Ahmed Abdullah-Addis Ababa
Sixty years after claiming legal status, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs of Ethiopia received official recognition from the Ethiopian Council of Ministers, which observers considered an unprecedented achievement.
The office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed said that the cabinet unanimously approved a draft law Friday that officially recognized the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, which handles Muslim affairs in the country.
The decision comes in response to the demands of Muslims to adopt a legislative institution for a religious institution that organizes their lives, implements Islamic legislation, and guarantees their right to establish relationships with various religious institutions and other societies.
By giving it legal legitimacy, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs becomes a fully sovereign Islamic religious institution, enacting laws that deal with matters of religious teachings and establishing affiliated institutions.
Last May, Ethiopian Muslims agreed to form a temporary scholars committee headed by the country's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Haj Omar Idris, to run the affairs of Muslims until a new structure is reconstructed to form an inclusive Islamic entity that officially represents Muslims.
Their demands were to obtain legislative approval for the institution that represents them, while ensuring their independence, and not to be used by successive governments for political ends.
Sheikh Haj Omar Idris, the Grand Mufti of Ethiopia and Chairman of the Council of Scholars, assumed the presidency of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, in a historic agreement, after disputes ravaged various components of the Islamic community over the past years.
A great achievement
The recognition of the Supreme Council of Muslims - according to observers - is a major and unprecedented achievement, as Muslims have for years been calling for legal and constitutional recognition of the council to organize its activities and international relations, similar to the Orthodox Church.
The Ethiopian writer, Mohamed Al-Arousi, said that Muslims in Ethiopia achieved a great achievement when they laid the foundations of their assembly until they obtained what they obtained from the confession.
"I believe that Muslims today in our country are overwhelmed with happiness because they have triumphed over attempts to marginalize, persecute, and distort their religion by successive authoritarian regimes over the country since the past decades, until Abi Ahmed came to power," he added.
Al-Arousi asserted that Muslims in Ethiopia enjoy a good reputation at the regional and international levels, and that the state's recognition of their façade requires the hard work of the Supreme Council to unify the word of Muslims, and strive to advance the noble message of Islam, reject hate, and work to highlight the virtues of Islam without partisanship or intolerance.
He said that the Supreme Council faces great challenges that Muslims pass through and the region passes through, and it should have a voice for them by organizing its ranks, assigning each matter to the people of jurisdiction, establishing the principle of shura, and rejecting differences.
For his part, the imam of one of the mosques in the capital, who preferred not to be named, explained that Muslims under previous governments, especially during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie (1928-1974) and the era of Mengistu Haile Mariam (1987-1991), were finding it difficult to express their identity, They faced arrest and expulsion from the country for practicing their religious beliefs.
The imam told Al-Jazeera Net that the cabinet decision would allow Muslims to practice their religious beliefs without any pressure, adding that the freedoms available to Muslims in education and the practice of belief were not available during the era of previous governments.
He continued that the upcoming Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs will have a great opportunity to enhance the role of Muslims in the country.
It is noteworthy that the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Ethiopia continued to operate under the umbrella of independent bodies and organizations, and through which it takes care of Muslim affairs in the country.