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  • SALAT MAN' IS SYMBOL OF RESISTANCE FOR MUSLIMS IN ETHIOPIA

BBN Radio Amharic

Tuesday, October 29, 2014

To US President

President of the United States of America

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington, DC 20500

United States

October 22, 2014

Dear Mr. President,

We are 19 Ethiopian Muslims writing to you from within the Ethiopian gulags. Since we were arrested and detained on fabricated charges under the country’s notorious anti-terrorism laws more than two years ago, we have been going through Stalinist political show trial designed to intimidate and silence us into submission in the face of the government’s audacious and grotesque program of re-indoctrinating Ethiopian Muslim.

We categorically reject the ridiculous allegations against us. Our only crime is to demand respect for the

principle of secularism and the freedom of religion and conscience guaranteed by the Ethiopian Constitution and universal human rights. If there is a criminal in this whole saga, if there is a terrorist, it is the government that has the audacity to re-indoctrinate the entire Muslim community by transgressing and overstepping the limits set by our Constitution. Our struggle is a struggle for civil rights, for the protection of the principle of separation of state and religion, for the guarantees of freedom of religion and conscience. Our protest is a protest to keep our hope for a dignified life alive – to preserve the right to believe, preach, and practice a religion of our choice.

Mr. President, what goes on in the name of fighting terrorism in this part of the world is a stain on your

conscience and the conscience of all those who value freedom and justice. The war against terrorism provided the normative language and the ethical framework for oppressive and silencing Anti-terrorism legislation being used to silence journalists, politicians, activists, and all those opposed to the policies of the state. Mr. President, the legal system in Ethiopia is being used as a weapon against innocent citizens whose only crime is to protest against the government’s outrageous imposition of a little known sect of Islam on the more than 35 million Ethiopian Muslims. This is a fact thoroughly documented not only by major human rights organizations like Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch but also by governmental bodies including your own State Department’s Bureau of Democracy and Human Rights and the bi-partisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Mr. President, the United States is responsible for defining, rationalizing, justifying and leading the ‘global war of terror’. Indeed, the United States defined the war on terror as a war of good against evil and defended it as a ‘war to protect human rights’. Just like the war against communism before it, this war too has provided the conceptual and political framework within which to code and decode the friend-foe distinction within autocratic systems that lacks independent institutions. Just like anti-communism laws were used to repress and silence black liberationist movements in Apartheid South Africa and other places, the Anti-terrorism laws are being used with the same logic and to obtain the same oppressive result. The ‘strong men’ of Africa that you spoke about in Accra are using the war on terror for a completely different end – to suppress and subjugate our voices from being hear, our claims from being recognized, and grievances from being acknowledged.

The long read The myth of religious violence

As we watch the fighters of the Islamic State (Isis) rampaging through the Middle East, tearing apart the modern nation-states of Syria and Iraq created by departing European colonialists, it may be difficult to believe we are living in the 21st century. The sight of throngs of terrified refugees and the savage and indiscriminate violence is all too reminiscent of barbarian tribes sweeping away the Roman empire, or the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan cutting a swath through China, Anatolia, Russia and eastern Europe, devastating entire cities and massacring their inhabitants. Only the wearily familiar pictures of bombs falling yet again on Middle Eastern cities and towns – this time dropped by the United States and a few Arab allies – and the gloomy predictions that this may become another Vietnam, remind us that this is indeed a very modern war.

The ferocious cruelty of these jihadist fighters, quoting the Qur’an as they behead their hapless victims, raises another distinctly modern concern: the connection between religion and violence. The atrocities of Isis would seem to prove that Sam Harris, one of the loudest voices of the “New Atheism”, was right to claim that “most Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith”, and to conclude that “religion itself produces a perverse solidarity that we must find some way to undercut”. Many will agree with Richard Dawkins, who wrote in The God Delusion that “only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness in otherwise sane and decent people”. Even those who find these statements too extreme may still believe, instinctively, that there is a violent essence inherent in religion, which inevitably radicalises any conflict – because once combatants are convinced that God is on their side, compromise becomes impossible and cruelty knows no bounds.

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