Daily Archives: 9 April, 2013

Misunderstanding “Peace” and “Normality”: A Reply to Ustaz Hassen Taju

Abdurahman B. Ibrahim

Ustaz Hassen Taju recently wrote an article in which he argued in favour of bringing to an end all Muslim public protests. The reasons he gave were many, but most of them aimed at deterring the supposedly ill effects of a continued protest. In this short piece of mine, I won’t dwell on my views of his points. Nor will I take issues with his methodology—which is utterly biased. I would rather like to re-think only one of the most important mind-sets that informs most of his points: “the unjust ‘peace’ is better than the just ‘non-peace’”. This mind-set, I believe, is not only his, by the way, but underlies the process of thinking among many Ethiopians in general. In analyzing Hassen’s case, I will be very brief as follows.

The ustaz warned us of the grave effects of escalation. He thought further protests might lead, among other things, to bloodshed, more arrest, more exile and so on. He tended to ask at one place, “the protesters want to protest until the government falls…when would that be? Would the protest be fruitful? Would it be possible?” In such assertions, a certain psychological content comes up so clear: the debilitating fear of a (risky) uncertainty that struggle brings along with it. This fear gets even more pronounced when the struggle is prolonged. It is assumed that since more and longer struggle leads to more and more uncertainty—perhaps riskier—it is better to accept defeat sometimes and “make peace”. The “peace” here is understood to be the status quo ante—the condition that had been in place before the activism broke out. According to Hassen, this is the “normal” situation. The opposite, which is the “abnormal”, he thought, is the absence of that status quo ante. This “abnormal” period is the one which started to surface after the Muslims started to rise up against an overly interventionist government. So, in Hassen Taju’s mind, we need to go back to the “good old days” since the current days, and those to come, are the “bad” and “abnormal” ones. (His contention that he only demanded us to change tactics and not stop opposition is a weak argument since he didn’t show any other meaningful way of opposition—which basically means he wanted us to go back to square one.)