Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rejected an offer by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to build an Islamic centre in the East African country, allegedly telling the royal that he had “lost” Islam.
“We will help you with many things. We will teach you,” bin Zayed is alleged to have told Ahmed when asked about how the UAE could help with the construction of an Islamic centre in Ethiopia.
“We don’t need to learn the religion from you. You’ve lost the religion. What we need is to learn Arabic quickly, so we could better understand the religion and teach it to you, and return you to it,” Ahmed reportedly replied to bin Zayed.
Ahmed added that he then told bin Zayed that “you have lost the religion,” pointing to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.
“The Islam that does not look like true Islam has begun spreading amongst you, and you have forgotten peace and how to forgive,” he reportedly said in the private conversation.
He added that the number of Muslims in Ethiopia, who form over 30 percent of the country’s population, outnumber the population of Muslims in the Gulf states.
The Ethiopian leader’s comments follow a meeting last Tuesday between himself, bin Zayed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki in Abu Dhabi. Bin Zayed had hosted the pair following the signing of an historic peace deal between the former rival states.
Since taking office on April 2 in Ethiopia, historically a Christian country, Abiy Ahmed, Africa’s youngest head of government has electrified Ethiopia with a dizzying array of liberal reforms credited by many with saving the country from civil war. Abiy has freed thousands of political prisoners, unblocked hundreds of censored websites, ended the 20-year state of war with Eritrea and lifted a state of emergency.
The PM Abiy Ahmed held a meeting recently with rival groups within the Ethiopian Muslim community with the intention to initiate effort to reconcile the groups.
And it looks like he had a remarkable achievement in the getting the groups to talk to each other with the objective to resolve their dispute unlike the case by the administration of his predecessor which was rather trying to use one group against the other.
A committee is formed, apparently recommended by the prime minister himself, to resolve the dispute between Ethiopian Islamic Affair Council and Committee for the solution of Ethiopian Muslim Affairs.