ADDIS ABABA – At least seven people were reportedly killed in a new wave of Muslim protests against a government campaign to indoctrinate their community with Ahbashism ideology.
“All what you see is a result of a long time oppression of Ethiopian Muslims,” Haji Abdurahman Sadiq, a Muslim community leader, told OnIslam.net.
Ethiopian police shot dead seven Muslims in Assasa town in Arsi province of Oromiya regional state on Friday.
Witnesses say the Muslim victims fell when Ethiopian security forces surrounded a mosque to arrest Sheikh Su’ud Aman on accusations of prompting “terrorist” ideology.
When worshippers tried to stop the Sheikh’s arrest, security forces opened fire, killing seven Muslims.
Scores of people were also reportedly injured in the incident.
The killings add to the troubling relationship between Muslims and their government over what Muslims describe as government interference 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 Ahbas 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.
Muslim leaders are planning to meet Premier Zenawi to discuss the situation of their community in Ethiopia.
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.
Muslim leaders accuse the Ethiopian government of repressing their community on the pretext of fighting terrorism.
“The government proclaimed in its constitution that it has no right to intervene in our religious affairs,” Sadiq told OnIslam.net.
“At start, it has allowed Muslims to preach freely, to publish Islamic books, to build Islamic schools etc.”
But all these have turned into a nightmare.
“We were hopeful then and thought that we were beginning a new era,” the Muslim leader said.
“But as time elapsed, the government started to oppress our people brutally.
The community leader said it has now become a “mission impossible” for Muslims to build a mosque in Ethiopia.
“Our children couldn’t express their faith freely in government-owned colleges and universities. Muslim charity organizations are falsely accused of expanding ‘Wahhabism’ and closed down.
“The leadership of the Majlis didn’t say anything when these illegal measures were hurting the Muslim society.”