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The Radicalization of Ethiopian Muslims: A Solution Worthy of the Serious Threat Posed

By Addis Alem
Tigrai Online May 04, 2013

I recently stumbled upon an article by Berhane Kahsay, published on Tigrai Online on March 09, 2013, under the title Who is Goading Ethiopian Islamists? Berhane’s article identified in great detail the real danger posed to our country by the radicalization of Ethiopian Muslims. Berhane correctly indicated that the radicalization of Ethiopian Muslims is a real threat built upon a false foundation. This, of course, makes our government’s efforts to tackle this serious threat at once very easy and very complex. It is seemingly very easy because all our government needs to do is reveal to our Muslim brothers and sisters that the sense of embattlement they are supposed to feel is not real at all, and that it is simply a blatant falsehood imposed upon them by foreign entities bent on advancing their own political agendas at the expense of our beloved country. But the task is also very complex because some of our determined foreign adversaries have almost unlimited access to money, and often disseminate their misinformation under the radar.

I would also agree with Berhane’s assertion that there is now evidence that some of our moneyed foreign adversaries have no intention of accepting and respecting our government’s sovereign right and responsibility to preserve the age old Ethiopian tradition of Secularism which allowed for the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians for generations. It seems like our adversaries have now determined Ethiopia to be their next stop in their wide ranging bloody design to mold every state with a Muslim population in their own image. They want to do this to acquire soft power which they can apply to justify and sustain their own system of government, which is theocracy. We have seen the chaotic and bloody results of their reckless radicalization adventures in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria; and we should never allow them now to make Ethiopia their next victim.

Our government should do everything in its power to stop this foreign cancer from plunging our country into the darkness of religious infighting. Of course, our foreign enemies won’t be happy to see the Ethiopian government stand up to them, and say no to their bloody design. What do you think was motivating a Saudi Deputy Defense Minister (now fired from his position, perhaps for gushing out the hatred for Ethiopia he was supposed to mask?) when he recently attacked Ethiopia with such intensity on behalf of Egypt and Sudan, opposing our Great Renaissance Dam project? This is exactly the kind of question our Muslim brothers and sisters should ask themselves. Why should Ethiopia be plunged into chaos so that the Saudis can have their soft power? It would be indeed utterly dangerous, unpatriotic, and foolish of our Muslim brothers and sisters to follow blindly our foreign adversary’s misinformation campaign into a confrontation with our government which is simply exercising its sovereign right to keep our country independent and tranquil.

In his article, Berhane stated that the task to turn the tide of Muslim radicalization in Ethiopia should not be left to the government alone. I couldn’t agree more with Berhane’s statement. The problem is Berhane failed to resist the understandable ( but still unproductive) urge to push back a little too hard against those he thought were perpetrating the instigation; in the process, risking alienating a large segment of our society we are supposed to encourage to be part of the solution.  The demonizing and belittling of a whole group of people can only help swell the rank of the misguided, and that is exactly what we must never allow to happen.  Berhane’s mistake began when he dangerously seemed to assume that most of the Muslim traders in Mercato had already been swept under the tide of radicalization threatening to plunge the country into chaos.  Berhane proceeded to label a diatribe of accusations against what he called were “ruthless and unethical Muslim traders” in Mercato, who were “ mostly illiterate mega riches” and “paid very little tax” and “obtained bank loans illegally” …. Now, whether is it a matter of fact or not, most people in Addis believe that the majority of traders in Mercato hail from the Gurage ethnic group, which I happen to be a part of, although I am Christian. I am generally fiercely nationalist, and hardly ever thought of my identity within the smaller frame of ethnicity. But I must say Berhane’s diatribe somehow left me feeling under attack.

Berhane didn’t know it, but he was playing right into the hands of our foreign adversaries. By overreacting to our foreign enemies dangerous instigation, he was latching onto their wicked bait, and freely handing them their most coveted prize; which is, damaging strife in our society they can exploit to push their own hidden agenda. We can never fool ourselves that our foreign enemies’ bellicose activities would begin to dissipate after our government declared the eradication of poverty to be its main priority. The good news is that as long as we remain vigilant to quickly identify their instigations, and most importantly, surgically nip them in the bud, we can potentially make our country immune to their poison. No kind of instigation by our enemies, however well engineered, can grow to its harmful height of societal strife without feeding on our own mistakes. As long as we treated each other with respect and dignity, and remained united as one people, our enemies stand no chance.

Berhane was also unforgiving when he attacked the Ethiopian Diaspora referring to them as “politically expedient and bankrupt toxic Diaspora …” Again, I also happen to be part of the Ethiopian Diaspora, and resent those labels. Berhane should have tried to appreciate that not all Diaspora Ethiopians are consumed by such visceral hatred of their own government that they disfigured themselves to look very much like our sworn foreign enemies. I understand Berhane’s frustration with those in the Diaspora (Such as ESAT) who seem to be driven insane by blind hatred of their own government. They jump on every chance they get to set the country on fire, and then rush to blame the government for trying to put the fire out. I despise and detest their recklessness that borders on insanity. All they do is behave like terribly spoiled children who revel in trashing around the family home, expecting all along for the adults to show up for the clean up. I would, therefore, argue that engaging in a tit for tat with such immature people is like bestowing upon them the respect and attention they do not deserve. Still worse, pushing all Diaspora Ethiopians into the trash bin along with them amounts to delivering these people a victory they can only dream about. Berhane should have instead focused on highlighting the efforts of high level Ethiopian government officials who are trying to engage with those of us in the Diaspora who want to be part of the solution to the domestic and foreign challenges facing our country.

Our foreign enemies would never tire to instigate unrest in our society, and then lie in wait for our government to make a mistake, out of which they hope to manufacture a fake freedom movement. Some of them (Egyptians) still cling onto an outdated and bankrupt strategy which quietly declares that their national security can only be realized when it is wrestled out of a divided and weak Ethiopia. Others (The regime in Asmara) would do anything to reverse the bitter prevailing reality that the independence they had won [from Ethiopia] couldn’t be readily translated into unfair economic gains just because they are indefinitely posing into a threatening military posture. Still others (The Saudis) seem to confuse our government’s sovereign right to keep our country independent as a direct assault on their own theocratic system of government. All these nefarious entities are currently busy conspiring to radicalize our Muslim population. I remain confident that our Muslim brothers and sisters would not join the conspiracy to destabilize their own country. There is absolutely no reason for them to grow uncomfortable with their own government for simply exercising its sovereign right to keep the country independent enough to chart its own development strategy. The bottom line is, in this tough neighborhood we find ourselves in, we can only expect to be as peaceful and independent as our military is strong. However, it also remains up to every one of us Ethiopians, Muslims and Christians, living at home or in Diaspora, to decide whether to join forces with our foreign enemies to weaken our own country or help it chart its own destiny with total independence.

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