CAIRO — As Muslims worldwide gathered in festive celebrations to welcome `Eid Al-Fitr, Ethiopia Muslims have staged huge protests after `Eid prayer in the capital Addis Ababa against the government interference in their religious affairs.
“Protests will continue after Eid as far as the Ethiopian government fails to meet our demands”, an Ethiopian Muslim activist who spoke on condition of anonymity told Sudan Tribune on Friday, August 9.
“We demand the release of all jailed Muslim leaders and followers arrested for holding peaceful protests,” the activist added accusing the government of arresting hundreds of Muslims during the last week of Ramadan fasting.
Protests erupted after `Eid prayers in which tens of thousands of Muslim gathered at the Addis Ababa stadium from the early hours of Thursday morning to perform `Eid prayers.
Muslim activists last week called for demonstrations during the religious day of `Eid in protest at what they allege is the government’s meddling in religious affairs. The government has denied the allegations.
Protesters at Thursday’s celebrations, which were held amidst tight security, chanted slogans such as “Stop the crackdown on Muslims” and “Respect the constitutional rights of Muslims”.
The latest demonstration followed a deadly clash last week between Muslim protesters and police in Ethiopia’s Kofele district in the Oromya region.
According to Ethiopian Muslim activists, scores of Ethiopian Muslims have been killed and dozens wounded or arrested in the events that occurred last Saturday.
Protests have rocked Ethiopia over the past years over government interference in the religious affairs of the Muslim community.
Muslims say the government is spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called "Ahbash".
Muslims say the government move is in violation of the constitution, which prevents the government interference in religious affairs.
Muslims also accuse the Ahbash of launching an "indoctrination program" in predominantly Muslim areas, forcing people to attend "religious training" camps or risk police interrogation and possible arrest.
To quell the Muslim protests, the Ethiopian government launched a major crackdown, arresting scores of Muslim protest leaders.
Amid increasing complains, Amnesty International has expressed concern over the latest incident, urging Ethiopian authorities to end its crackdown on Muslims and to respect their constitutional rights to hold peaceful demonstrations.
“We are extremely concerned at reports coming out of Ethiopia this morning of further widespread arrests of Muslim protesters”, Claire Beston, Amnesty’s Ethiopia researcher, was quoted by Sudan Tribune.
“The Ethiopian government’s ongoing repressive crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest has to end now”, she added.
Amnesty condemned what the rights group described as the Ethiopian government’s use of repressive tactics against demonstrators.
Muslims make up about 34 percent of Ethiopia’s population, according to the government’s 2007 census.But other sources put Ethiopia Muslims at about 50% of the country’s population.
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