'You've lost Islam,' Ethiopian PM tells UAE crown prince after shunning offer
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday claimed that he coldly rejected an offer by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to build an Islamic centre in the East African country, allegedly telling the royal that he had "lost" Islam.
Speaking to a gathering of Ethiopian-Americans in the southeastern US state of Virginia, Ahmed recalled the conversation he allegedly had with the powerful Emirati prince.
"We will help you with many things. We will teach you," bin Zayed is alleged to told Ahmed when asked about how the UAE could help with the construction of an Islamic centre in Ethiopia.
"We don’t need to learn the religion from you. You’ve lost the religion. What we need is to learn Arabic quickly, so we could better understand the religion and teach it to you, and return you to it," Ahmed reportedly replied to bin Zayed.
Ahmed added that he then told bin Zayed that "you have lost the religion," pointing to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.
"The Islam that does not look like true Islam has begun spreading amongst you, and you have forgotten peace and how to forgive," he reportedly said in the private conversation.
He added that the number of Muslims in Ethiopia, who form over 30 percent of the country's population, outnumber the population of Muslims in the Gulf states.
The Ethiopian leader's comments follow a meeting last Tuesday between himself, bin Zayed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki in Abu Dhabi. Bin Zayed had hosted the pair following the signing of an historic peace deal between the former rival states.
During the meeting, bin Zayed presented awards to the pair for their efforts in seeking peace, according to the UAE's foreign ministry.
Ethiopia, however, has in recent weeks seemed less than enthusiastic about the UAE's apparent involvement in the peace deal, with observers noting that the Gulf State has attempted to capitalise on the historic event.
Earlier this month, Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a clarification following claims by UAE media outlets that the emirate was instrumental in ending the 20-year conflict.
Meles Alem, a spokesman for the Ethiopian foreign ministry, stressed that the signing of the peace deal occurred without third party mediation.
Earlier this month, the UAE was criticised by the European Union for its political activity in the Horn of Africa. The EU accused the emirate of causing "destabilisation" in Somalia due to the country's refusal to take sides in the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar.
The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain have boycotted Qatar since last year over Doha's alleged support for terrorism. Qatar strongly denies the charge and has refused to give in to demands from the Saudi-led bloc.
Abu Dhabi has attempted to get countries to join the diplomatic boycott, with limited success.