Haji Omar Idris Omar Yimam Kombolcha Sheik Mohammed Amin Jemal

Major overhaul of Muslim institution, former leaders removal hailed the dawn of the new period

Can the new Mejlis deal with the sectarian division?

It was hailed as a watershed second for Ethiopia’s giant Muslim group that has been mired by strife, deep divisions and co-opting try from the regime. A call for the establishment of an unbiased body free from the authorities affect was began some seven years in the past, a move that made the regime irate, going so far as imprisoning a number of Muslim students, activists, and clergies. Since Abiy Ahmed turned prime minister a yr in the past, delivered to power on a wave of common anger, a committee comprising of nine spiritual figures was shaped to “address the legal standing of the Mejlis and suggests the establishment of Mejlis as a religious administrative organ by a proclamation.” Only a week in the past, more than five hundred Muslim leaders came collectively at Sheraton Addis and re-formed the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC), or Mejlis, changing the decade-old one, implicated in multiple allegations of corruption and proximity with the regime. “It was a historic day for Ethiopian Muslims, for those who are inside and outside of the country. This was what we have been shedding our tears for. Today, we embark on a new road,” stated Omar Idris, a mufti who took the new leadership position. “The split is not good for the country, it is not good for the Muslim population, and it is not good for our faith. The faithful have been urging us to cement the bonds of unity and reconciliation and lead them,” he added.

A cursory glance at the cause of the drawback

The Supreme Islamic Affairs Council was initially shaped in 1975 with the view to facilitating the relationship between the authorities and the Muslim group, which constitutes more than 40 % of Ethiopia’s population. That relationship has had its ups and downs, the consecutive leaders working to advance the recognition of Islam in public sphere whereas making an attempt to take care of an amicable relationship with the authorities officers, who’ve all the time tried to limit the influence of spiritual leaders and institutions. “In their relationship with the state, some have been subservient, some less so. For example, the chairman during the Derg’s period, Haji Mohamad has remained steadfast and independent in his position, despite threats and intimidation from the government,” says Elias Kedir, member of the Ethiopian Muslim Arbitration Committee and an activist freed from jail. In a rousing speech punctuated with quotations from the Quran and Muslim scholar, Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed additionally made reference to the renowned Muslim chief in the Sheraton’s speech.

Although the altering political state of affairs in 1990s brought larger freedom for the Muslim group, the regime bringing an finish the prohibition on haji, suspension of bans and import denials for spiritual literature, the authorities’s inclination to regulate and intrude in the spiritual affair continued unabated. That was one of the the reason why protest and demonstration began on January 2012, after students at the Islamic faculty, the Awolia School, walked out of courses to protest the dismissal of Arabic academics and proposed modifications to the curriculum, which they stated was an imposition of the teachings of Al-Ahbash at the expense of other movements reminiscent of Wahhabiya. The government needed to promote Al-Ahbash satisfied that it’s a house–grown movement, and it has “a rather flexible interpretation of Islam, which revolved around political coexistence with Christians,” in accordance with scholars. “Its leader came to Beirut from Ethiopia……… Al-Ahbash of Lebanon expanded to become arguably the leading factor in the local Sunni community,” Mustafa Kabba, and Haggai Erlich wrote in a scholarly journal, “Al-Ahbash Wahhbiyya: Interpretations of Islam”.

Elias clarifies
what sparked the anger and protest was not the Al-Ahbash movement, which has the
right to exist like these others however the government’s transfer to impose it on all members
of the Muslim group without regard to their very own aspirations. Over the ensuing
months, the protest has grown to encompass wider anger and frustration towards
the Muslim Council and political elite, calling for a new “mejlis”, or Muslim

Sufi versus Salafi

In the meantime, the Ethiopian Muslims found themselves embroiled in a wrestle between two factions of clerks, the so-called Sufi and Salafi/Wahhabi camps. (Wahhabism is the formal ideology of the Saud state.) There are totally different points of rivalry over both the interpretation of symbols and follow resembling whether or not or not it’s permitted to have fun the birthday of the Prophet, the rightfulness of saint-veneration. “The hostility that ensued between the two had resulted in sectarian violence in some parts of the country. A delegation moderated the polemical theological debate through the creation of an Ulama unity forum where compromises were made,” wrote scholar Dereje Feyissa. In accordance with Dereje, the dispute emanated from competition over financial assets coming from international Islamic networks and the Center Japanese nations that help the Salafi. “Government interest in and manipulation of the internal theological debate has also further politicised the sectarian divide. By and large, the EPRDF tends to favour what it calls hagerbeqelislimina (home-grown Islam) or nebaruislimina (indigenous Islam), euphemisms to refer to the ‘tolerant’ and ‘apolitical’ Sufi over the ‘militant’,” he wrote.

A New Course

PM Abiy Ahmed addressing thiopian Muslims Ulama convention on Might 1.

A way that the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was desperate to make good on his guarantees, introduced a change in tone together with his nomination a yr ago and spoke of full non-interference in Muslim spiritual’ affairs. It was around this time that the committee was established with nine members, the three of them from the Muslim Committee beforehand main the protest motion, three other from the present Mejlis leadership and three neutral students, in response to another Muslim activist, Sultan Kassim Genna. “Despite bumpy roads, this committee has tirelessly worked for the past ten months and produced three documents that identify the institutional problems of Ethiopian Muslims and the suggested solutions. One document tries to address the legal standing of the Mejlis and suggests the establishment of Mejlis as a religious administrative organ by a proclamation, the second deals with the restructuring and reorganization of Mejlis and the last deals with various religious points of consensus reached among Ethiopian Muslim religious scholars,” he explains.

Transition of power

There was a priority that if Sheik Mohammed Amin Jemal, President of the EIASC and his deputy Omar Yimam Kombolcha can be prepared step aside. However a day earlier than the Sheraton conference, EIASC held its 15th Basic Assembly and news came that the president resigned on health ground, paving the street for the peaceable transition of power, which has been hailed as the first one.

The judgments are nonetheless reserved on the issues that separate the Ethiopian government coverage and Muslim interests. “The Ethiopian government is still trying to clear its name. While most of the problems were created by itself, it is presenting it as the end of the conflict between two factions. But the truth was not that. The politicians seem in denial that their own politics was a factor,” Elias informed Ethiopia Observer. “Any government intervention real or perceived would have a negative impact on the credibility of PM Abiy’s government and the attempt of transition to democracy,” says Sultan Kassim Genna.

Haji Omar Idris photograph RiHabiby Ze Habesha

Who’s the new leader?

The new president, Haji Omar Idris is a revered mufti, with a fame of a highly disciplined spiritual chief and a proponent of Muslim unity. He is president of Fatwa and Da’awa Council, the chief governing body of Islamic educating in the nation. He hails from Genete village, Warra Ilu, one of the woredas of the Amhara area. The world is dominated by Muslims and reputed for spiritual cohabitation and concord. Omar’s father was a peasant, the younger boy grew up together with his three brothers and four sisters. He began reciting Qur’an whereas he was a toddler while aiding his mother and father in farming and herding. He studied for years beneath famous Islamic academics, towards the want of his father who needed him to be a merchant or a politician. He has made the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca 39 occasions, he stated in an interview final yr. He has in the past served as the chair of the Addis Ababa Mejlis and in addition chaired of the Addis Ababa Ulama (scholars of Islamic doctrine and regulation) Unity Discussion board, a forum established to unravel the contentious issues between the two factions. He represented the Sufi camp while the ‘Wahhabi’ camp was represented by Dr. Jelal. He’s a instructor steeped in the lore of the historic books, his devotees say. He is renowned for composing verses and non secular texts and he himself stated he has 80 unpublished manuscripts. One of the most necessary challenges for him and the leadership can be easy methods to reconcile the totally different visions and translations of Islam inside its ranks, particularly in the political realm. For the second, there’s high optimism now however the huge process lies ahead.

All pictures are taken the Workplace of the Prime Minsiter’s Workplace Twitter account.

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