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The Heroes Spoken! – by Hajj Najib Mohammed

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by Hajj Najib Mohammed*

“O ye who believe! stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear God. For God is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (The Noble Quran, 5:8)”

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Let not fear of the people prevent one of you from saying the truth if he knows it.”

“We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.” (Aristotle)

As we just witnessed the passing of Mandela, the man of this century, his personal sacrifice, his example and his unwavering belief in justice will forever resonate in the memory of modern time resisters of injustice.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), over 1400 years ago spoke about the then Ethiopia while sending off his companions escaping persecutions from Meccan worshipers of idols by saying “go to Abyssinia there is a king that no single person is unjustly treated under his rule. It is a land of Truth”. That era of justice and fairness has long gone and Ethiopians of different faith groups, ethnicity, and class structure fail victims of one or another unjust system.
The just and peaceful struggle of Ethiopian Muslims that erupted in August 2011 is way into its third year. Their just demand that the Ethiopian government refrain from interfering in their religious affairs fail into deaf ears. The government resorted to sever crackdown by jailing thousands and killing hundreds of peaceful resisters. The Arbitration Committee the Muslims organized and chose to negotiate with the government to bring amicable resolution, were rounded up tortured and thrown in jails. Accused of insurrection, the government put them to trials in the court that is known to be not independent.
Recently, and after 18 months of incarceration the government released 10 of the committee members claiming they are innocent. The accepted legal norm is that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. That is the basic law. That is the golden thread of the law. That is the basis of justice. The only reason a criminal case is dropped or you are adjudicated “not guilty” is there never was a case to begin with.
The arbitration committees who are still in jail are ordered to appear in court at the end of January and proof their innocence. Presumption of innocence means that, in the eyes of the courts and the law, it is assumed that somebody is innocent until they have been proven and judged to be guilty. However, in Ethiopia it seems that this universally accepted notion of presumption of innocence is reversed and it is the accused that is required to prove his or her innocence.
Knowing that they have a month to appear in court, the arbitration committee put out a statement on December 23, 2013 speaking to power. In their 4 page long statement, they detailed the abuses and hardship they went through for the last 18 months. They described how the police torturers in the prisons hardened their methods of torture for asking the Judge to put stop to the tortures. When they told the torturers what they are doing is against the constitution, they were told “tear the constitution in pieces and throw it the trash”. At one point they were told by the police that they came to power through force and they don’t want to hear about democracy.
The stamen they put out is a clear manifestation of their unwavering bravery and dedication to the just cause of the people, the cause of freedom of religion and the rule of law. Their statement concluded with these 3 and distinct appeal to all:
1. The unity, respect, and understanding between Muslims and Christians that came about despite the government’s efforts of creating discord and enmity should continue and strengthened. For the country to come out of the infighting and head to the venue of prosperity, true freedom of religion, equality, and respect among its people is a must. In order to benefit together, fear and suspicions must be replaced by love and trust.
2. We would like to affirm to our people and government that we are ready to pay the necessary sacrifices to continue our peaceful struggle for our rights. For the continuation of our peaceful struggle, we and the people are determined to pay all the necessary sacrifices required of us and we let this to be known with valor.
3. We demand the government to stop its unconstitutional acts of imprisoning Muslims, confiscating their mosques, falsehood accusations of religious leaders, accusation of journalists and rights advocates as terrorists and a host of other infractions of the constitutional rights. Furthermore, we urge the tortures and humiliation of prisoners inside the central prison and in other jails to stop. We also urge that all prisoners of conscience should be released from prisons. We would like to declare that it is our wish and dream that someday the Ethiopian people will live in peace, prosperity, and Democracy. Finally, and committed for the struggle we promise that the struggle will continue with better planning and coordination till complete justice and freedom achieved. We urge each and everyone concerned to be active and work together towards this end. We have no doubt that victory and success will be the achievement of this struggle.
It was the above statement that led me to say the “Heroes Spoken”. But what makes a hero a hero is that they accept the call to struggle and overcome perils in a manner that requires courage and sacrifice — and in a way that benefits humanity in some way. The arbitration committee sacrificed tremendously. There are those whose children were born while they are in jail and whose businesses were lost and personal life are shattered. Yet they came out with this statement of courage and truth knowing in about one month they have to face a court system that is not independent.
What can they be called but HEROES!
“We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.” (Aristotle)

Najib Mohammed
December 24, 2013
* The president of First Hijrah community in The Washington metropolitan area.