Messengers without any meaning`s changing, exchanging, or misconstruction. Look what Al-Habashi and his followers said about ` Al-Istiwa` “ Al-rahman ala al`arsh istawa” translation “ The most Beneficent (Allah) Istawa (rose over) the mighty Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty) -Taha verse 5- ,
what they - Ahbash- said about the meaning of this word `Istawa` they said it means take possession of the Throne, that means there was a god before Allah , then Allah possessed the throne from that first god, which no Muslim will believe or accept that , Ta-a`la-Allah Oluwan Kabera. The meaning of Istawa every Muslim knows the meaning by the Fitrah, it means He (S.W.T) rose over, that set no more details such as how, because Allah (S.W.T) tells us in the Quran about his attributes something fit with human`s mind, we believe them as is, according Imaam Maalik, when someone ask him about Al-Istiwa he - may Allah have mercy on him- Al-Istiwa`s meaning is known, how is unknown, believe it is obligation, and to ask about is Bid`ah, then he asked this man to go because he is Mubtad`a.
2- Their Sheikh said that, The Quran`s word was established by Gabriel (Alih Asslam), and Quran is not Allah`s speech -look Izhar Al-Iqedah Al-Sunnyah P. 59-. Of course this idea is not new idea he came up with it, he just follows Al-Thalal`s Imams. This idea is not something simple we can forget it. Just think about that, if we said Al-Quran is not Allah`s speech that means it somebody`s else speech, that means it could have some mistake. If we look at the history, where this idea come from, and why they came up with this idea, we will notice that, they want to reject the Quran, but they could not find any way to prove that, It is deficient or incomplete, then they came up with this idea. When the Muslims believe that, it is not Allah`s speech then it could be incomplete or it is not perfect. Then we can change some of it while it is not perfect.
3- He - Al-Habashi - came up with some strange things, he said Allah is has ability on most of things - look Izhar Al-Iqedah Al-Sunnyah P. 59 -. Also, he asked the people this question, Is Allah able on him self or not?. Do you think Imam Al-Shafi believes these things or did he - may Allah have mercy on him- ask such question like what Al-Habashi did.
4- He -Al-Habashi- encourage people to go to the graves and appeal for aid from dead, also he allows to seek the protection from other than Allah (look Al-Daleel Al-Qaweem P.173, Bwghyat Al-Talib P.8, Sareeh Al-Bayan P.57-62). Also, he said Al-Awleya come from their graves to do people`s needs, then they go back to their graves ! (look Khalid Kanan`s tape /b/70). Also, he ask people to have Tabaruk by stone (look Sareh Al-Byan P. 58, Ithhar Al-Aqedah Al-Sunnyah P.244). Do you think Al-Shafi does or believe these garbage.
5- He is Jabri, he said Allah help the Kuffars on their Kufer, if Allah did not help them they will not be Kuffar (look Al-Nahj Al-Saleem P. 67).
6- He is Murji, he said Iman is saying only without deeds, i.e. , Iman is belief only , when you believe it is enough for you to enter Al-Jannah you do have to do any practice, he make Abu Baker and Abu Jahel is same, because both believe Allah. Anyone believe Allah is Mu`min either he pray or not, he does Islam`s Pillars or not. (look Al-Daleel Al-Qaweem P.7, Beghyat Al-Taleb P.51).
7- He does not care about the Judgment by Islam or other which is against Islam, and he describe the people who judge by human`s law (against Islam) and do not like to judge by Islam, he describe them as Muslim and Mu`min, also he allows helping them (look tape No. 318/1 side A). Also, he said any one who said at least one time in his life La Elah Ela Allah (No God but Allah) he is Muslim and Mu`min even if he does not judge the Allah`s Sharee`ah in his life, does not do any of Allah`s commands, and does not leave Allah`s prohibited. (look Al-Daleel Al-Qaweem P.9-10, Beghyat Al-Taleb P. 51).
8- He tries to get Shi`ah`s agree by talking a lot about the Fitans which happened between companions, and he insult Mua`wiyah (R.A.A) a lot and he - Al-Habashi - made him -Mua`wiyah - of Fire`s people, also he mention a lot of Shia`h`s stories about Mua`wiyah (R.A.A)
9- He - Al-Habashi - believe that, Allah created the universe and sent the Messengers without any wisdom, because if you said that, that means you put some reasons for that, and if you put some reasons that means you put some partner with Allah ! - Strange !! –
10- He -Al-Habashi- allows Al-Riba (the interest)
11- He allows to pray with dirty - Najasah - ( look Beghyat Al-Taleb P. 99-100).
12- He allows to play gambling with Kuffar, and allows to steal your neighbors if they are non Muslim. (look Sareeh Al-Bayan P. 133)
13- He insult the scholars beginning with the companions especially Mua`wiyah (R.A.A) ( look Ethhar Al-Aqeedah AlSunnyah P. 182). look to some of his tape like (tape No. 13/A/94) to see what he said about Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, also, look at (Al-Magalat Al-Sunnyah P. 15, 24, 26, 57, 62, 75). Look what he said about Imam Al-Thahabi, he said he is wicked, Imam Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab murderer and Kafir (look at their Manar Al-Huda Magazine Issue 3 P.34). Sheikh Syed Sabiq is Majosi Kafir (tape No. 1/A/181).
In front of that, we find Al-Habashi is defending the bad people like Ibn Arabi which all his book is witness on his Kufr because he said something no one said it toward Allah even Jews and Christians.
Ethiopian Government, Muslims Clash about Ideology
Voice of America Press Releases and Documents
May 21, 2012
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.
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