AN OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER MELES ZENAWI
The Federal Republic of Ethiopia
Dear Prime Minister Meles:
Allah willing, you and your family are well.
I am writing this letter to you with a heavy heart and a great deal of concern with the present debacle Ethiopian Muslims currently find themselves in. Of course, I am referring to what has come to known as the Ahbash Controversy. Interestingly enough, this is not the first time I have written to you about a matter that was for me a matter of great concern. More specifically, I wrote and faxed a letter to you in May of 1996. I never received an answer from you; perhaps the letter never got to your desk. Just as I am now concerned about the current plight of the Muslims, so that 1996 letter expressed concern with the Muslims’ plight. Here is the full text of that letter:
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST
Post Office Box 1115
Washington, DC, 20013
Phone/Fax: 301 324 9163
The Federal Republic of Ethiopia
I write this letter with a heavy heart. I am writing to you concerning my Muslim brothers and sisters who have remained incarcerated in Karchelle Prison since 21 February 1995.
As you know, the Muslim population of Ethiopia has been severely oppressed by every regime that has been in power since Emperor Tewodros, covering a period of more than 150 years. And now, Mr. President, you have come to power. From every sign and signal coming out of Ethiopia, it seems that you have every intention of maintaining this infamous tradition. The evidence of my assertion is clearly manifested in the continued unjust incarceration of my people.
I say “my people” not only in the religious sense but also in the ancestral sense: although I am an African-American, I trace my roots to the Warra Sheik of Yejju and the Warra Himano of Welo. So, you see, my concern for the welfare of those incarcerated is compounded.
Now, I cannot tell you what to do or how to behave, for you are as much an adult as I am. All I can do is to give you some very important advice and pray to Allah that you consider it carefully and act on the best of it.
There are two facts that are beyond dispute. First of all, you, Meles, have the power, potential, and opportunity to be recorded as one of the great men in African history. Secondly, the present Muslim populace of Ethiopia is not only on an irreversible path of determination to establish and practice the Islamic way of life in today’s world. However, your path to greatness and the Muslims’ path of reawakening and determination are presently on a collision course.
I call on you to reevaluate your present attitude and policy toward the Ethiopian Muslims. I also caution you in listening to American and Israeli advisors: they are, in fact, your worst enemies, if you but only knew. You should follow your heart, Meles, and establish what you know is best for the people, all of the people, over which you currently have some power and authority. What you did at the Anwar Mosque on 21 February 1995 is not in your best interests; what you continue to do against the Muslims by holding them unjustly in Karchelle is not in your best interests. Deep in your heart, you know that. Do not wait until it is too late, Meles.
You should know that I am a writer and economist. I am currently preparing a manuscript for publication I have provisionally entitled “Christianity, Islam, and Socio-Economic Development in Ethiopia.” In this manuscript, I intend to present, Allah willing, a workable plan for socio-economic development by first showing what some may consider quite radical: that both The Bible and The Qur’an are in complete accord on the basic pillars of economic development and that both The Bible and The Qur’an are diametrically opposed to capitalist accumulation and formation. I will attempt to show through this publication that all Ethiopians can work together to build Ethiopia in a unity that will bring Christians and Muslims together according to the very religious texts they hold so dear.
However, your present intransigent position against the Muslims may render my effort and the well-intentioned efforts of others completely worthless. Think deeply about what I have written in this letter. The ball is in your court!
Muhammad Ali Alula Al-Hashimi
3 May 1996
15 Zul-Hijja 1216
I never received an answer from you, Ato Meles. So, I do not know if you received my faxed letter, and even if you did, whether you decided just to dismiss it after reading it. Although my fundamental concern was for the plight of the Muslims, I was trying to convey to you that, from my perspective, you had arrived on the political stage at a critical time in Ethiopian history: Ethiopia was free from the stifling Ethiopian monarchy of Haile Selassie and you had lead the way to the overthrow the socialist regime of Haile Mengistu Mariam. The only thing left, and I am sure you were well aware of it, was to establish political and social institutions allowing for the freedom and wholesome development of the people. That is why I wrote to you saying that you had the “opportunity to be recorded as one of the great men in African history.” And I went on to give you what I thought was good advice: keep American and Israeli advisors at arms length and work for the people of Ethiopia with a sincere heart to improve their lot. I was your well wisher from the very beginning, Ato Meles. And I remain a well wisher.
The first thing I was impressed with was the way you boldly moved forward and established a federal system of government in Ethiopia. This system made sense in light of the different nations and ethnic groups who had long been politically disenfranchised. Then, the new Ethiopian constitution was another major milestone allowing the Ethiopian people to feel an even greater sense of freedom. And when these gains were threatened by the pro-monarchist CUD—the so-called Coalition for Unity and Democracy—you were able to successfully curb their activity, an activity that clearly wanted to take the country backwards. And I will just tell you right now, Ato Meles, the Muslims were very happy with you. They really felt that you were really concerned about the freedom and just treatment of all Ethiopians, Muslims and Christians.
And I have seen by my own eyes, Ato Meles, the great things you have done in the arena of economic development. I remember seven years ago being in Gurjee, just outside Ring Road. I was coming out from a café after having coffee. It was late afternoon. As I left the restaurant, I was almost knocked down by a crowd of construction workers getting off of work. Ironically, almost being knocked down was a good feeling, because it was a clear sign of Ethiopia moving forward. And the Ethiopian economy continues to grow under your leadership, even now, when much of the western world is experiencing a severe economic slow down due to the global debt crisis. It is true that a lot more needs to be done with the redistribution of national income in the form of entitlements and social welfare programs for the poor. But there is evidence that you are working to do something about it.
The short foregoing synopsis of your political tenure tells me that you have achieved much of what you need to achieve to become one of those great men of African history I mentioned in my 1996 letter to you. In a recent article published online at the First Hijrah Foundation website titled “The Ethiopian Muslims and Ahbash Controversy,” I wrote the following about you:
When one stands back and takes a panoramic perspective of Ethiopian political history over the past 200 years, you will not find any political entity under which more has been accomplished than under the regime of Ato Meles Zenawi. So, why would Meles risk the positive attributes of his tenure—particularly with regard to the improvement in the national economy and the increased inclusion of the Muslim populace in national activity—to enter into this current phase of horrendous negativity?
And that remains the question, Ato Meles. Why are you continuing to be involved in “this current phase of horrendous negativity” that is the Ahbash debacle? Why are you continuing to punish the Muslims with disenfranchisement of their freedom and religious rights as so eloquently defined in the Ethiopian constitution, a document developed under your political watch? Why are trying to so thoroughly to tarnish your historical legacy?
Ato Meles, this may be the 11th hour for you. Nevertheless, I still remain your well wisher. I still remain one who has tremendous respect for your sharp intellect in the arena of political economy and your positive accomplishments with regard to the improvement of Ethiopian life. But even though it may be your 11th hour, you still have time to pull back from the edge of the abyss.
I respectfully request that you, Prime Minister Meles, send the Ahbash contingent back to Lebanon and let the Ethiopian Muslims get on with their lives free from aggression and repression. Allah willing, you will do the right thing. The ball is in your court!
Muhammad Ali Alula Al-Hashimi, PhD
Washington, DC, USA
15 February 2012
23 Rabi ul-Awal 1433