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He who denies history denies himself: Reading between Abubekr Ahmedís teaching

By Taye Kelemu
Tigrai Online Feb. 12, 2013

It has been a while since a section of the Ethiopian Muslim community has come out on the streets of Addis Ababa and raised their voice. As the Ethiopian Constitution provides:

The Defeat of Ahmed Gragn - Tigrai Online Ethiopian News
The Defeat of Ahmed Gragn by King Claudius on 21 February 1543 by Kegneketa Jemlieri Hailu of Gondar Pigment on canvas, 80.5 x 117.5 cm Collection: Horniman Museum and Gardens7

Article 30

The Right of Assembly, Demonstration and Petition

1. Everyone has the right to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably and unarmed, and to petition. Appropriate regulations may be made in the interest of public convenience relating to the location of open-air meetings and the route of movement of demonstrators or, for the protection of democratic rights, public morality and peace during such a meeting or demonstration.

Hence a section of the Muslim community has assembled freely for demonstration after demonstration to make their point.  It is good to see the constitution is in action.

On the other hand, recently the government media has highlighted the other side of the story: the story of Jihadists linked to Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda.1

The story is frightening, whether this subsection of the Ethiopian Muslim movement is connected to similar movements around the world, we Ethiopians, Muslims and Christians alike, never welcome on our soil things happening in Nigeria, Somalia, Mali or other countries.  We have enough pain and suffering as it is.

Here I am not debating whether this subsection of Ethiopian Muslims is right or wrong or am I endorsing what the government media has said. Since this is a religious and legal matter I stand neutral and await the outcome of due legal process.


The question to Abubekr Ahmed was what his answer would be to those who said that Islam expands with the force of the sword. To my astonishment he said that in the past there were 24 Islamic wars and the casualty number was 700 only. I wish all wars have such few casualties, at this stage we may not need to mention 9/11, since the casualty number is somewhat higher.

However as an Ethiopian and having both Muslim and Christian heritage I cannot be a bystander on this issue when I come across something contrary to my knowledge. Whatever my religious beliefs, my conscience would not allow me to do so. So here I am to comment on some material I have found on Bilal tube on the teaching of Abubekr Ahmed on Muslim aggression.

In his teaching he answers a question coming from his audience, more likely an arranged question. The question to him was what his answer would be to those who said that Islam expands with the force of the sword.  To my astonishment he said that in the past there were 24 Islamic wars and the casualty number was 700 only.  I wish all wars have such few casualties, at this stage we may not need to mention 9/11, since the casualty number is somewhat higher.

Here my interest is not what has happened in the past in other countries or Islamic war; even if I have such interest, at this stage I do not have any specific knowledge. However since Abubekr mentioned the kindness and the generosity of a Muslim invader by the name of Ahmed ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi on Ethiopian Christians, I do not have any other option than to say a few words.

According to Abubekr’s teaching the man who rose from the East by the name of Ahmed ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi or Gragn had holy objectives. Gragn’s objectives were not to destroy Christianity but first to bring justice through Muslim rule and law and second to unify Ethiopia.  He, Ahmed (Gragn) was so kind that he even did not destroy the Christian churches, namely Lalibella and Axum.  I wish this was true but history teaches us a different side of Gragn.

First let us consider this piece of information: “a full-scale jihad was launched against a weakened Ethiopian state.  His forces received essential help from Arab mercenaries and from the Turks, who had been encroaching on the coast up to the city of Massawa, and who supplied fire-arms, cannons and matchlock men from their own army to the Adal forces (the Christian armies did not yet have fire-arms).” 1

I do not know whether Abubekr has come across this.  First Gragn launched an unprovoked war against the weakened Ethiopian state and people.  Despite Mohamed’s teachings, in which he said that do not harm or declare war against Ethiopia 2, Gragn did the opposite.  Second Gragn used as instrument a foreign power who had a long interest in Ethiopian sovereignty, the Turks “who had been encroaching on the coast up to the city of Massawa”.  Third Gragn used an army of Arab mercenaries including modern weapons at a time where Ethiopians did not have any  So in this way how could it be possible that Gragn had not rained misery on Ethiopia’s Christian population and their possessions including churches.

Let us see what another historian writes “The Muslim army of Imam Ahmad then marched northward to loot the island monastery of Lake Hayq and the stone churches of Lalibella.  When the Imam entered the province of Tigray, he defeated the Ethiopian army that confronted him there.  On reaching Axum, he destroyed the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, in which the Ethiopian emperors had for centuries been crowned.” 3/p>

Whilst I am writing this I am gasping for air as a fish out of water, I cannot comprehend how people deny history for the sake of their own selfish objectives.  It does not matter how much we try to change history, but history is history; we cannot change the past but we can change the future if we are honest and stand for the truth.

In fact Abubekr is right to say that Gragn did not burn down the Lalibella churches, because the churches were made of rock, but his solders looted them according to historians.

When I was visiting Lalibella, particularly Bete Gyorgis (Church of Saint George) I noticed one big wooden box and I asked the priest what it contained and he told me it is empty.

We know why it is empty, it was looted.  During the same time I travelled to Axum and visited the city of Axum and its churches.  In the compound of the churches I noticed some old cannons confiscated from the Turks.  On that visit again I asked the priest about the church history and he told me how the church was destroyed by Gragn and restored by King Fasiladas.

Here we can tell endless stories about this, but to make a long story short let us look at another piece of historical evidence: “The survivors and Emperor Gelawdewos  were afterward able to join forces and, drawing on the Portuguese supplies, attacked Ahmad on February 21, 1543 in the Battle of Wayna Daga, where their 9,000 troops managed to defeat the 15,000 soldiers under Imam Ahmad. The Imam was killed by a Portuguese musketeer, who was mortally wounded in avenging da Gama's death.&rdquo 1

Here we can see that on his last battle, Gragn had 15,000 soldiers, I wonder whether his soldiers were used for peace and stability in Ethiopia and the protection of all religions.  I do not know the hidden or open motives of Abubekr, what he hopes to achieve by teaching a distorted history.  For me simply denying history is denying oneself.  In fact it is beyond that.  In the West those who deny the holocaust accordingly were brought to justice.  Maybe Abubekr Ahmed has a constitutional right to distort history. Is he? I forward this question to my government to answer.

As far as distorting history is concerned, from Plato until today a lot has been said.  Here are a few points I have gathered from Wikipedia1 which may give you some insight on the subject: This action has been known as Historical revisionism (negationism):

Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about a historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light.”

In attempting to revise the past, illegitimate historical revisionism appeals to the intellect—via techniques illegitimate to historical discourse—to advance a given interpretive historical view, typically involving war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Historical revisionism is conducted to influence a target’s ideology and/or politics for a particular purpose. Revisionists understand Plato’s dictum that, "those who tell the stories also hold the power."  Sometimes the purpose is as innocent as wanting to sell more books or attract attention with a startling headline. Often, however, that purpose is to achieve a nation’s aims by transferring war guilt, demonizing an enemy, providing an illusion of victory, or preserving friendship.

 Practical examples of negationism (illegitimate historical revisionism) include Holocaust denial and some Soviet historiography.

The history of Gragn is fresh in Ethiopian memory; I could say that it remains an unhealed wound: According to historian Paul B. Henze “"In Ethiopia the damage which [Ahmad] Gragn did has never been forgotten".  Every Christian highlander still hears tales of Gragn in his childhood. Haile Selassie referred to him in his memoirs.  I have often had villagers in northern Ethiopia point out sites of towns, forts, churches and monasteries destroyed by Gragn as if these catastrophes had occurred only yesterday." 2

I do not know why some contemporary Ethiopian Muslim has tried to open an unhealed wound. Unlike other places, for me Ethiopia is one of the best countries in the world to be a Muslim, a Christian or other religious denomination. If you do not believe me try India.

Let peace be upon us

[1] Jihadawi Harekat by ETV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBYVxhtN5CA

[1] www.bilaltube.com

[3] An historical-anthropological approach to Islam in Ethiopia: issues of identity and politics* by JON ABBINK(Afrika-Studiecentrum, Leiden)
https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/9486/asc_1242160_016.pdf?sequence=1

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9djpAdggbA: Islam and Ethiopia (Amharic) Part I

[5] http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Ahmad_ibn_Ibrihim_al-Ghazi

[6] http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Ahmad_ibn_Ibrihim_al-Ghazi

[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/the-defeat-of-ahmed-gran-by-king-claudius-on-21-february-194066#

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_revisionism_%28negationism%29

[9] http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Ahmad_ibn_Ibrihim_al-Ghazi

Egyptian imam preaching armed Islamic Radicalism against Ethiopia


Now it should be very clear to everybody who is behind the destructive terrorist movement in our country. Make no mistake, the majority of our Muslim brothers and sisters don't subscribe to this bloody jihadist ideology of militant Islam.

Now it should be very clear to everybody who is behind the destructive terrorist movement in our country. Make no mistake, the majority of our Muslim brothers and sisters don't subscribe to this bloody jihadist ideology of militant Islam.

The amazing thing here is how the Ethiopian Muslim leader says they have been asking the Egyptian radical Imam for advice for years and they have been following his advice from A to Z.

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