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An Initiative To Form An Eritrean Muslim Council

Gedab News learned that a  group of Eritrean sheikhs and scholars are in a three-day conference in Turkey; they are expected to form an Eritrean Muslim Council. Many Eritrean Muslims do not recognize the Dar Al Iftaa that was assembled by the Eritrean ruling party and which is headed by Sheikh Alamin who was appointed by the PFDJ regime.

Traditionally, the Eritrean Muslim Mufti was elected by the congregations of the mosque based on a Muslim consensus. The last formal Eritrean Grand Mufti was the late Mufti Ibrahim AlMukhtar who died in 1969.

The Eritrean government curtails the freedom of religious institution which are under the control of the Eritrean government which administers them through the government’s Religious Affairs Department.

The interference in religious affairs is so pervasive that in 2007 the government forcefully dethroned Abuna Antonios the patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and appointed Abuna Deskorios in his place. The dethroned Abun had protested the interference of the government in church affairs and demanded the release of Christian prisoners.

Abune Antonios, who was born in 1927, is still held under house arrest since 2006.

The Abun was enthroned on March 2004 as the Patriarch of Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Eritrea in a ceremony presided by Pope Shenouda III,  the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt.

The appointment of Abuna Dekerios is rejected by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III who “refused to recognize [it] as a canonical act.” Several Oriental Orthodox Churches and an overwhelming number of Eritreans Orthodox Christians also reject the appointment of Abune Deskerios.  

The other Eritrean churches also  do not fare any better; the Catholic Church had its publication stopped and some religious sects are denied any government service rights due to their conscientious objection to carry arms or get involved in political affairs. Many are languishing in unknown prison locations.

Eritrea is mainly composed of Christians and Muslims. Christianity entered the region in the third century AD while Islam entered it while the Prophet of Islam was still being chased out of his birthplace, Mecca.

At present, while their Christian brethren have synods in the Diaspora, Eritrean Muslims do not have a council that airs their voice or attends to their religious affairs. In the past, several efforts to create a council that represents Eritrean Muslims failed and its absence left the matter in the hands of individuals and political groups.

There are great expectations among Muslims to see the creation of the Council succeed hoping that it will attend to their religious matters and provide them with spiritual guidance. An Eritrean elder told Gedab News, “The absence of such guidance has resulted in the fragmentations of Muslims and weakened their resolve; the vacuum is exposing our youth to the risks of religious fanaticism.

A handful of Eritrean-European Muslims have fallen prey to fanatic forces like ISIS.

Several people contacted by Gedab News had cautious views about the Turkey meeting. Most of them expressed fear that it might dwell and reflect inter-Muslim sectarian issue of jurisprudence while at the same time hoped the council adopts a moderate, uniting outlook similar to the one that Eritrean Muslims had under the leadership of the late Mufti Ibrahim Mukhtar.

In recent years, Turkey has taken the lead in reviving and promoting the forward looking traditional Islam. The meeting in Turkey is expected to issue a press release.

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  • Fenomeno

    Maybe Awate could provide us with a followup, as promised, on the newsarticle above?

    Even informing us that the groups failed to form a council as mentioned in the article would be of value. However, news that the forming of the council is still underway would be more positive. As the uniting, at least on the religious level, of half our people would be of great news.

  • Dayphi

    Selam nai Ezghi n’Awatewyan:

    In May 15, 2015, Gedab News reported under a headline of ” An Initiative To Form An Eritrean Muslim Council, ” that a group of eritrean shaikhs and scholars are convening in Turkey to form a kind of Eritrean Muslim Council. That was an interesting news, at least to me. I even posted my comment to that news. The last sentence in the news states, ” The meeting in Turkey is expected to issue a press release.”

    Before i go any further, i must make this confession. Soon after reading the Gedab report, and throwing my two cents worth comment, I began to doubt the truth of the news. And here is why. As a very concerned Eritrean and Muslim, I took, initially, the Gedab news seriously, with diligent interest in finding more about the report, specially the purpose of the conference, mandates if any, preparatory committe for the conference; In brief: any thing, statement, or information that corroborates and adds to the Gedab News story that we all read. I went into fact finding spree into ALL the Eritrean websites that i know. To the dismay of me, none of them, including the Islamic Parties sites reported the on-going meeting. AtsqiTT abbilom.Tight-lipped, literally, ما نَطَقَ
    أحَدٌ بِبِنْتِ شَفَةٍ. That is when I started to doubt the Gedab report, and the caricature of blacks dying drowng oh high seas, with racist comment of family reunions, which was later pulled out from this site was still in my mind. I thought same will happen to this ” alleged ” meeting report. Afterall, how come

    • Dayphi

      how come no any eritrean opposition, independent websites overlook such event and not report it, including the Islamic ones? Is Gedab News reliable any more? Do they have dependable sources and correspondents? FINALLY, i regained my faith to Gedab. Gedab News is indeed
      at least in the article at question, has been truthful and reliable.

      Thank you awate.com and Gedab News editorial team for the journalistic scoop you have presented. You are exclusively
      that i know, who reported the story while on the making. I cant think of your source for that news.All i can say at this point is, EZGHI EYYU AZZARIBUKKUM. If/when He azzaribukkum again, please report to us what the ” Basic Rules And Regulations ” the conventioneers agreed and passed on was. Only when we read the whole agenda and things discussed and recorded as the guideline of the ERITREAN SCHOLARS ASSOCIATION, or Associ ation of SCHOLARS OF ERITREA., as they named it, we can freely discuss it, support it, not support it, etc. I, myself, have lots to ask and comment, only if i can find the Nizaam Asaasy they passed on.
      Where did i find the corroborating news? In the electronic site of Eritrean Islamic Congress, E.I.C. They reported the closing statement of the meeting, which neutrally, i would dub it as ISTANBUL DECLARATION, Balaagh IsTanbul, with NO any negative connotation attached to it. It is a one page statement that i obtained and even translated into English. I dont mind posting it here if awate.com regulations allows to that.

  • Ageazi Selam

    “Eritrea is mainly composed of Christians and Muslims.
    Christianity entered the region in the third century AD while Islam entered it
    while the Prophet of Islam was still being chased out of his birthplace, Mecca.”
    You are right! While we have received these two religions let us also not to
    forget the Judaism influence prior to Christianity in our mother land. Humans are naturally inclined to believe in
    gods and an afterlife so the freedom to worship is a human right. Awat, I applauded
    you for pointing out the fundamental rights to worship as what our heart wishes
    without transgressing on the others wish. I am for the
    right for others to organize to worship, however let us not be naïve just to
    think everything will be smooth. The global and regional extremist will influence
    and cause havoc in our mother land. Let
    us weed out the extremist on both religions. Christians and Moslems of Eritrea…let us be
    wise as our fathers…”love thy neighbor as yourself” Just as we used do it in
    Keren! God bless Eritrea!

    • Hope

      Dear Ageazi Selam!
      I second you!
      Eritrea and ERITREANs do NOT need any kindest of new Religions and Religious Organizations.
      But unfortunately,they seem to be on the MAKING,God forbid.
      For God’s Sake:
      -Why would we need new Councils and New Evangelists when we have had our own from the beginning of the world?
      -Why would we new New Consultants when we are the Original Consultants?

  • Michael

    Hi folks
    Let us get rid of those HGDEF-appointed greedy and disgraceful patriarch, muftis, and other voracious clowns with vestments from across all Churches and Mosques in Eritrea. They are all stooges of the barbarous regime in Eritrea, particularity the Orthodox Tewahdo Church has a long history of being used and manipulated by the many political elites that ruled the country-from Emperor Haileselassie to the current supreme leader of Eritrea- Issais Afeworki. That is why His holiness Theodoros of Alexandria of Egypt has rightly abjured to endorse successive materialistic patriarchs that were chosen by the regime as legitimate leaders of the Orthodox Tewhado Church of Eritrea. The same principle should also be applied to the freak egregious grand mufti of Eritrea as well.

    All the members of the corrupt Orthodox Church in Eritrea who turned blind eye when the one and only one brave and selfless true Patriarch -his holiness Abune Antonious has been locked behind bars for years without trial. But, no matter how long they fast and number of times they prey to atone their iniquity, God will send them all straight to the hell when they die.

    My concern with Eritrean Muslim Council is though that the current Turkish government under President Erdogan is leaning itself toward extreme Islamic ideology, and will probably force them to accept a version of Islam which may not be compatible to the rarely seen gracious and lovely secular form of Islam in Eritrea which is based on true moral philosophy other than absolute morality. I hope and prey that the Eritrean Council of Muslim will retain the real home cultivated true model of Islam other than those problematic models which may not serve the majority of Muslims across the country.

  • Hope

    Great beginning!
    Unity is always Strength!
    Hope they will succeed with a Constructive and a United Council!
    But I do not want to see a Divided Muslim Community as has been the case with the Orthodox Church of Eritrea!
    It has been a disaster to see ERITREAN ” Faithful” fighting literally physically beating each other inside a Church based one the Political Division!
    This is against the very sacred rule and Principle of Christianity:LOVE!
    On a separate note:
    -Is this a Follow Up of the Islamic Party of Eritrea Meeting with the Turkish Politicians?
    And if so, can’t or doesn’t it have Political implication?
    As ERITREANS, we have been victims of deadly conspiracies ,and as such,we inherited the culture of “Suspicion”!
    Here is why I am raising this issue as I did about the previous Gedeb News on the item dealing with the Islamic Party holding a Meeting with the Turkish Politicians after the Turkish PM visited Ethiopia!
    Please clarify,for the sake of your Audience,not that the incoherent Hope incoherently is asking this question!
    -Any connection or association of this Meeting with the previous meeting in Turkey?
    -Why is Turkey involved or that Venue is chosen?
    -How can we clear that inherited suspicion or ” This Legitimate Paranoia” that some of us might think that we are heading towards Religious Parties in future Eritrea?
    Please note that I am counter-reacting to some ERITREAN premature allegations on the Social Media.!

    • Hope

      I do not trust Turkey based on her destructive role in Syria!
      This Country is well known as an “Official CIA” Agent and most Terrorists messing around the Middle East use Turkey as their Head Quarters!
      My only Dilemma is that I thought that Turkey and Eritrea have or used to have,a cordial relationship since Turkey has attempted to mediate Somalia and Eritrea.
      But not sure about the significance of the visit of the ERITREAN Islamic Party to Turkey after the visit of the Turkish PM to Ethiopia and now hosting the ERITREAN Muslim Council,which might not be political but. …seems to be so based on the message above!
      Well,I decided to shut up for now !
      Time will tell !

  • AOsman

    It would easier to form the council using existing organizations in Diaspora that have grassroot support, as it is not clear from the news who is leading the initiative. Hopefully there will be more follow up news giving details on the move…..legitimacy must be earned.

    • Peace!

      Dear AOsman,

      Would you mind sharing the name of the existing organizations?


      • AOsman

        Dear Peace,

        I may not know their names, but I am aware that there are organizations covering US and Canada (EMC), UK (EMCA and few others), Sweden (they have a mosque, can’t remember the name), Germany (http://www.aldawa.de/index.php/en/)…etc..

        Whoever has taken the task upon himself will have to do the basic homework, so whatever they come up with has a backing by the existing organizations and by the Muslims residing in their respective countries.



        • Peace!

          Dear AOsman,

          Thank you. These are local communities, and perhaps they should remain local because defying government by forming a new council is plain politics which likely to arouse new divisions within the local communities in Diaspora and Muslims inside the country.


          • AOsman

            Dear Peace,

            You remind me of an announcement that I saw in one community centre that says something along “abzi bota…politicawi ntfetat klkul/ayfqedin iyu…”

            The local communities are not affiliated to any political organizations and you see both government and opposition membership, but the leaders are free to express their opposition to the injustices in Eritrea and elsewhere when the occasion demands without any constraint. I can at least speak of London, PFDJ has no influence at all, even though they do attempt to influence through formal and informal means.

            The Eritrean Muslim Council that Gedab is reporting on will be nothing if it does not work with them, they will be a bunch of a group that speak for themselves. About splitting the community, what is there to split, aren’t we already split to government supporters and opposition.

            The other point that ” new divisions within the local communities in Diaspora and Muslims inside the country “. As long as the government is in control, it will look so, the reality is that the Dar Al Iftaa does not have full support, prominent old Shuyukh in Asmara and elsewhere have been silenced from giving regular lessons that they use to give even during derg times and people are not happy by the replica of PFDJ in Dar Al Iftaa. Probably the Friday sermon is approved by a PFDJ rep. running religious affair before it is delivered…..so what is that those inside that will oppose from the Diaspora?


          • Peace!

            Yahala AOsman,

            Thank you again. I meant to say division within Muslims both in Diaspora and inside the country. Nevertheless, it is fine to have different political opinions within community members as long as it doesn’t impact negatively. Communities in Diaspora have enormous challenges other than the dire situation in back home that they have no control, so they can’t afford to split to government supporters and opposition. And the other thing is there are Muslims who see the current Mufti as a religious figure, not political, so any attempt to replace him and the organization would only serve PFDJ’s agenda to creat more divisions. Creating new organizations and groups have produced nothing but divisions. Look how many opposition groups, Civic movements, Human rights watch, we have for this tiny country.