Ethiopia: Muslim Protest Gaining Momentum

Signs of Ethiopian Muslims activism against government’s meddling in their religious affairs became evident when they took their campaign online in May. As their online activism grows offline, members of Ethiopian Federal Police have started using force against the protesters.

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

According to local activists Facebook page Dimtsachin Yisema (Let Our Voice Be Heard) physical violence, which includes transgressing sacred places in their mosques, was used against them. An Ethiopian Muslim campaigner and writer Merim Bint Islam posts on her Facebook page with a note:

This is how brutal beatings were done on our brother, yesterday in Awuliya.

Addis News Updates ‏@AddisFocus #Ethiopia'n regime's forces unshamefully confiscated over a hundred animals (oxen) from a Mesjid in Addis which was ready for sadaqa.#Islam

The YouTube video below shows Ethiopian Muslim protestors in April 2012:

Though the actions of the police were reportedly brutal, activists on Facebook page are incessantly advising their fellow Muslims to keep their calm. Ethiopian Muslims Facebook page shared Ahmedin Jebel’s note which reads [amh]:

ሕዝበ ሙስሊም ሆይ! ሰላማዊና ሕገ መንግሥታዊ መብት የማስከበር እንቅስቃሴያችን ከተጀመረበት ጊዜያት ጀምሮ ላለፉት ስድስት ወራት በሚቻለን ሁሉ ሁከት እንዳይነሳ ጥረናል፡፡ ምክንያቱም ሁከት መነሳቱ መቼም ቢሆን ለኛ አይጠቅመንምና፡፡ የተለያዩ አካላት ሁከት ዉስጥ አስገብተውን ሂደታችንን ለማደናቀፍ የሚቻላቸውን ሁሉ ሞክረዋል፡፡ እየሞከሩም ነው፡፡ መንግሥትም ይሁን የትኛውም ወገን ቢተናኮሰን፣ ቢተኩስ፣ ቢያስር፣ መስጂዶች ቢደፈሩም ምላሻችን የችኮላና ህጋዊ ካልሆነ፣ ይበልጥ አላማቸውን የሚያሳካና ሕዝበ ሙስሊሙን ለአደጋ የሚያጋልጥ ከሆነ ለኛ ዉድቀት እንጂ ድል አይደለም፡፡

To All Ethiopian Muslims since the beginning of our movement for the last six months we have strived to keep ourselves away from destructive demonstration as these actions would cancel out our struggle. Different groups have been trying to instigate us to violent actions by their wounding actions. They even transgressed our sacred places but we should stand our ground firmly because if we succumb to their tactics we will become losers.

Meanwhile, Abiye Teklemariam wrote on Facebook:

Activists claim gov't underlings may deliberately stage a fake violent demo. near the AU headquarters to blame it on Muslim protesters.

Political and religious situation in Ethiopia look uncertain as rumors about whereabouts and health of the Prime Minster Meles Zenawi circulate and Muslim protests gain momentum.

Islam is the second-most widely practiced religion in Ethiopia after Christianity.


  • DANIT_6

     Religion is individuals choice who ever brought the religion shouldn’t be blamed for it (the Government) so every one has a choice to believe what ever they want so what is the fassssss.peace and love ETHIOPIA HAGERE   

  • Concerned

    The fuss is the government is forcing the Muslim community to accept some foreign ideology that it brought from abroad. We Muslims are saying we have a right to freedom of believing in whatever we want and we should not be coerced into a belief which we don’t want to be in. And we are asking to let the Ethiopian Muslim council belong to Muslims through democratically elected leaders from the Muslim community. Plain and simple!

    • Yared

       Dear  Sir,

      I agree that there are some people who realy got a religious agenda,yet there has been different movements observed that are very different than the religious agenda,we have heard some demonstrating to topple government and build an Islamic state,ok.This is shit,these people has to learn a lesson,and at the same time government has to answer  religious related questions.

  • Recent reports from Ethiopian and International media about social activisim related to Moslem population is worth solid consideration.

    As a matter of reality and in contrast to recent social movements in the Arab world as called  ” The Arab Spring ” with vast and powerful base in Moslem Populations,and with considerable protest tradtion that draws It’s values  and logics from Islam—–The case of Ethiopia and the relevance of Islam as a an Ideological driving force for social change remains out of the question and as impossible as well as far feched.

    Yes It is very true that Islam stood as a great factor for war and social change in It’s early stages as a faith that sought followers by consent or war.Ethiopia holds the great tradtion of hosting the first Diplomats of the Faith as well as the greatest local war that was based on the efforts of Islam for expanstion. However, This facts were never followed by permanent trend and pattern for social conflict or harmony.

    Ethiopia never had nor would have Islam nor other faith alone as a platform for any thing rather than as faith as a pivate or communal affair–be It as a national tradtion nor as an innovation.The wish for contrast nor for immitation  or inspiration from the “Arab Spring”  is far feched and far from reality.

    How many people use the internet in Ethiopia?

  • […] Ethiopian Muslims pursue their peaceful protest in a bid to end the Ethiopian government’s meddling in their religious affairs, messages of unity from their compatriot Christians have gone viral in the Ethiopian digital […]

  • […] fredelige demonstrationer i et forsøg på at stoppe den etiopiske regering i at blande sig i deres religiøse anliggender, er et budskab om sammenhold fra deres kristne landsmænd gået viralt i det etiopiske digitale […]

  • Sulto Abda

    Muslim is the religion of peace,but Ethiopian gov’t not undestand this,or not need to those muslim peace by giving the name teriorist. If you take me I participate the conferance given by GOV’T in Colaboration with Majlis in ADAMA UNIVERSITY,Most ISSUES Rised by Gov’t and majlis is to give the muslim unnessary name to attact them.Inadittion they have the Stand to Change Muslim Comunity to Ahbash by name of SUFISM. at that time all muslim oppose this the next Day The police Came.But some pollice oppose Gov’t. AND Release MUSLIM TEACHERS. 

  • […] seems religion and state are deeply intertwined in Ethiopian politics. Recently Ethiopian Muslims have also been protesting against state intrusion into their religious affairs. Written by Endalk Posted 18 August […]

  • Bilalulhabesh

    This is the fact about current mass uprising of Ethiopian Muslims

    In my view, the review of the current struggle of Ethiopian Muslims can be summarized as follows: It mainly opposes the direct and indirect interference of Ethiopian Government in our religious affairs. Currently the government is trying to impose on Ethiopian Muslims as a whole forcefully the ‘ahbash’ ideology (which is against the basic principles of Islam and hence rejected by most international Muslim Scholars including our Ethiopian Scholars).

    According to Ethiopian constitution, religion and government are separate. Government should not involve in the religious affairs and vice versa. Regardless of this rule, the ‘pro-democratic’ Ethiopian government used to interfere in Muslims affairs long time ago, by assigning his puppets on the hierarchy of Ethiopian Islamic Supreme Council (in Arabic called Mejlis) who are not democratically elected by the Muslim society. The Muslim people used to express his opposition to this action in a hidden manner.

    However, six months ago when the council was fully replaced by the government assigned ‘ahbashi’ individuals, the Muslim society started to oppose openly at different places. The government insisted on his illegal involvement and started campaign of training Muslim scholars with the ‘ahbash’ ideology by bringing ahbash-oriented sheks from Lebanon. This action intensified the opposition level of the Muslim society. When the council (Majlis) shut down the Awolia College to make it a training place of this ideology (ahbash); the Whole Muslim society reacted against those government interventions by making tekbira (Allah-u-akber) after every jumma prayers, in the early stage at Awelia College, later on at Awelia College, Anmar masjid and Nur masjid of piassa. Finally they intensified their struggle in a peaceful manner and determined to go through its implementation by assigning committee that comprises 17 members who could address their questions officially to the government.

    The questions raised by the people to be addressed by the committee are:

    1. Since the supreme council is a religious institution of Ethiopian Muslims, the people responsible to run the council should be elected democratically by the Ethiopian Muslim society at masjids, not at kebeles and the government should work towards fulfilling this task and should not by any means interfere in religious affairs,

    2. The government should stop imposing teaching activities of ‘ahbash’ ideology forcefully, with out the interest of the people and ‘ahbash’ could propagate its ideology separately similar to other religious sects,

    3. Awelia is the only teaching institution that belongs to the Muslim society and should be returned back to the people to resume its teaching activities.

    The committee worked intensively to fulfill those tasks by facing those government officials responsible in addressing the issue and sadly within time of four months none of the questions were addressed by the government rather the government tried to turn the issue to political case by fabricating false accusations of terror and now all the committee members are jailed in connection to this activity.

    Mind you those questions have nothing to do with politics!!! Why the government is tries to relate it to politics? Again there is no question of sharia state. Why is the government using the issue of sharia state as a tool to hijack a clear public request? It is obvious that no matter what the number of Muslim society is, this can’t be a cause for the sharia state to prevail in this country. Rather the government is using it as tool to attract the attention of our Christian fellows.

    Their purpose is clear: To create Muslim society who don’t concerned about his right at all, so that they can impose secretly or publically their desire, in the way they like to be. It seems here that they are intending to follow the same strategy what the Atses used to do: Suppressing the Muslim society the way they want it to be. One of the strategies to implement this desire is, therefore, to divide the Muslim society to different sects through divide and rule policy, by seeming concerned to the majority of the Ethiopian Muslims, who they claim are against ‘wababism’. But the reality is far from this. The Ethiopian Muslims were clever enough to express their reaction against this strategy by expressing their unity in different forms of actions during those demonstrations.

    Currently the Ethiopian government is purposely perpetrating the issue of ‘wahabism’ as cause for the uprising by leveling it to an extreme sect, which in the actual sense has nothing to do with the nature of the uprising. By doing so the government’s tactic is to illegalize the movement so as to make the public uprising as an issue of individuals (named as ‘wahabists’); and hence to put in jail those Muslims who are involved in the uprising and halt the movement.

    In connection to this mass uprising, it is difficult to get the exact number of Ethiopian Muslims jailed in prison. However, currently the prison places in Addis Ababa are highly crowded beyond capacity due to such cases. Still the people has continued its demonstration, but this time with much more increased number, and also asking the release of those Muslims who are detained without any crime. The different forms of oppositions demonstrated while celebrating eidel-fetr holiday in Addis Ababa and some other major towns of Ethiopia were clear manifestations of the fact that the ongoing Ethiopian Muslim’s uprising is mass uprising. This is the reality about it, but the Ethiopian government is trying to overwhelm this fact and still has preferred to insist on its false accusation.

    On this occasion, I would like to call all international human right institutions to regularly visit all prisoners jailed in prison and influence the government to release those innocent prisoners who are jailed without any crime and yet with out court’s order. We would also request all international journalists who stand for the truth to come to Ethiopia and investigate what the ‘pro democratic’ government of our country is doing to our people.

    Finally I pray to Allah to make Ethiopian people’s (Muslims and Christians) unity as firm as iron based on mutual cooperation for mutual benefit of our resources, with out violating the right of practicing of all religions, as described in our institution.

  • Meryem

    Dear, Yared a I have to ashure U that a single Ethiopian muslim doesn’t ask such A “shit ” question here in Ethiopia.

  • […] avanti la loro protesta pacifica nel tentativo di porre fine alle ingerenze del governo nelle questioni religiose, messaggi di unità da parte dei loro compatrioti cristiani si diffondono viralmente in tutta la […]

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