How Ethiopia rid itself of extremists and got the balance right

Published: August 15, 2010

Ethiopian flag
Ethiopian flag

By: Abdullahi Dool
There is confusion which is threatening the existence of the universe. Nearly 10 years ago thugs in the form of Al-Qaeda have attacked the United States and demolished the World Trade center twin towers in New York City. Not fewer than a hundred Muslims are known to have lost their lives in the attack. However, following the attacks on New York and subsequent attacks in countless countries there is confusion and pandemonium about who is the enemy — the religion, its adherents or thugs who use and misuse Islam.
Not religion, but because of their evil ideology, the extremists pose a serious threat to humanity as a whole. In Islamic countries, they kill more Muslims than non-Muslims. For that reason, it must be understood that the enemy is the extremist who have no respect for humanity. They have no trouble blowing up people in places of worship or streets packed with shoppers. Nevertheless, to perceive Islam the religion or Muslims, its adherents, the enemy is disservice to humanity and to bring the universe down because Islam is one of the major religions of the planet which has been around for over 1400 years.
In Ethiopia, there has always been mutual respect and unparalleled traditional coexistence between Muslims and Christians. Even by the standard of the brutal governments of Haile Selassie and Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia there was respect for Muslims and their religion. However, it is worth mentioning that during Haile Selassie and Mengistu governments there was oppression conducted under one nationality over other nationalities. During those two oppressive governments in the Somali Region you could be shot for wearing a shirt imported from Hargeisa.
On 10 February 2009 coming back from a visit to relatives in the Somali Region, in Addis Ababa when I asked the taxi driver to collect clothes I left two weeks earlier with the laundry he told me: “Today is a national day and everywhere is closed.” It was of course Mawlid. In the past Mawlid, the birthday of the Prophet Mohamed was privately observed by Muslims. Acknowledging the needs and existence of Muslims in Ethiopia, it is the incumbent EPRDF government which made the observance of “Mawlid” as a national day in Ethiopia.
To celebrate occasions which are important to everybody does not cause any harm but it does a lot of good and adds cement in social cohesion. Such consideration sends a clear message. It acknowledges the existence of everybody who lives in a country. To respect one another is the foundation of a lasting society. But the mere making of Mawlid a national day is not the reason behind this writing. The government in Ethiopia has taken far reaching and ingenious steps which are yielding relief and fruition in the Somali Region and throughout Ethiopia where there are large Muslim population.
The government in Ethiopian has taken far reaching measures to uproot and dismantle the type of Islam imported from the Middle East which is completely incompatible to life and coexistence on this planet. In the Somali Region and elsewhere Islamists who perceived Ethiopia like Somalia a soft touch have long packed their suitcases wherever they may have immigrated and are long gone.
By empowering traditional clerics throughout mosques in Ethiopia, the government has succeeded to free Ethiopia from the kind of evil-minded extremists who continue to cause havoc in Somalia and throughout the world. In the Somali Region the people wonder where all those Islamists with deep pockets went. From time to time people see one or two reformed Islamists who nowadays play by the rules and who have rejoin the traditional way of Islam which respects and coexists with everybody else.  Muslims in Ethiopia feel more than anytime a sense of belonging which has never been the case in the past.
Abdullahi Dool

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