African media reported in late September that nationwide unrest in Ethiopia was sparked in December 2011 when the government there dismissed the administration of a Saudi-funded religious school accused of fostering radicalism. The Think Africa Press report begins:
September 27, 2013 Muslims in Ethiopia have been protesting against government interference in religious affairs for more than twenty months. But ever since the violent crackdown by Ethiopian security forces on peaceful protestors during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Arsi last month, the Muslim community has been wary of organising new rallies. Whereas some observers believe that the movement has lost its momentum, activists engaged in the protests vow to continue their peaceful resistance until their demands are met.
The protestors identify themselves as a civil movement and have three clear demands: for the government to stop meddling with religious affairs; the right to elect the members of the High Islamic Council known as the Majlis; and for their leaders, who have been jailed for over a year under ‘trumped-up’ charges, to be released.
During the past a year and a half of demonstrations, several protestors have been killed by the security forces, and dozens, if not hundreds, have been arrested or taken into custody. The Ethiopian Government has denied allegations of police brutality and called accusations of human rights abuses that were made by Amnesty International, ‘one-sided and largely inaccurate, based on hearsay, political calculation or, all-too-often, downright invention.’
Independent reports of the events are difficult to come by because the government cracks down heavily on anyone trying to cover the protests. Last month, two journalists working for Radio Bilal, a station that has been covering the Muslim protests, were arrested and kept in detention without charge for over a week.
Nationwide unrest started in December 2011, when the government dismissed the administration of the Awoliya religious school in Addis Ababa, because it perceived the institution to be a breeding ground for Islamist radicalism.
The school received part of its funds from the Saudi based International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO), in contravention of the Charities and Societies (CSO) Proclamation law, adopted in 2009, which made it illegal for Ethiopian NGOs to receive more than 10% of their funding from foreign sources. The CSO law has been widely criticised for curtailing the power of NGOs working on human rights and governance issues, effectively criminalising many organisations engaged in promoting the political space and freedom of the Ethiopian population.
Read the rest here.
The IIRO is an affiliate of the Muslim World League (MWL) which was established in 1962 as a means for the propagation of Saudi “Wahabbi” Islam. Muslim Brothers played an important role in its founding and, to date, the League has been strongly with the Brotherhood. The MWL, together with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), are Saudi organizations believed by U.S. government officials to have helped to spread Islamic extremism around the world as well as sponsoring terrorism in places such as Bosnia, Israel, and India. In 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Philippine and Indonesian branch offices of the IIRO as well as one of its executives in connection with fundraising for al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda affiliates. Previous posts have discussed the history of the IIRO in the US, its ties to the US Muslim Brotherhood as well as the recent registration of its new US office in Florida, and its new international image campaign.
In June 2011, UK media reported on the influence of Saudi Arabia on Pakistan citing the IIRO.