Ethiopia - Quick facts
10 July 2013
According to tradition, the prophet Muhammad even sent a group of his early followers to take refuge in Ethio- pia, where they succeeded in obtaining the protection of the king of Aksum from the persecutions they were then being subjected to in Mecca.21 The relationship became testier beginning in the fifteenth century, when Muslim raiders from the Somali port of Zeila began a series of incursions. [...] He succeeded in overrunning most of eastern and central Ethiopia, destroying numerous Christian churches and monasteries in the process before he was defeated and killed in 1543 by the Ethiopians with aid from the Portuguese.22 In later centuries, the Ethiopians defeated several other Muslim attempts to overrun them, including invasions by the khedive of Egypt in 1875 and the forces of the Mahdi i. [...] The main reasons for this failure of Isla- mism to gain traction include not only the deep roots of more traditional forms of Islam, especially those represented by the Sufi orders, and the strength of social ties that cross religious boundaries, but also the fact that the extremists have failed to offer concrete solutions to many of the problems faced by ordinary Ethiopians while the government,. [...] At the time of this writing, tensions remain in a new dispute between some parts of the Muslim community and the Ethiopian government, with the former accusing the latter of interfering in religious matters by allegedly trying to impose the quietist Al-Ahbash sect on the country’s Supreme Islamic Council. [...] Since the defeat of the dictatorship, and the subsequent assumption of power of the current government led by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in 1991, the policy has shifted to one of religious tolerance, although the formation of political groups on the basis of religion is forbid- den.