Radical Islam takes deep root in predominantly Christian Ethiopia
The sheba post
Clashes between Islamic protesters and riot police over the weekend in Ethiopia have raised fears that Muslims are becoming increasingly radical in a predominantly Christian country that has been a key U.S. ally in combating terrorism in the Horn of Africa.
Muslims accuse the government of illegally interfering in Islamic affairs by closely monitoring their activities at mosques and forcing clerics to practice Al Ahbash, an apolitical Lebanese-born sect of Islam. Ethiopia’s constitution bans government meddling in religious practices.
The government accuses agents from Saudi Arabia and neighboring Sudan and Somalia of promoting Salafism and Wahhabism, which are extremist forms of Islam. In April, four Muslims were killed after police arrested an Islamic cleric accused of preaching Salafism in the town of Asasa. A month later, the government deported two Arabs of unknown origin, saying they incited violence outside Addis Ababa’s largest mosque.
Ethiopia’s roughly 25 million Muslims make up about 30 percent of the population and traditionally have practiced a moderate form of the faith informally associated with Sufism.
According to some human rights activist continued government harassment of Muslims runs the risk of stoking calls for toppling Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government. If the protest continues other sectors could press similar demands, and it might escalate into calls for regime change as has happened in the Arab Spring.
Complicating the rising tensions is the unknown health of Mr. Zenawi, who was last seen in public several weeks ago appearing thinner than usual.