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Recent Islamic Periodicals in Ethiopia (1996-1998) Hussein Ahmed Addis Ababa University/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign On 21 February 1995, in and around the Anwar Mosque in Addis Ababa, a violent clash between the police and supporters of the then second vice-chairman of the Ethiopian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs,1 on the one hand, and those of a newly formed reorganizing committee, on the other, led to a number of deaths and the arrest of some 40 members of the Muslim elite.2 The incident produced a sense of trauma and shock among the Muslim residents of the city, and a number ofIslamic periodicals that had been circulating since 1991 ceased publication for nearly a year.3 However, beginning from late 1995 and early 1996, there appeared about eight private tabloids and a magazine, all published in Amharic and covering a wide range of religious subjects and secular issues relevant to Islam in the country. It is the contention of this paper that the production and circulation of these publications was not only an indication of the further growth and development of a distinctly Islamic press in Amharic, but also an integral part of a wider phenomenon: the religious and cultural revival of Islam led by Ethiopian Muslim intellectuals and followed by the larger community , an event responding both to the post-1991 social and political transformation unfolding in the country and to developments taking shape in the contemporary Muslim world. One of the most significant themes addressed by the periodicals has been the necessity of enhancing religious consciousness and deepening understanding of and knowledge about Islam through the discussion and analysis of matters related to faith and practice. The principal aim of this study is to demonstrate and document the close relation between the periodicals' output and Islam's religious/cultural revival in©Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 5, No. 2 (New Series) 1998, pp. 7-21 8 Hussein Ahmed Ethiopia through a discussion of the major themes and issues covered by two Islamic newspapers and a magazine circulating in Addis Ababa: Hikma (Wisdom), al-Hijdb (the Veil) and Hijra (Emigration). While Hayat (Life), Hildl (Crescent) and Ikhlás (Sincere Devotion) still appear, the publication of al-Hijáb has, at the time of writing, discontinued temporarily, and the other weeklies such as al-Kawthar (the Abundance), Ihsdn (Beneficence) and Baraka (Benediction) have ceased publication altogether.4 A review ofbooks published in the period with which this paper is concerned, although significant in its own right and quite relevant to the topic under discussion, has not been attempted here owing to space and time limitations.5 The present study is based on a summary and short analysis of the contents of selected issues of the two newspapers and the magazine, and on interviews with the newspapers' editors. The Background: The Revival of Islam and islamic Literature6 In the aftermath of the fall of Ethiopia's military regime in May 1991, favorable conditions were created for the implementation of the principle of press freedom and the exercise of the right of unrestricted expression of ideas in the media. The Ethiopian Muslim community benefited from the situation by participating in peaceful demonstrations calling for the redress of past wrongs. They demanded the right to organize, full equality before the law, freedom of assembly and expression, and an end to censorship. The government duly recognized these legitimate rights and lifted several restrictions that had been imposed on the Muslim community by the previous imperial and military regimes, such as the ban on the import of Islamic publications, including the Qur'án, and a severe reduction in the number of pilgrims traveling to the holy places of Islam. The establishment of a number of private printing firms, which not only imported and distributed Islamic literature but also produced and marketed their own productions, was a direct outcome of the liberal policy of the new government . The revival of Islam manifested itself in the intensification ofreligious fervor ; rising awareness of Islamic identity and solidarity; increased construction of mosques and schools; higher attendance of prayers in mosques, especially on Fridays and during the principal Islamic festivals; more active participation...


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