The United States welcomes the council selections and we believe it has an opportunity to represent the interests of Ethiopia’s Muslim population.
Islamic leaders in Ethiopia have presented new executive members of the council that oversees Islamic affairs in that nation in the Horn of Africa. The announcement Nov. 5 culminates a lengthy, sometimes heated process aimed at addressing divisions within the Muslim community. The United States welcomes the council selections and we believe it has an opportunity to represent the interests of Ethiopia’s Muslim population in an inclusive and transparent manner.
Formation of the council follows months of demonstrations that ended in several clashes with police and the arrest of more than 100 protesters, including nine prominent Muslim clerics. Many of the demonstrators complained the Ethiopian government, worried about possible Islamic extremism given the turmoil in neighboring Somalia, was trying to influence the council election outcome and advocate a school of more liberal Islamic thought, known as al-Abash, while most Muslims there adhere to the moderate Sufi faith. For their role in the protests, some of the demonstrators were charged under Ethiopia’s Anti-Terror Proclamation and their trial is pending.
The arrests and terrorism charges signify a troubling escalation in the government’s attempts to intervene in the Islamic community’s affairs and suggests a decline in religious freedom in Ethiopia. The U.S. is closely following the situation and we encourage all Ethiopians to respect the rights to freedom of religion and assembly.