By Sisay Teshome
Tigrai Onlne - August 16, 2014
Many things have been said about religion – both in the past and present. And I’m sure many writings will be devoted around the subject in the future. My perspective on the issue is that it is a personal treasure that’s scripted on the heart and to be adhered with consent and free will; it’s not something to be manipulated or merchandized for personal profit. And God has said ‘live in a humble way’; not in a competitive and extroversive ‘mine is better than yours’ manner. Nevertheless, recently it has become fashionable to see many (religious zealot) people who overbear their adhered religion on others. And I don’t think any teaching of any religion supports these people. It’s really disappointing to see these people working hard to impose their will on others’ religion when we can simply get along in this big world without the need of it.
We have seen those who flaunt “one religion, one country” banner on one extreme, and those who aim to create a religious government on the other end of the spectrum … it’s obvious that all mankind can’t be or think the same way as its naturally different to each other. This makes the antics of those who claim to have the best religion or thinking to others wrong on both counts – here and in the heavenly. In this day and age where the world has turned in to a small village and we live closely more than ever, not only their antic is wrong, but its distorted outlook to begin with.
Its confusing where to put the sinister antics of those religion merchants who consider themselves to be the representative or archetypal (of the Christian and Muslim community). But, it’s also obvious that these few people are politicians that are profiteering from religion… All in all, in this article, I will try to walk you, my dear readers, through political activities undertaken in the name of both Christian and Muslim religions by basing on different information I acquired.
The one done under the mask of Christian religion is led by a backward and antiques thinking that claims “Christianity should reign all over Ethiopia”. The alpha and omega of this thinking revolves around making Christianity the domineering religion of the land, and flaunting high banners and slogans that signify this thinking. Slogans like “Ethiopia is a Christian island; one country, one religion” show the inner core of the thinking behind it. According to the forces behind this thinking, our country is presented not as a country that had and still hosts many religions, but only as an island of Christianity. And this clearly violates the equality and freedom of other religions.
This outdated and backward “one country, one religion” thinking propagates that only one religion exists and should exist in Ethiopia. The major force behind this movement is opposition political parties who believe religious issues confuse the public easily, while the rest is made up of delusional who can’t accept the present reality that ‘Orthodox Tehwado’ faith is equal to the other religions and is no more granted state sponsorship.
These political “organizations” try to propagate bogus agenda that tickles the emotion by using, either directly or indirectly, Christianity as cover. Just to name a few of their efforts; as it can be recalled these entities have tried to disseminate false and unfounded rumors like ‘the government interferes in church leaders election’, ‘WALDBA monastery has been violated’, and claiming accidental fire that destroy an area close to a church or a monastery as a premeditated attack on the church through ‘Ginbot 7’ personal mouth piece, ‘ESAT’, and the pro-‘Derg’ and ‘EPRP/Eihapa’, ‘VOA’.
There was no stone left unturned by these opposition forces (especially those extremists in the Diaspora); who wants to appoint/demote leaders for the church, to get their own man elected. Especially their hoax rumor bonanza with regards to the WALDBA monastery was border-line pathetic. However, this bonanza is based on a totally untrue and unfounded rumor. As any reader of this article is very well aware of, the sugar development that’s being undertaken deep in the valley, in a dry and low place, while the ‘WALDBA’ monastery is situated in a high altitude place.
When the truth is this, they still went forward with their bogus story and waged smear campaign thinking their ‘the monastery is violated’ story will get a rise and anger from the religion followers. Here it should be noted that the culprits of the campaign were the remnants of ‘EPRP/Eihapa’ and ‘CUD/Qinijit’ at the ‘VoA’s Amharic program.
Let me add other instances. At one time, following the killings of Christians by fundamentalists called ‘Khawarja’ around Jimma, these people started a campaign along the lines “Christians are massacred and we should strike back”. As we have seen from time to time, they employ various tactics like when an accidental fire destroys an area close to a church or a monastery, they cry foul play. Also on other times, after they knowingly build churches on a land that’s not granted for churches, they claim conspiracy against Christians when the government stops the illegal construction. Notwithstanding the backward and lopsided thinking that are flaunted by those with these people, courtesy of their distorted outlook, we have seen government officials who struggle to see the difference and distinction between religion and their responsibility thereby making fundamental mistakes.
These politicians; who are masquerading under the guise of religion, won’t back down from taking advantage of any situation that present them the opportunity for political merchandising. So, it has become customary to see these political merchants, who operate under the guise of religion, put together and execute a make believe campaign that make it appear as if the Christian church’s respect and esteem is slighted in the new Ethiopia – where, contrary to their propaganda, Christian faith is respected and tolerated. All in all, every follower of the Christian faith should know that these people make a living out of condemning the constitutional order by disseminating baseless and bogus rumor as they carry out their political business under the guise of religion.
Now let us move to those political forces that are operating behind the Muslim faith. As it’s known, just like the one done under the guise of Christian faith; sometimes even worse due to its own characteristics, there have been obvious political maneuvering done under the name of Islam. This movement after bubbling under the surface for some time has now taken the form of anti-constitutional marauding, following efforts waged to combat extremists.
In the new Ethiopia, where Muslims are enjoying religious equality after they have freed themselves from an oppressive regime through democratic struggle 22 years ago, we have nevertheless seen extremist inclinations that disturb the longstanding respect and tolerance that existed between the followers of other religions. These inclinations and movement are exported mainly from North African and Middle Eastern extremist forces; seen by those forces as a lynchpin for the plan to make Islam dominant in the region. It’s a true display of using the faith for own personal gain despite the disturbance it makes towards religious equality and freedom.
These extremists/fundamentalists who adhere to extremist outlook have made many unspeakable acts that violate citizen’s basic human rights, by calculating that the government will not interfere in religious matters. They have burned down olden mosques and religious books, who they reckon have Ethiopian basis. The extremists have forcefully confiscated lands and homes of those people who opposed and stood up to their despicable acts. The fundamentalists first made their play by claiming ‘the government has imposed an alien sect called ‘Ahbash’ on us’’, when it’s known that many of the religions that entered Ethiopia has their roots in the Middle East. The government didn’t had (and still don’t have) any reason or motive whatsoever to import any kind of religion from the outside. When the truth is this, these forces; who operate by foreign forces’ sponsorship, have levied an unfounded and unwarranted accusation on the government by claiming it is interfering in their religion by imposing a new foreign faith called ‘Ahbash’ (which was spread by the teachings of Hajji Abdulahi, by the way) on the Muslim community. With this, they have tried to confuse the youth.
When their teachings and financial source are foreign forces, from Middle East at that, where did they find the moral grounds to accuse the government of interfering in religion? … Encouraged by some of the success they garnered in their effort to dethrone the olden ‘Sufi’ sect, by using money, they have reached a point where they crowned themselves as indigenous, whilst labeling others as alien.
Fortunately, whether being indigenous (domestic) or not has no bearing on how faiths are taught in our democratic country. If non-indigenous faiths are casted out from our country, which ones would be left out? … Again fortuitously, the criterion for any religion in our democratic country only starts and finishes with the consent and free will of the citizens – I has nothing to do with whether the religion originally came from Ethiopia, Africa or other part of the globe. As our country did not prohibit other faiths or sects from entering, there is no reason for the country to prohibit any religious movements, whether it’s ‘Ahbash’ or not, from entering as long as it’s with the will and consent of the citizens.
Yet, I believe many youth Muslims were exposed to the extremists’ poisonous ideas like “‘Ahbash’ should be prohibited”, as a consequence to the governments easy look towards the situation and thereby lack of immediate explanation. The other thing these fundamentalists used for their end game is the ‘Awelia’ school. The government’s expectation from the school is for them to lay a strict separation between religion and politics, thereby carrying on their affairs far from political teachings.
Nevertheless, the institution instead of operating by respecting the constitutional order, being led by unaccountable entities, it had been investing its time on the agendas of the fundamentalists; agendas that have anything to do with religious issues. As a consequence, the organization was made to be a responsible and accountable entity to be supervised by the ‘Islamic Affairs Council’. As it can be recalled, at the time the Muslim community wanted to reorganize the ‘Islamic Affairs Council’ anew. As a result, the community demanded for the council to be reorganized through election. As the demand was the constitutional right of the Muslim community, the government has given what its expected of it to the councils to help them meet the demands of the community.
The councils have supported a procedure that would reorganize them through a democratic election. However, after the fundamentalists worked their socks off to make it appear as if the government interfered in the process and the candidates are forced upon the Muslim community, they have cutoff themselves from this democratic procedure. Nevertheless, the community has put those candidates that are free from extremism through its vote. The extremists/fundamentalists on their part have been orchestrating a standing off against the government every Friday in Anwar mosque, and sometimes in other mosques, disregarding the choice and say of the majority of the community.
They have also made huge efforts, in collaboration with foreign Medias, to stir violence by making it appear as if Islam is being subject to attack from the outside. If it wasn’t for the patient and tranquil way of handling of the police forces, the situation would have escalated into violence. This didn’t stop the extremists/fundamentalists from trying to force the government into violence for a year and a half though. For instance, during African Union Summit, they have tried to launch attacks by closing off the roads and staging unwarranted demonstration. Last summer, they have also tried to stir havoc in Addis Ababa by launching from ‘Bilal Mosque’.
These extremist forces have also tried their hand in stirring riot and violence within mosques in collaboration with a terrorist organization that calls itself ‘Jihadawi Harakat’. Nonetheless, after thoroughly investigating the situation, and after gathering intelligence on the players, the government was forced to take lawful action on the leaders of the groups and send them to jail. It’s after this action that the extremists/fundamentalists movement lost its seam and got weakened.
In other hand, this force; which tried to use religion as its guise, not only used all the anti-Ethiopia Medias by linking up with its supporters abroad, it has also hugely tried to secure support from terror and chauvinist forces that ranges from ‘Ginbot 7’ to the ‘exiled synod’. In a true display of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, they have worked together, by supporting each other. Although religion-guised political activities inevitably get exposed in time, it can’t be denied that they have been a major force of havoc challenging the ‘developmental democratic order’ for the last two years.
Here I think it’s necessary to look into why these bankrupt-politicians-cum-religious-extremists chose religion to cover up their true operation and intention. As we all know, these political forces that chose to do politics under the guise of religion have different calling names, while they fight behind racist and chauvinist banners. From CUD/’Qinijit’ to ‘Hibret’, from ‘VOA’ to ‘TV Africa’, ‘Deutsche Welle’ to ‘Bilal Radio’, from ‘Jihadawi Harakat’ to ‘Ginbot 7’, from ‘Ethiopia International Muslims’ to ‘Medrek’ and the exiled synod etc … have all participated on it both individually and together as one. However, as we all saw, their barren-hope has been dissipated.
Of course here it should be asked ‘why did these political forces and organizations, who haven’t been able to harness success though a peaceful and democratic way, turned to religion to use it as their cover; what advantages (opportunities) does this strategy afford them?’ the answer has to do with their believe that there is a better chance of creating confusion and distortion through religious matters within a society of a poor and backward country, thereby increasing their chance of not getting exposed for their true nature. They believe it will lead them towards success. It may have also to do with their belief that religious issue seldom gets a balanced outlook from lookers.
Of course often religion followers react emotionally to issues deemed ‘threatening to its religion’. So, this move of doing politics under the guise of religion obviously aims at manipulating people’s emotion to their advantage. Even in the developed world, its customary to see forces, either in the side of terrorism or anti-terrorism, battle it out for the domination of their respective political objectives using religious as cover.
It’s believed that religious matter can stir up the emotions of many like no other even with unfounded and trivial of things. Here it should be noted that there are issues that serve, as gas to fire, with regards to doing political the business under the guise of religion profitable – the preeminence of poverty and lack or absence of good governance to name a few. Obviously, there will be no fertile grounds for extremism/fundamentalism within a society where there is great chance to work and better oneself. Where there is a chance to work and be successful, there are no reasons to lose hope.
However, while the government’s prior experience showed that the problem can be lessened or be dealt with in the future, still the appropriate measures should be taken against our inner vulnerabilities. In another words, the fight against poverty and backwardness should be further embarked upon. Any society that’s deep in poverty will revert to other extremist and pointless options unless it is provided with adequate alternative. It can be seduced by teachings like ‘carryout any extremist deeds and the doors of heaven will be open for you’, considering his/her life in this world is riffed with misery and suffering.
Backwardness, also, can put a society to hopelessness and extremism by closing the door on democracy and good governance. Of course the government has expanded the country’s development in a way that benefits the majority step-by-step. It has edified a democratic order that’s laid on a firm foundation. Waging a fight to bring good governance unto the country, the government had and is still getting positive outcomes. Thus, today our country is running rapidly through a democratic and developmental path, benefitting its people on the way. As our development is rapid and wide-based, it has ballooned the hopes of the people.
As our democracy is based on knowing and respecting pluralism, it has strengthened people-to-people love, respect and tolerance. By putting an end to political bickering, it ended any chance for hopelessness to take root in the process. It would be telling the obvious to remind the readers of this article that this has been the main reason for our country’s peace and stability, while many countries were drenched in turmoil and violence.
Saying that now let me turn my attention to the youth, where the extremists’ politicians are working to gain a foothold.As it’s known, in a situation where the youth is unemployed, don’t have access to quality education, cutoff from organized political participation, and suffers from bad governance, there is a better chance to sway it by manipulating its weak and vulnerable state. I think it’s coming from this position and by learning from the chaos that followed election ’97 that the government tried to work on and answer demands of good governance and political participation; and it has garnered positive results. So, I think the fight against good governance would do well from a participative and beneficiary youth.
In parallel with this, top government officials should make their work free from religion. As it known, there are people who adhere to various religions within the developmental and democratic government. The issue of respect of religion notwithstanding, we need to make sure that basic governmental service are given in a way that is neutral to religion. This way we’ll make sure the government service is given in an equal and neutral manner.
In other side, the propaganda campaigns should be shielded by thoroughly understanding the intent of the extremists and their supporters. Of course most of the media that are used as a medium for their propaganda, like the lights of ‘VoA’, operate outside their government’s foreign policy. When their own government is condemning terrorism, they are on their part lavishing praise on terrorism… we could have called them cadres, but they tell us they are journalists; and when we start to see them as journalists, we found them to be extremists recruiters and mouth piece.
It’s not clear why they don’t choose their role and go with it. Of course their propaganda and antics so far makes it obvious and clear that they are politicians-for-hire, despite their religion masking. Maybe these extremists and their supporters are trying to accomplish their mission – which is to create rift between the government the public by disseminating untrue and unfounded rumors.
Nevertheless, I would like to tell them that they will not find any Muslim Ethiopian that will be easily manipulated by them. We won’t forget that, for the past two years, these extremists/fundamentalists have been trying to create rift between the Muslim community with Muslims and the government through ‘VoA’, ‘Deutsche Welle’ and other religious magazines. Thus, it is advisable for these extremists to lay off their rumor scribbling hands from both Christian and Islam faiths as we are interested on writings of economic development, not religion ‘fashion’.
If you have any doubts Shabiya is behind every terrorist attack in Ethiopia, listen to one Eritrean official inciting violence and the breaking of Ethiopia. He is talking to a bunch of Ginbot-7 members and he is telling them it is ok to break up Ethiopia in to small pieces. Unbelievable!!!