ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Ethiopian Muslims on Monday welcomed the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the wake of a large conference of clerics promoting unity and understanding among Muslims.
A majority of Ethiopian Muslims had been disillusioned with the Majlis for the past couple of decades due to a perception that its members were assigned by government.
In his remarks at the Ethiopian Muslims Ulama Conference last Wednesday, premier Abiy Ahmed underlined that a strong Muslim community would be the foundation for Ethiopia’s unity.
Influential Muslim leaders at the conference agreed to compromise and work for the formation of an elected Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, or Majlis.
The formation of such a body has been advocated over the past decades by many Muslim activists, most of whom were jailed and tortured in prisons for demanding Muslims’ civil and religious rights.
“This is a big achievement not only for Ethiopian Muslims, but also for the whole nation,” Zekeriya Mohammed, a renowned journalist and author, told Anadolu Agency.
Underlining worries at the prospects of the conference’s failure, Mohammed said its success “brought tears of joy to millions of Ethiopian Muslims.”
“The fact that this all happened on the eve of the great month of Ramadan makes this year’s Ramadan special; one that would be the most peaceful ever. I hope it would be a month when our prayers for our nation would be accepted by Allah,” Zekeria said.
Omer Redi is owner of Ifriqiyah Media and Communications based in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. He works on the side as correspondent to foreign media.
This is the first time in many years that Ethiopian Muslims are welcoming the holy month of Ramadan with “true unity”, Redi told Anadolu Agency, adding that minor differences in belief had in the past led to wide rifts within the community
“This is now changing thanks to the unity among the Ulama and Sheikhs [clerics] who follow different mazhabs [sects],” he said.
He emphasized the relative climate of freedom enjoyed by the Muslim community as well as all Ethiopians after “three decades of tyranny”, adding that this had only been possible through new political leadership.
“This is manifest in the release from prison of representatives of the Muslim community over a year ago and their active involvement in the affairs of the Muslim community and the reform of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council [Majlis],” he said.
The vast majority of Ethiopian Muslims are Sunnis and Muslims in Ethiopia account for 34% of the more than one million population, making the country home to Sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest Muslim population after Nigeria.