Not religious. It’s a political movement and own it! By Dimetros Birku

November 24th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

So goes the saying: “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.” What if it does not look like an eagle but it really is an eagle, seriously? Despite its peaceful and somewhat slow paced nature, what the Ethiopian Muslims are undertaking looks like revolution. Defiance and determination are crucially important revolutionary qualities, and there is no dearth of them in the undertakings of the Ethiopian Muslims. A peaceful, sustained, determined and defiance of the TPLF led regime political intervention in religion. It’s a revolution in progress.

Yes, unlike most other revolutions in history, Ethiopian Muslims movement is free of spontaneous emotional actions. For instance, their march to Kaliti, the famous and infamous prison place in the outskirts of Addis Ababa, this week did not end up like the storming of Bastille –which was an important event in the famous French Revolution. Moderation did not overshadow the purpose it was intended for- which was visiting their arrested leaders. When hundreds of thousands of people march to prison to visit incarcerated leaders, it is not a social act. It is a political act. The way it unfolds itself is political. Its message is political too. In the process, it is shaping, I believe, consciousness in how to transform peaceful struggle into a revolutionary act.

Erstwhile strategies of domesticating and/or repressing peaceful demands are not working this time around and failed to outsmart the insight, bravery, subtlety and determination of the movement. What usually happens is that whenever there is peaceful struggle with a demand for justice or pursuit of political rights in a political way, TPLF led government swings to its habit of putting leaders of the movement behind bars apart from launching brutal atrocities, and then demands that caused the movement end up being relegated to demands of securing the release of leaders behind bars. In fact, that is not just it. Intensifying negative propaganda campaign, thanks to media monopoly of the government, putting activism for a cause in a bad light, framing it for “legal” attack and outright repression are norms for the governing TPLF dominated government. Movements in the past experienced all these entanglements and in most cases fell victim to it.

What distinguishes Ethiopian Muslim movement from all the previous movements is that it endured all the negative propaganda and atrocious attacks (attacks in Gerba ,Degan and Dessie comes to mind) and it is marching forward, as it should like a revolution. Of course, the movement has already achieved something extraordinary: it disempowered ethnic ideology and unified people from all language speaking groups and the bond looks strong. Far from being suspicious about the movement, on grounds of alleged “Islamist agenda” driven by expatriate extremists – as government did try to project it, majority of the non-Muslim Ethiopians are relishing it and are sympathetic about it. Apparently, the piquant glance emanates partly from the history of Islam in Ethiopia and partly from the strong social bond between Ethiopian Muslims and Ethiopian Christians. Clearly, many Ethiopians are convinced that the Ethiopian Muslims are not in the business of selling out their country and non-Muslim Ethiopians for expatriate Muslims – whatever their agenda is. Yet, it has to be admitted that there is still a significant number that is not at ease with and even suspicious about the movement.

We have to be clear about the demands. Although, the movement is being undertaken by Ethiopian Muslims, there is really nothing that is purely religious or even religious about the movement. What they are resisting (in fact now it is in a stage of defiance, which is revolutionary) is political intervention from TPLF dominated government which manifested itself in three forms: that government should not appoint, clandestinely, its own personnel to their Islamic council, that government should not orchestrate (in any form) infiltration of strange Islamic teachings (they refer to it- Al-Ahbash) to their congregation and that government should not interfere in the business of running their Islamic school.

These demands are, as Mesfin Negash expounded a few months back, related to, and in a fundamental way, assertion of (or defending) constitutional rights and there is nothing apolitical about it. When constitution and assertion of rights are involved (it does not matter whether the issue are related to religion or not), and when these assertion is pursued outside of the courts in a very political way due to the very political nature of the “justice system”, the movement is clearly not religious. In that case, the process through which the assertion of rights are pursued and what the process results in are inevitably political.

And this is what makes the Ethiopian Muslims movement more of a “rights movement” rather than a religious one (as it is related to assertion of constitutional rights outside of the court) and this is why non-Muslim Ethiopians need to take up the issue aggressively and own it instead of disowning the movement on illusory religious grounds and on grounds of manufactured suspicion. Even if we assume that the alleged unEthiopian root of the movement is true and the “agenda” it seeks to promote is something “radical”- in which case it would be political again, disowning the movement does not render service to skepticism that is lingering among some Ethiopians. Yet, I want to be clear on this matter: as a person who grew up where religious difference did not matter in social interaction, where religious difference did not cause conflict, and where religious difference did not even matter in marriage (not because people were less pious about their faiths but because social harmony was so strong), there is no reason to buy the pessimist propaganda of “hidden agenda” and disown the political movement simply because Ethiopian Muslims took the initiative to be serious about their rights and happened to be harbingers of impending “rights revolution” (not to be confused with the US “rights revolution” in the 1960’s). The movement is not religious. It’s political movement.

A revolution is in the making. And it is in the interest of all Ethiopians to own the movement and even more Ethopianize it. Those of us who are simply relishing the movement need to do something more significant and meaningful. Those who are skeptical about the movement need to kill their skepticism and be able to see the very political nature of the movement and be part of it, and be part of it and own it. Opposition leaders, especially young leaders in the opposition, need to approach the movement and the leaders and discuss in how to make the “rights revolution” possible. I understand this is a risky business for the opposition. Yet, the moment is a moment of defiance. Seize it.

The writer can be reached at : dbirku@hotmail.com , twitter- @dimetros

  1. Bob Roony
    | #1

    I wonder if the author is on a payroll to spew propaganda. Hundreds of thousands marched to visit jailed (wahhabi) leaders? Why not millions? Since the author threw a number to make a case for propaganda why not throw a bigger number? I challenge the author to chow one shred of evidence that tens of thousands – and not even hundreds of thousands – marched to visit the jailed wahhabi leaders. One shred of evidence is what I am asking. Once the author provide us with such an evidence I will come back with comments on the remaining piece of propaganda he wasted his time writing.

  2. gragn Ahmed
    | #2

    “A revolution is in the making. And it is in the interest of all Ethiopians to own the movement and even more Ethopianize it.” I disagree with more Ethiopianization word. There is no qualification for the Word Ethiopia. You are Ethiopian or you are not. There is no half Ethiopian.

    With this correction, I want to add that this revolution does not need the help of anyone. without anyone’s help it will achieve its goal. It may take longer. But for the sake of being inclusive and for the sake of our future and our motherland and for the sake of being on the right side of the revolution we have to be fully engaged in the process. Now, the first real step will be for the diaspora patriarch to denounce the act of the government on Muslims and for the diaspora to send message of unity. All websites should for now at least should censor any negative propoganda by extreme christians. Christians should shun those extremists who propagate such evil acts.

    Then we will have real progress. Our past was not rosy. As much as we need christians to participate, there are Muslims who view that as sacrificing their hard built coalition to unknown factors. The writer missed that point. It is a mutual interest to join the movement simply because it is the right thing to do. We need a free society. Unless we free ourselves and until we like for others what we like for us it will be a wishful thinking we will ever build a strong nation. As I said we need Mandela’s. Our genuine acts will always be productive. But if we think this is pure “political” then we are wrong. This is a human rights issue. We as human’s are equal. Unless we stamp this in our heart we will remain slave nations not by outsiders but by our own folk masters who are slave to outsiders but tell us they are not.

  3. the observer
    | #3

    bob….why do you make a fool of urselef..? the author simply put his ideas for us ..it is not a statical or scholarily i know it all thing but you just have to ran for your gun..and open your foul mouth..as for grang mohamed thank you sir…for ur wise and helpful comments..bob u can learn something from this next time….

  4. Anonymous
    | #4

    Bob, the Business of the article is not the accuracy of the statistical figure. It the estimation, which was reported from Ethiopia, appears to be inaccurate in your eye, you could simply suggest the number. The theme of the article is just to reflect on the struggle of Ethiopian Muslims and remind non- Muslim Ethiopians that we need to have a share -a share that could help transform the movement in a way to address all other issues related to rights and freedoms.

    Regards,
    Dimetros

  5. Lucy in America
    | #5

    The ethiopia’s muslims are doing their job to prtect their religion from backward weyanes interferance.
    As everybody knows the backward weyanes [fake ethiopians ]and our muslim brothers and sisters have been living friendly for 21 years together. TPLF has burned so many churches and gedams in different parts of ethiopia, killed christians in jimma and burned kidanemeheret church. The tegeres weyanes who have deep problem with ethiopiawinet burned down so many churches in the name of our muslim brothers.we know for sure all evilesh doings are being done by tegere’s nazists. But now the backward weyanes started to kill muslims because they refused to accept hagos as hussien, teklu as mehamed ,gedai as jemmal and so on and as a head of muslims.Their struggle is peacefull and peacefull.untill the end of derg there was no a single wahhabis sect religion in ethiiopia. the backward weyanes got billions of dollars from saudi arabia and allowed them to do what ever they want . wihabiy is the most extermist sorts of muslim religion, most radical muslims like osman and others were being radicallized by wahhabism ideology. If wahhabis was not in ethiopia before, how could all muslims became wahhabis with in 21 years? religion is not like T- SHIRT. rELIGION IS RELIGION. The saudi government has controled ethiopia for 21 years and paid even 10,000 birrs for those who wanted to chnage ther religion to wahhabism. that was what happened . those young muslims’s mothers and fathers were christians some 21 years ago and because of their economical problems, the terrorist saudi government bought their religion by 10,000 birrs. when the first muslims came to ethiopia some 1400 years ago, ethiopians did not ask them to chnage their religion. they gave them shelter and food and allowed them to excercises their religion. period, so why does the saudi government invests billions of dollars to spread wahhabism all over the world including ethiopia? do they think their fucked sharia law is fit for human being? you can not treat even animals by sharia law let alone the human being. saudi arabia is the canncer of this world. Now when our muslim brothers and sisters have been fighting for almost one year , the saudi government is dancing with the backward weyanes and gets fertile land to phlough and produce ricem wheat, sesam and sergum and to fill their big and pg’s belly

  6. Anonymous
    | #6

    The movement, is based on the idea as Haji Seid Hassan put it,”agere yegare new, haimanot yegil new, yichin hager ketifat lemadan, hulahinin abiren ininesa, hagere kelele haimanotim yelem”, reflecting on the countries constitutional frame work as well as the alignment of parties along ethnic lines and/or ethnic agenda, which sets apart the TPLF/eprdf regime and its mirror image party in support of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinism as the negative forces of disintegration and those with national agenda for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, where the last item refers to individual freedom, liberty and equality to supercede above ethnic and secessionist rights for Muslims, Orthodox christians and other denominations alike to manage their religious affairs without the interference by the TPLF/eprdf regime. It may considered as a movement that brought the orthodox christians and all ethnic goups together, but perhaps under the goals for the national agenda, bring about individual freedom, liberty and equality, Ethiopian Naionalism and the sovereignity of Ethiopia, in order to save Ethiopia from disintegration.

  7. aha!
    | #7

    The movement, is based on the idea as Haji Seid Hassan put it,”agere yegare new, haimanot yegil new, yichin hager ketifat lemadan, hulahinin abiren ininesa, hagere kelele haimanotim yelem”, reflecting on the countries constitutional frame work as well as the alignment of parties along ethnic lines and/or ethnic agenda, which sets apart the TPLF/eprdf regime and its mirror image party in support of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinism as the negative forces of disintegration and those with national agenda for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, where the last item refers to individual freedom, liberty and equality to supercede above ethnic and secessionist rights for Muslims, Orthodox christians and other denominations alike to manage their religious affairs without the interference by the TPLF/eprdf regime. It may considered as a movement that brought the orthodox christians and all ethnic goups together, but perhaps under the goals for the national agenda, bring about individual freedom, liberty and equality, Ethiopian Naionalism and the sovereignity of Ethiopia, in order to save Ethiopia from disintegration.

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