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Time to take Salafist extremists to Task

By Berhane Kahsay
August 13, 2013

Tigrai Online - Wahabism was conceived by the Saudi theologian Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab in the 18th Century. It is a virulent strand of the great religion and its subscribers are Sunni Muslims including Osama Bin Laden, the deceased founder and leader of al-Qaeda, who masterminded 9/11 that caused the death of over 3000 innocent Americans. In Ethiopia, the vast majority of Muslims are Sufis and the extremists view them as followers of impure Islam.

Ethiopian minority Muslim group heavily influenced by Arab Salafists
Over a year ago, the Islamist militants began their grand scheme by falsely accusing the government of inviting the Lebanese Al-Habashi preachers whose interpretation of Islam is markedly different from theirs.

The Sufis are loyal and law abiding citizens and have lived with their Christian compatriots side by side in peace and harmony for generations in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Sufis are proud Ethiopians and have been and continue to play a significant part in the economic transformation of their beloved nation.  As far as they are concerned, country comes above religion which is contrary to the ethos of the unpatriotic Islamic militants.      

Complete and utter intolerance to followers of other versions of Islam run very deep within the Wahabians/Salafists; the fundamentalists have shown on numerous instances that they would do whatever is possible to have their own way. An example of this was their brutal move to impose their destructive and repressive brand of Islam on the majority by forcibly wrestling full control of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) or Majlis.

Their justification for this deplorable action was that the government and the Majlis deliberately imported Al-Habashi preachers from Lebanon to ‘adulterate Islam’ which was dismissed by all concerned as it didn’t have a single grain of truth. But, to placate the diehard extremists, democratic elections to formulate a new EIASC were called. However, the Salafists refused to participate in the elections, no doubt anticipating rejections by the voters. Now the minority extremists are claiming that their religious rights are not respected, simply because they haven’t been able to achieve the ascendency on the Sufi majority. It is laughable that the fascist militants are talking about religious freedom when they are gunning down innocent Muslims for opposing their version of Islam in a very peaceful and civilised manner.         

Repeated calls by the new EIASC leadership to initiate sincere dialogues with the Salafists were made but their magnanimity was rejected on several occasions. Harassment, intimidation and humiliation of Sufi Imams have now become the norm, but the responsible authorities have failed to take timely and appropriate responses to curtail these criminal activities. Fear is sweeping through the Muslim community and large numbers of worshipers are avoiding going to their local mosques. Only a couple of days ago, a mosque in Arsi was taken over by armed zealots who fired at police officers with Kalashnikovs wounding several of them. Many were also observed menacingly marching through the town brandishing sticks and machetes.

Further example of the Salafists brutality is the assassination in Dessie of the scholar preacher Sheikh Nuru Yemam outside a mosque for speaking up against their extremist views. Only a couple of weeks ago we saw the militants in Addis disrupting Friday prayers and waving a burnt out flag in full public view. The fundamentalists exhibit scant respect to their own people and have clearly shown their utmost hate and disloyalty to their own nation by torching the tricolour. Nothing of the sort has been observed before anywhere in the world.  

Those who harbour political ambitions, Muslims or otherwise, but lack the support of the electorates are directly responsible for organising and inciting the Salafists. And the enemies of Ethiopia are bank-rolling the traitors to foment instability that would enable them to snatch power from the democratically elected government. The Islamists and those on the  fringe of politics  aren’t fully aware of the fact that the main objective of the foreign financiers’ is to simply damage Ethiopia beyond redemption, and couldn’t care less if the militants achieve power or not. It is supremely important that the government enact all possible legislations to curtail the flow of poisoned money to the militants from Saudi Wahabians and other sources as it would greatly hamper their efforts to sabotage Ethiopia’s path to economic prosperity.

Wahabis are not real Muslims, as they flaunt Prophet Mohammed’s instructions to respect and protect Ethiopia for providing sanctuary to Muslims from Saudi Arabia that were persecuted by the ruling Quaraysh tribe. One would be quite correct to deduce from this that without Ethiopia’s pivotal and significant assistance Islam may not have developed to its current state.                    

Northern Nigerian politicians foolishly believe that it is their God given right to rule the country and records show that they have been at the helm for 38 out of the 50 years that the country has been independent. Recently they lost power to Jonathan Goodluck, a Christian southerner, and since then, they have been busy trying to oust him from office. Their myopic vision was to create chaos and topple the democratically elected government by exploiting the ensuing precarious state of affairs. For this purpose, the Muslim politicians of the north beefed up the insignificant Boko Haram and this proscribed Islamist terrorist outfit has now been in the business of bombings and gruesome murders of innocent civilians for a considerable period.

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Boko Haram is continuing to cause havoc and destructions at will, and its financial backers are no longer setting the agendas as they have lost control of the militant Islamist group. The Nigerian government is struggling to contain the terrorists and the chances of the northern politicians acquiring power by illegal means appears to have completely dissipated.

What took place in Arsi, Dessie and other parts of the country amply indicate that, as in Nigeria, the handlers of the Ethiopian Islamists are no longer in charge of the demon they have created. Thankfully the law enforcement agencies in Ethiopia have successfully managed to control the situation but more measures are required to weed out the trouble makers in order to protect the Muslim community from further militant attacks. Otherwise, the Sufis would be forced to take defensive retaliatory measures and before we know it we could have another Iraq in our hands.

Instigating quick, decisive and stern steps are essential to prevent the desperate militants from escalating the situation further by attacking Christians and their churches. The measures would also ensure safe and secure environment for potential foreign investors to make their way to Ethiopia; in the absence of these, they may take their hard currency elsewhere and its impact on the struggle to tame poverty would be immense. So what else can the government do to deal with the core extremists?

Increased and deep penetration of the Wahabians to gather intelligence and use this to take pre-emptive measures whenever deemed necessary;

Elevate the capacity of the secret services and its agents, and make available the latest interception and surveillance technologies in respect of communications (emails, telephone and social networking sites) in order to deal effectively with modern and sophisticated terrorists;

Creating jobs in high Muslim concentration areas and instigating wide spread education on religious tolerance in schools and higher institutions will greatly reduce the flow of new recruits intending to join the fundamentalists;  

Nurturing democracy and prompt steps to rectify failures in good governance would deny foreign enemies the opportunity to harm the country using unpatriotic Islamic extremists and peripheral politicians who can barely pull more than 1000 out of a population of 90,000,000 people to their futile weekly demonstrations;

Initiate genuine dialogue with moderates within the fundamentalists and kindle a split that would eventually hasten the dissolution of the die-hard militants;

Fair and equal treatment of all religions including allowing Muslims to build mosques in the heart of Axum as it is their constitutional prerogative to do so. Equally significant is the prevention of unjustified proliferation of Christian and Muslim places of worship that is taking place unabated throughout the country. It is mainly due to failure to deal with this particular issue much earlier that we find ourselves in such a sticky predicament at this important juncture in our history.

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