Ethiopian Muslims are boiling with rage at a series of killings of religious leaders across Oromia. The involvement of government security forces in the killing has left many to wonder the motives behind targeting innocent civilians.
Sheik Omar Suleyman was a 70 years old man. He provides for his large family of 17 members. He was an imam of a mosque in Asassa, a small town in West Arsi Zone of the Oromia region.
Sheik Omar and his wife were killed at their home by government security forces. Their three-months old infant who sustained an injury at the time also died the next day.
Sheik Qassim Rashad is another religious leader in Asassa. He was also shot in front of his mosque, and now is receiving medical treatment at Asella Hospital. A young man who tried to help Sheik Rashad was killed by government forces.
Similar attacks against Muslims have been reported in different parts of Ethiopia. In recent days alone, there were attacks on Muslims and their mosques in towns such as Badessa, Asassa, Adaba, Shashemene, and Kofale.
The Ethiopian Muslims have been complaining about political, economic, and social marginalization under all past regimes. Although they comprise more than 40% of the country’s population, their participation in the government has been limited. Muslim scholars say Ethiopia, which has been introducing itself to the world as an “Island of Christian,” has never had a place for them.
Many Muslims have been grateful to Abiy Ahmed for taking some bold steps to address some of their centuries-old demands. They were thankful to the prime minister for allowing them to open the first Islamic Bank in the country. They also praised the Ethiopian parliament for passing a law that grants Majlis, the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs General Council, a legal recognition, a privilege enjoyed by the Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Church for centuries.
However, the ongoing attacks on mosques and imams have left many Muslims wondering the motives behind the unexplainable attacks. What is beyond comprehension is the reports that the killings are conducted by government security forces who were supposed to protect them.
Some politicians say the attacks on Muslim leaders and their places of worship have to do with the government tactics of divid-and-rule in the face of a growing protests in Oromia and South Nations and Nationalities Region, especially Wolaytta zone. According to them, security agents incite religious and ethnic-based conflicts to weaken the protests. For this, they point to how government-owned media framed the killings in Shashemene almost two months ago following the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa. They accuse the media of falsely characterizing the killings as a “massacre” that targeted Christians and ethnic Amharas.
Some Muslims also believe that Abiy Ahmed is trying to repeat what Meles Zenawi did to them. The late Ethiopian prime minister is remembered as a leader who falsely linked Ethiopian Muslims to terrorist groups in Somalia in order to get financial and diplomatic support from the United States and other western countries.
The Ethiopian Muslims who accused successive Ethiopian governments of following hostile policies against them hoped for a better treatment under the government of Abiy Ahmed. But for many, it seems those hopes are fading now!