A Just and Peaceful Struggle
Nuru Yimam, Annandale, Virginia
The Aweliya brothers and sisters have been practicing nonviolent protest since January of 2012. From their humble beginnings, the brothers have been portrayed as extremist by the government. One of the intended purposes of the government was to divert attention from the actual validity of their arguments by discrediting them as terrorists, Jihadists, to simply isolate them from garnering public support from the general Muslim populace.
Fortunately, the government’s sinister and dubious motives did not work. Instead, it brought the entire Muslim population, despite their minor differences, under one fold. Furthermore, the Christian and Muslim communities were united in support of the common democratic struggle. I watched the Seventeen committee members’ press conference very attentively and none of them ever contradicted their method of struggle except as nonviolence. Their call was for the government to respect and implement the constitution.
As reported by various news outlets, just recently the government has cracked down and used forces ranging from guns, sticks, and tear gas in five areas of the city. These incidents occurred long after the Anwar Mosque mayhem that resulted in a number of deaths. Additionally, this was the second time the present regime violated the sanctity of mosques. Such actions by this undemocratic regime may force some of the youth to act out in vengeance or engage in violent reactions. My biggest fear is that some youth may fall into the government’s trap, which would give the government justification for its heavy-handed crackdown. The committee members’ appeal not to resort into violent retributions should be heeded.
Since September 11, the West has associated violence with Islam despite the fact that extremists are in the marginal minority. Ethiopian Muslims are part of the majority of peace loving Muslims on the globe and have exemplified their peaceful and nonviolent character. It was therefore natural for the elected committee members to advocate for a peaceful protest through civil disobedience.
The youth have to be constantly reminded that there are a number of Muslim conscientious objectors who are pacifists and are actively engaged in defending Islam without resorting to violence. Iftikar Arsalan in his book “Islamic Pacifism- Global Muslims in the Post Obama Era” mentions a Muslim scholar; Sheikh Kunta Hajj of Chechnya, who is quoted as stating in his famous teachings:
“Defeat the evil men by your goodness and love… Defeat the greedy with your generosity…Defeat the treacherous with your sincerity…Defeat the infidel with your fidelity.”
Our recent memory of the Egyptian revolution should not be forgotten too. The uprising was mainly a campaign on nonviolent civil resistance which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience and labor strikes. Grievances of Egyptian protestors were mainly focused on legal and political issues. In spite of the protestors’ just cause, the Mubarak regime reacted with heavy- handed brutality and many people died. However, the leadership of the revolutionary movement was very focused on its objective, which was to elevate the demands of the people in a public domain without employing violent tactics or violent confrontation with the authorities. This strategy resulted in the humiliation and defeat of their despotic leader and his allies who ruled Egypt for thirty years.
The Ethiopian Muslims’ demand is very simple; let us elect our leaders and keep the government’s hands out of our religious affairs. For those who label this as extremism, I believe they have an ulterior motive to destroy the country and limit the progress that has been made so far. No matter what silly names the likes of Dr. Shieferaw can conjure up inside their brains, the Muslim youth should continue their peaceful struggle.
As long as the Aweliya leadership sticks to its demand and continue the just struggle, hopefully, victory will come to them. Now is not the time to capitalize on emotions but rather reflect and think ahead. Peaceful and nonviolent movements can affect positive sociopolitical changes within Ethiopia.
I appeal to the young generation who are emotionally charged no to fall in the government’s trap by resorting to violence. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “peace is not mainly a distant goal that we seek but means by which we arrive at that goal.”
The struggle Continues!