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Hands Off, Dr. Yussuf: We are capable of Dealing with Our Internal Affair. – by Mahmud Saleh

The Muslim world is going through tough time. Decades of failed policies of western countries, and the tight grip repressive regimes applied on their people have now resulted in the mushrooming of terrorist franchises. While

The Muslim world is going through tough time. Decades of failed policies of western countries, and the tight grip repressive regimes applied on their people have now resulted in the mushrooming of terrorist franchises. While global forces have largely pushed our world towards cooperation and interdependence, terrorist masterminds have plunged the Muslim world in chaos and disorder. And at the center of all these mayhem are radical preachers who have monetized their venomous Friday  speeches.

In a blistering Friday sermon uner the title ” Eritrean Muslims: the forgotten cause,”  a Sudanese Sheikh, Dr. AbdulHay Yussuf, called on all Muslims to support Eritrean Muslims.  According to his angry Friday preaching:

– Eritrea is a 70% Muslim nation and has been ruled by Godless, communist, and Baathist leaders.

– Eritrea once was a Muslim nation and was part of the Ottoman Caliphate.

– Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia waged a religious war against Muslim Eritreans.

–  After independence, Eritrean Muslims are fighting against an unbeliever regime, which continues the practices of its predecessors.

– Eritrean Muslims are united to fight the unbeliever regime so that the rule of Islam will return to that part of the world.

– Issayas’ hatred and vindictiveness towards Muslims surpassed his predecessors (Ethiopian rulers).  Issayas (Eritrean president) declared war on Muslims…dried up the sources of Islam, imprisoned Du’at (people who preach and invite to Islam).  He tortured [clergy men]…and forced them out of their country. He violated the honor and dignity of Muslim women under the guise of national service where they are made to marry Christians.

– He fought off Arabic language considering it a foreign language, etcetera, etcetera.

The above are some excerpts from his incensed speech. It is a ranting of an arrogantly ignorant  man, full of bigotry and malice. The preacher made this remarks in connection with the recent protest of Addiae school in Asmara, Eritrea. Eritreans, regardless of their religious affiliations,  are discussing the incident and its significance on the ongoing struggle to bring  democratic change in Eritrea. Hence, the purpose of this article is limited to giving an appropriate reply to the doctor’s erroneous assertions about Eritrea, its people, and history.

Some facts:

Dr. Yussuf volunteered to introduce a “forgotten cause” of Eritrean Muslims to Sudanese audience.  Dr.  Abdulhay Yussuf doesn’t need to introduce Eritrea and Eritreans to Sudanese brothers and sisters. I don’t know about him but the border between the two sisterly countries has never been a barrier separating the two brotherly peoples. Eritreans consider Sudan their second country, and Sudanese brothers and sisters are welcome into Eritrea. Eritrean Muslims and  Christians are well aware and speak highly of Sudanese hospitality. Those who had left Sudan remember it with fondness. They rhyme the song of brotherhood: “Ekhwan…Ekhwan// Eritrea wo Sudan.”

That is speaking of the ordinary people. As far as the religious establishment of Sudan is concerned, Eritrea has occasionally found itself  in the crosshairs of individuals who wish to spread their Islamic politics. In the past, some Sudanese radical Islamists tried to export hatred and confusion across borders. In some places, such as Somalia, they succeeded.  In Eritrea, the story was different. They failed. The first defense line against these fanatics were Eritrean Muslims. In the years that followed the independence of Eritrea, radical zealots launched a campaign that was designed to replicate the experience of Afghan Mujahidin  in Eritrea. They terrorized regions adjacent to the Sudanese border. They headquartered in Sudan and received support from elite radicals that included Hassen Atturabi and his government. Eritrea was lucky to escape the scourge of radicalism. And the primary reason for that was the unity of our people. Is Dr. Yussuf trying to exploit the protest of Addiae School to reinvent the wheel? Is he testing the waters for possibilities of promoting his destructive agenda? Is he calling beaten forces of darkness and barbarity to head for Eritrea?  It is possible. As terrorists lose turfs in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and other places, it is possible people like Dr. Yussuf to look for other places. Tigrayet speaker say “Itethamel” when they face this type of situation. It simply means watch out; don’t let down your guard. We must not let down our guard. We should stay vigilant in safeguarding our unity.

Short Replies To The Doctor:

  1. “Eritrea is 70% Muslim nation,” Wrong.  Although there is no recent census, Eritrea is home to Muslims and Christians, composed of nine linguistic groups. Muslims make up half of the population. Religion is only one identifying factor. Other than religion, more threads connect Eritrean social groups. Religion has never been a dividing factor in our history. Eritreans fought and fell in one trench. The secret of winning their independence against odds lies in their unity. British Military Administration and Emperor Haile Selassie tried to play religious cards, but the impact was minimal. Their religious schemes did not split Eritreans.
  2. “Eritrea was a Muslim part of the Ottoman Caliphate.” Wrong. Eritrea assumed its current political map with the advent of Italian colony (1890). The Ottoman rule was limited to the Eritrean lowlands which historically was inhabited by majority Muslim population.  The highland (Christian,  half of Eritrea’s population) remained under different polity. Ottoman Turkey tried to expand its occupation beyond the lowlands but met resistance. Clashes continued between Ottoman Turks and rulers of the highlands but Turkey could not place a total claim over the entire area of today’s Eritrea.

It is obvious. If Dr. Yussuf really intended to make a constructive Friday Kutba on Eritrean Muslims, he would do a minimum preparation on Eritrean history. But it seems he was not interested in a constructive dialogue. He was in for the day with the usual attitude of poisoning the minds of naive followers and with the intent of declaring war on Eritrean unity and sovereignty.

  1. Were Eritreans entangled with Ethiopian rulers in a religious war? No.  Eritrean revolution was a national struggle against occupation and subjugation. The mere fact that it had begun in the lowlands does not make it a Muslim rebellion. Geography did not affect its substance; it was an inclusive revolution. And it did not take time for the Highlanders to join it. Of course, Haile Selassie and his predecessors set up Ethiopia in world stage as a Christian oasis;  he characterized Eritrean liberation movement as an Islamist venture instigated by the Arabs. The purpose of such an effort was to weaken Eritrean  revolution by sowing suspicions and divisions among Eritreans. He also wanted to stimulate the old Abyssinian, anti-Arab sentiments.

For the first decade of the struggle, the liberation fighters depended entirely on the support of the lowlanders for food, logistics, human resource, and intelligence gathering.   By late 1960s, the armed struggle became visible. The Ethiopian ruler, Emperor Haile Selassie, announced a state of emergency to crush the fledgling revolution by drying up the source of its strength. The plan was to force the lowlanders to concentration camps so that the Imperial administration would deprive the liberation fighters of the sustenance the population was giving them. It was famously called ” To kill the fish, drain out the sea.”

Most of the villagers refused. In retaliation, Ethiopia declared scorched earth policy, wiping out  villages in the lowlands, killing thousands of innocent people, looting and pillaging livestock and properties. In 1967, the first wave of Eritrean refugees, by some estimates close to 75,000, crossed to the Sudan.  It was an open killing season where Ethiopian army had the order to murder innocent people in cold blood. I’m a survivor of those atrocities. It was a brutal reprisal. However, It was not a religious war. Eritrean revolution never was a religious rebellion.  Christian compatriots, including Isssayas,  were members of the liberation army that Emperor Haile Selassie targeted. Many brave Christian liberation fighters fell beside their Muslim comrades defending a prominently Muslim population.

If Eritrean revolution began in the highlands and made its bases among the Christian community, Emperor Haile Selassie would not have a softer heart for those Christians. Their fate would be similar to their Muslim compatriots. In fact, that was the case when the revolution grew and spread to the highlands.

There is this biased narration of Western and Arab scholars that surmises Ethiopia was/is a Christian country. The misconception is partly due to Ethiopian rulers’

Strategy to gain the support and blessing of Western aid. Nevertheless, Ethiopia is 1/3 Muslim, and if Emperor Haile Selassie were to wage a religious war against Muslims and their prophet (PBUH), it would be logical for him to start the cleaning-up of Muslims from Ethiopia. Haile Selassie cared only for one thing: his power.

For instance, Haile Selassie did not hesitate to massacre Christian uprising in 1943 in the region of Tigray. A rebellion known as the first wayane was crushed by the Emperor using British airforce. Thousand died in the process. Therefore, framing Ethiopian campaigns of destruction as a crusade against Muslims and their prophet is wrong. It implies Eritrean revolution was a Muslim movement. Eritrean Revolution encompassed all sectors of society. It was a struggle for a national cause, which would include Muslims and Christians.

Enough!! Kefa Ya Sheikna

Dr. Abdulhay Yussuf:  enough of hateful preaching. The Middle East is in turmoil because of this kind of preaching.  Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, and other countries are suffering as a result of the terrorist acts of young men who got duped by hateful preaching. While the world continues advancing in science and technology, sadly, the Muslim world has plunged in darkness and confusion. This is because the likes of Dr. Yussuf have found a free ride in the minds of young Muslims. Instead of cultivating inventions and peaceful- co-existence, preachers like this lunatic Sheikh are producing fanatics who have no respect for human life. They did not spare their own Muslim communities let along the world. They perfected the worst forms of torture including burning human beings alive, beheading innocent civilians, enslaving captured populations that don’t adhere to their version of “Islam”.

Zealot preachers like Dr. Yussuf sent the naives to their death along the way blowing up  innocent lives. Dr. Yussuf is on record revering Osama Bin Laden. His  speech was nothing but declaring war. The Muslim world is plagued with poisonous  preachers who act as if they master the destiny of humanity. They dragged Muslim societies towards backwardness while fattening their pockets. They have been able to do only one thing: create terrorist minds and organizations that come in different names and franchises: ISIS, Alqaeda,  Boko Haram, Alshabab, etc. And now, Dr.Yussuf wants to export his fanatic ideas to Eritrea!?

I have bad news for you, doctor. It was tried before you but did not work.

So, why don’t you start from Sudan? Have you thought about helping Sudanese Muslims who have been terrorized in Darfur? Have you considered condemning the racist Janjaweed who torched Darfurian villages? You know, your government has been accused of genocide. So, how could you try to liberate Eritrean Muslims before even tackling your own Muslims’ problem? Alas, what else could a deranged mind produce? But please hands off Eritrea.

Finally, you spoke of the imprisonments of Muslim scholars. Well, Christian leaders did not fare better either. The regime in Asmara has harassed Christian institutions too. As I write this piece, the regime ordered Christian students to take off religious symbols. Dr. Yussuf must be living in an isolated bubble. Otherwise, the world is talking about Eritrea’s human right situation. My friend , we have a regime that has been abusing Eritreans regardless of their faith. Bringing a lasting solution will take an inclusive and concerted endeavor by all Eritreans. We have done it in the past; we will do it this time too.

Sure, Eritrea is going through tough time, but it is not because of religious discrimination. It is a political problem. There are Eritrean forces which are trying to coordinate their efforts to accelerate the fight for democracy. Unlike the story Dr. YUssuf told his congregation, Christians and Muslims alike are condemning the heavy-handedness of the government in suppressing the people’s protest. I am pleased and feel proud to tell Dr. Yussuf that our Christian compatriots stood with their Muslim brothers and sisters in demanding answers from the government. Dr. Yussuf’s fanatic ranting could not shake Eritrean unity. We refuse to break up and split. We rise and fall together. We will take care of our internal political problems. Hands off, please.



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Review overview
  • Sol November 8, 2017

    A.Hay Yusuf is always criticized by Sudanese democratic forces for his support to the dictatorial regime of Al-Bashier and for calling the sudanese people not to oppose or go out against the regime. And as an opportunist wahabi scholar is preaching other peoples to fight religious wars. as they have done to Syria and many other Islamic countries

  • Simon G November 8, 2017

    ካብዚ ንላዕሊ ረዚን መልእኽቲ የለን! ሓቂ ዘረባ። ጠፊእካና ኔርካ ኡስታዝ ዖስማን ሳልሕ: ከምቲ ኣብ ዓዋተ ትገብሮ ኣብዚ ድማ ምልስ ምልስ ምባል ኣይትሕመቕ።
    በዓል ከምዚ ዓይነት ሰባት ናይ ኣእምሮ ጸገም ዘለዎም ‘የ ዝብሎም። ምስዚ ኩሉ ፍልጠቶም: ኣባ ጅጎ እታ “ሰብኣዊ ርህራሀ” ቦግ ኣቢሉ የሕዲጉዎም መስለኒ። ሰብ ከናቑቱ ጥራይ።
    የግዳስ ውሑዳት ከም በዓል ዳክተር ዮሱፍ ገዲፍካ: ሱዳናውያን ብጣዕሚ ሕያዎት ህዝቢ ‘ዮም ‘የ ዝብል ኣነ።
    Your old Assenna friend Simon G. (aka Mighty)

  • amanuel November 8, 2017

    Sudan lost south sudan b/s of its preachers like dr yusuf. It will loose darfur and others in future. He knows that. He might have a phd but he is totally ignorant and dr for nothing. The first wisdom is to stop interfering in others affairs. I do not think he wants to live in peace in karum.

    • Hydar Omar November 8, 2017

      “” you don”t think he is going to live in peace in Khartoum”” what the hell are going to do about that ? I am not agree With some content of his Sermon and for the most part is correct: the idea that Isayas is an equal opportunity oppressor is joke ( Nedeca Mai wuredela)

  • Kiki Tzeggai November 8, 2017

    This is wrong and does not apply to Eritrea. This is rejected on both sides of the two main faiths that are highly respected in Eritrea. We are hurt as ERITREANS. No matter what our faith is.
    The state of problems we lately faced, makes us ask any religious organization to pray together for Eritrea and respect all faiths in Eritrea. When we pray, we ask merci to our Creator. HE created all of us. Some so called religious organizations, are using religion as a weapon and use the weak, the poor, the paperless and the refugees as pawns to advance their hidden agenda.
    I call my neighbor an Eritrean and I am Christian. My neighbor calls me Eritrean and she is Muslim. Nothing comes before or follows our so cherished citizenship as “Eritreans”
    The Ethiopian emperor did not win; the Ethiopian Dergue regime did not win by using religion as a weapon to divide Eritreans.
    One religious group praying for their own group only will not win. Because this never was our culture and never will be. It is an external wave and we have to question their reasons and fight it together.
    We pray together. We paid a high price for a free Eritrea, together. Our Veterans died together. They were holding their weapons to protect each other and give us freedom from oppression. They were/are Eritreans that gave us unity. They never had war trenches for “Christians” or for “Muslims”. They died together for a united Eritrea!
    Anyone willing to pray is welcome, but hold our hand and do not check our faith if you believe in God and prayers. Invite each other to pray together, because that is all we are doing.
    No one should try to cut our strong bond of nationalism by using religion. Eritreans do not calculate percentage when it comes to faith, rights, respect for each other and rules of law we long to see in our country. Adding oil to fire never worked either. Because we – Eritreans – are stronger than fire. We proved it.

    some quotes:
    “Religious fundamentalism does not come from religion. It comes from the use of religion as a tool for political games. No religion teaches you violence against the other. We must stand up and say that we are not going to accept this. Religious fundamentalism of any sort—whether majority or minority—is dangerous”. Shabana Azmi
    “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (and its’ daughter conventions) is far from perfect, but it is perhaps a ‘neutral’ foundation forged in deadly warfare on which we might usefully build a better multi-cultural civilization? Religion was central to early political control of society. By assuming the authority of higher beings, priests and princes were able to suppress dissent without constant recourse to military terrorism. The more successful leaders realized that internal legal harmonization bought significant advantages.

  • Kalighe November 8, 2017

    Dr. Yussuf you and number of Sudanese like you are silent when Eritrean refugees are abused by Sudanese security and police officers. But as soon as you hear about a problem elsewhere you want be seen as defenders of oppressed Muslims.
    Your hipocrisy has no limit.
    Eritreans are not divided along sectarian lines. Thanks God, Mr. Iseyas, who happens to be Al-Bashir’s close friend, tried to divide us for decades, but failed.
    Dr. Yussuf if you really care about Eritrean Muslims tell your government to stop deporting refugees, all refugees, irrespective of their religion. In Eritrea both Muslims and Christians are all oppressed. It’s about dictatorship.
    Dr. Yussuf, please put humanity first, that is what true Islam teaches me.

    • Hydar Omar November 8, 2017

      Dear, Kalighe
      I appreciate your opinion very much. As you have stated Isayas have employed the religion card for a long time so we don”t have to dismiss the fact – because many of his close former security agents have spoken about it OPENY. As far as the relationship between Omar and Isayas is nothing but marriage of convenience my friend and I hope you realize that.

    • Sol November 9, 2017

      A. Hay Yusuf is not only silent on crimes exercised by corrupted Sudanese security officers but he is also silent on the genocide committed by Sudanese army on the Muslim poor people of Darfur.

  • Kalighe November 8, 2017

    Preachers like Dr. Yussuf have contributed in making of Sudan, the land of military dictators.
    They are defenders of brutal dictatorships, military regime like those of Abud, Nimeri and Bashir.
    In sixties and seventies, Southern Sudanese wanted a solution to the conflict within Sudan, but the Northerners could not live with the idea than other Sudanese could get equal rights like them.
    Although the rulers of Sudan are godless like their comrades who come from military background, some naïve preachers think they are Muslim leaders who working for the welfare of the country. It’s like some churchmen think Iseyas is a Christian.
    For a durable peace and unity in diversity, Sudan needs to separate religion and State.

  • Wedi Blata November 8, 2017

    Where do you think he got all this baseless allegations? Obviously from Fanatic Eritreans. We need to blame them more than we blame him, Unlike you there are some Eritrean Muslims who agree with him. Does this surprise you? I believe you heard similar scenario from Eritreans as I hear lots of hate from Agazians..I did not get surprise by the Sudanese, I hear this or worse than this from my fellow Eritreans. You check fact was excellent and should be clear to all Eritreans.

  • Kiki Tzeggai November 8, 2017

    “I love Eritrea because when my husband was arrested by the occupier Ethiopia, my best friend’s Mom came to my house and told me to follow her and we would go pray. We called her Umma (Mother) and she was holding her “Sejadah Al Salah” (prayer rug,) she walked me to the Cathedral. Umma prayed the Muslim way inside a Christian church. I love Asmara because Umma gave me a strong message…” Excerpt from “I love Asmara because…..” article by Kiki Tzeggai

  • Barazio November 8, 2017

    OK good idea to reminisce like Kiki, on the good heart felt relation of Eritrean Muslims and Christians. It was the era when the every Saho who came to town to run an errand was subjected to be arrested if not killed by the hands of Torserawit. So people in the town where I grew up came up with plan to save our brothers Saho (Toruea) people. The plan was when a Saho needs to buy any thing and mostly need to mill their grain they would stop on the outskirts of the town so they can not encounter the Torserawit and kids like me would go to the town center do their errand and take it to them so they can go back safely to their families. One of the safe houses on the outskirt of the town was of my grandparents who lost son to the TOruea and Tsenadgle tribal war (nothing to do with religion).But saving the life of his fellow humans was important than to think of revenge.

    • Kiki Tzeggai November 9, 2017

      In a self-serving world filled with fear of occupation, your parents and grandparents taught you how to be kind by example and you learned some true values of our culture. You were never told to “check-out” their faith before helping Eritreans abused by the occupier. But you were rather told to stand for one another. It is such a remarkable chapter of our culture you shared with us Barazio. With your permission, I will keep copy of this writing of yours for future references. Thank you much.

  • ibrahim November 8, 2017

    Dr yusuf
    U will not have safe haven in sudan, the historical land of habesha. If u want a revolution, we will come there and give u one. Sudan was, is and will be part of absynia. U do not know we are around 20 million in ethiopia and eritrea, enough to purge dirty sheiks like u from entire sudan and beyond.

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