Home > Regions > Africa > The Intellectualist movement in Ethiopia, the Muslim Brotherhood and the issue of moderation - Report

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Terje Østebø

Terje Østebø received his PhD in the history of religions from Stockholm University in 2009. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Religion and the Center for African Studies and acting director of the Center for Global Islamic Studies at the University of Florida, as well...
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Wallelign Shemsedin

Wallelign Shemsedin obtained his MPharm in 2006 and is currently finalising his MPhil in philosophy, both at the Addis Ababa University. He has been a lecturer in pharmacy for eight years and is currently the technical manager of a pharmaceutical firm. He has also been a close observer of Ethiop...
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The Intellectualist movement in Ethiopia, the Muslim Brotherhood and the issue of moderation - Report

Terje Østebø, Wallelign Shemsedin , 25 March 2015

The Intellectualist movement is one of the major Islamic reform movements in contemporary Ethiopia. Informal and decentred in character, it has attracted young students, professionals and urban intellectuals. The movement was inspired by the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood, which were critically contextualised and applied to the Ethiopian context. This has entailed avoiding the more political aspects of the Brotherhood, while emphasising the positive role of Islamic virtues in the formation of individual and societal piety. The Intellectualists have also been formative in Ethiopian Muslims’ thinking about secularism, democracy and constitutional rule, and have played a significant role in mediating between various religious actors in Ethiopia, as well as negotiating the position of Islam vis-à-vis the political authorities. Of particular importance has been the way in which the movement has served as a moderating force in a rapidly changing and fluid political and religious landscape. This demonstrates the inherent complexity of the trend commonly labelled as Islamism, and points to the need for nuanced and localised approaches when attempting to understand this trend.

A policy brief based on this report can be found here.

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