Exploiting Ethiopia's Inter-Religious Tension, Jihadi Narrative Claims Demolishing Mosques Is Part Of Global War On Islam

By: S. Ali*
July 12, 2023
By: S. Ali*

Over the past month, major jihadi outlets affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) released content focusing on Ethiopia as a new battlefield for jihad, urging the Muslim community to revolt against the country's Christian government or join the ranks of jihad.

This content exploits the escalating tension in Ethiopia, where Muslim citizens are accusing authorities of demolishing mosques. According to local media reports, the demolitions, which included 19 mosques, are part of an urban planning initiative launched by the government on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, which reportedly also required the demolition of churches and private homes.

On May 27, 2023, Ethiopian media claimed that more than 40 people, including one policeman, were wounded in a protest organized by the Muslim community the previous day in Addis Ababa.[1]


An image showing the protest that was organized by the Muslim community in Addis Ababa (Source: Addis Standard, May 27, 2023.)

Jihadi media outlets framed the demolition of mosques in the area as part of a larger narrative of global war on Islam, linking it to similar events in France and India.

In its attempt to sow discord in Ethiopia, the jihadi narrative argues that the country has a long history of hatred of Muslims, citing historical events in which "Ethiopian emperors" of the past two centuries "forced Muslims to convert to Christianity."

Interestingly, Al-Qaeda's narrative called for adopting the Afghan Taliban's model, inciting Ethiopian Muslims to oust the Christian "occupation" from their land.  

Publications released by the two groups, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, further used the events in Ethiopia to invite Muslims to join the ranks of jihad, positioning themselves as the righteous guardians of Islam.

The following report will examine this content to identify its messaging tactics, providing insight on how Al-Qaeda and ISIS are seizing on the events to advance their objectives.

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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