Ethiopia: Muslims Take Campaign Online for Religious Independence

Signs of Ethiopian Muslims online activism are mounting as they protest against government’s meddling in their religious affairs.

Ethiopian Muslims both online and offline have been protesting for over three months against alleged government's interference in their religious affairs. The protests, however, have received very little attention from international media.

Daniel Berhane explained on Facebook why the protests have received less attention from international media:

I ask: Why did the foreign media and NGOs ignored the months long Awelia Muslim school protests/disturbances, while giving extensive coverage to minor events in the right-wing camp?

I answer: That is because, the westerners media & NGO involvement in Ethiopian affairs is tuned on specific ideological agenda.

Ethiopian Muslim women. Photo source: Boyznberry Flickr page (CC BY-NC 2.0)

However, for the past two weeks the protests have generated a significant amount of news on international media as the government made it clear that it will not tolerate any activities by subversive groups that have been using Islam as a disguise to create instability in the country.

The Ethiopian government has expelled two Arabs who flew in from the Middle East after they went to Grand Anwar Mosque and allegedly tried to incite violence in the country. Just a week prior to the deportation of the two Arabs, it was also reported that security forces arrested a Muslim religious leader in the Oromia regional state for calling for Jihad. A group of Muslims who tried to free him clashed with police. Four demonstrators were killed and 10 police were wounded.

Rumours were circulating on Facebook that the government has conceded to one of their demands. Jawar Mohammed, a respected political commentator, wrote:

Rumor has it that Meles has conceded to one of the demands put forward by Muslim activists – removing the current unelected leaders of Mejlis. But there is no official news yet. Two scenarios sound plausible: a) The government has not conceded but is spreading the rumor to create a debate and confusion among the activists. The confusion will distract them from planning and coordinating their actions and could also create division..

b) The government is making such fake gesture in order to prevent this Friday's protest, which is slated to be the biggest yet, because more than 700 foreigners will be gathering in the capital for the World Economic Forum. A large protest in the presence of foreign dignitaries will give the movement more visibility. A visibility that will not only hinder the government's ability to crack down on the protesters this Friday but could also make future such crackdowns backfire.

c) The government is actually removing the Mejlis leaders ( use and throw is Meles well known game) with the hope of sucking the momentum out of the protesters and eventually replacing the Mejlis with other set of puppets.

Following these events, Ethiopian Muslims have turned to Facebook and Twitter to make their voices heard. On one of the Facebook pages created in order to coordinate the protests says [amh]:

ጠቃሚ መሳሰቢያ!!! አንዳንድ ወንድሞች በነገዉ ጁምአ ተቃዉሞን በዝምታ መገለፅ አለበት የሚለዉን መልዕክት ወይም ማሳሰቢያ የግለሰቦች ሀሳብ እየመሰላቸዉ ተክቢራዉ መቀጠል አለበት ይላሉ:: ሁሉም ሰዉ በተክቢራ ተቃዉሞን መግለፁ ጠቃሚ እንደሆነ ይስማማል::ነገር ግን የነገዉን ጁምአ በተመለከተ በሁሉም መስጂዶች ሙስሊሙ በዝምታ ተቃዉሞዉን መግለፅ እንዳለበት ሹራ ተደርጎ እና ከብዙ አቅጣጫ ታይቶ የተወሰነ መሆኑን በመረዳት ይህንን መልዕክት በየመስጂዳችን ተግባራዊ እንድናደርገዉ እናሳስባለን …….አሁንም ይህን የተለመደዉን ታዛዥነታችንን በማስቀጠል በየመስጂዶቻችን በዝምታ ተቃዉሞአችንን እንድንገልፅ በአላህ ስም እናሳስባለን::

Important notice! In tomorrow’s Juma’a (Friday) our peaceful protest should continue in silence! Some brothers might consider this message as an idea of some individuals. They might insist we should persist our protest through “tekbira” (intone), though it is agreeable to protest through chanting it has been decided that across all mosques that tomorrow’s Juma’a (Friday) our peaceful protest should continue in silence! In the name of Allah we urge you to show your protest in silence tomorrow.

Another Facebook group advocating for their cause is Ethiopia Muslims:

The overall development, prosperity and democratization processes of a country can never be realized with a marginal participation of only a segment of its population. Having passed through centuries of systematic and unfair policies, the Ethiopian Muslim community has been struggling to ascertain its very existence.

Finally, there is Nur-Ethio:

The purpose of this group is to fully empower Ethiopian Muslims socially, economically, and politically based on the Ethiopian constitution and International law..

Islam, which arrived in Ethiopia in 615, is the second-most widely practised religion in Ethiopia after Christianity.


  • selam forus

    peace for ethiopia

  • dagmAWI

    Islamization is not Arabization. Arabs use Islam to start their cultural conquest and then physical conquest will follow. The Hijab is not a thing of Ethiopian Muslims, has never been so for a Millenium. Why start now? Covering like mummies is an Arabic culture, not Ethiopian.

  • dagmAWI
    Why Amhara tribe always negative about Moslems. You peneterated deep into Muslim Ethiopian lands and build huge churches with Muslim tax moneys while Muslims never did this to you. You related the Muslim religion to Arabs while your language is 80% Arabic.
    You think Hijab is new because of your ignorance about the history.
    Ethiopia established in 1887 and the Muslims lost everything including their citzenship during the two feudal rulers. You will see South Ethiopia free from your oppression forever. Learn from Sudan and Eritrea. You cannot oppress human beings forever and don’t forget 55% of Ethiopia are Muslims.

  • […] activism against government’s meddling in their religious affairs became evident when they took their campaign online in May. As their online activism go offline, members of Ethiopian Federal Police have started using […]

  • […] protester mot regeringens ingrepp i deras religiösa angelägenheter blev tydliga när de i maj gick online med sin kampanj  [en]. Alltmedan online-aktivismen växer utanför internet har den Etiopiska polisen börjat att […]

  • […] wa ki-Ethiopia kupinga serikali kuwangilia katika mambo yao ya kidini, zilionekana wazi pale walipopeleka kampeni zao mtandaoni mwezi Mei. Kadiri harakati hizo zikiendelea kukua na kusambaa nje ya mtandao wa intaneti, Jeshi la […]

  • […] Ethiopian Muslims pursue their peaceful protest in a bid to end the Ethiopian government’s meddling in their religious affairs, messages of […]

  • […] etiopiske muslimer fortsætter deres fredelige demonstrationer i et forsøg på at stoppe den etiopiske regering i at blande sig i deres religiøse anliggender, […]

  • […] etiopi musulmani portano avanti la loro protesta pacifica [en, come i link successivi] in un tentativo di porre fine alle ingerenze del governo nelle […]

  • […] momento em que os muçulmanos da Etiópia prosseguem com seus protestos pacíficos para tentar pôr um fim na intromissão do governo em assuntos religiosos, mensagens de unidade […]

Cancel this reply

Join the conversation -> dagmAWI

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site