October 9, 2011

Ethiopia’s Muslims in row over Ahbash ideology’s link with Meles

Filed under: Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 7:15 pm
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(JT) Since the Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi began targeting some Muslim journalists on the controversial topic of the Abhash group in September, many believers say separation of religion and state is in danger in the country.
The Abhash is a controversial Islamic group based in Lebanon but it has its origins in eastern Ethiopia. It adheres to the teachings of the late Ethiopian-Lebanese Muslim scholar Sheikh Abdullah al-Harari who was born in the holy city of Harar. He claimed to belong to the clan of Qusayy Ibn Kilab, the fourth grandfather of Prophet Mohammed, and his supporters want to spread a moderate form of Islam around the world. The Abhash goes by its formal name the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (AICP) and it has branches in various countries worldwide.
Followers of Abhash say they practice the original Islam that promotes tolerance and protects Muslim youth from harmful radical and political Islam. But critics of Abhash say it is anti-Islam, a blasphemy and it weakens the empowerment of Muslims worldwide.
Under pressure from western organizations and due to some religious violence in Muslim dominated towns of Ethiopia, the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has reportedly began a new indoctrination program to persuade some Ethiopian Muslims to accept the moderate Abhash ideology. While the intention of the Meles government is to reduce violence and regulate foreign extremist ideologies, many Muslims are blaming the government for its interference. In Jimma city and Bahir Dar, there are already rumors of government harassment of Muslims who oppose the Abhash. In a country where media is suppressed and false rumors spread like wildfire, mistrust is expected to grow further between government officials and the Muslim community.
Critics also accuse the Meles government for ignoring radical evangelism imposed on Ethiopians by western Christian groups. Political analyst Kemal Abdisa told Jimma Times that the Meles government’s favoritism and undemocratic policies contribute to the existing problem. “In a democratic society where traditional media flourishes, facts would have won over gossips and rumors. But the one-party Meles regime has de facto outlawed independent media,” according to Mr. Abdisa. He said Ethiopian Muslims are already moderate and the government should not impose another version of Islam on Sunni Muslims in Ethiopia.


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