Current News

    Myanmar Muslim minority, among the most persecuted people in the world

    Omar Al Muqdad
    August 8, 2013
    Burma, officially
    referred to as Myanmar, currently represents a positive story that is reflected
    in the Western media as one of political opening, of a military dictatorship
    emerging into an era of democracy, human rights, development and hope for the future.
    This narrative might be true for much of the country, but it significantly
    leaves out the struggles of the Rohingya.
    The mobs that took
    place that early morning in March were Buddhists enraged by the killing of a
    monk. Yet the victims were Muslims who had nothing to do with it – students and
    teachers from a prestigious Islamic school in central Myanmar.
    In the last hours of
    their lives, police had been dispatched to rescue them from a burning compound
    surrounded by swarms of angry men. And when they emerged cowering, hands atop
    their heads, they only had to make it to four police trucks waiting on the road
    It wasn’t far to go –
    just one hill.
    What happened along
    the way is the story of one of Myanmar’s darkest days since this Southeast Asian
    country’s post-junta leaders promised the dawn of a new, democratic era two
    years ago – a day on which 36 Muslims, most teenagers, were slaughtered in
    front of police and local officials who did almost nothing to stop it.
    And what has happened
    since shows just how hollow the promise of change has been for a neglected
    religious minority that has received neither protection nor justice.
    The president of this
    predominantly Buddhist nation never came to “Meikhtila” to mourn the dead or
    comfort the living. Police investigators never roped this place off or
    collected the evidence of carnage left behind on these slopes. And despite
    video clips online that show mobs clubbing students to death and cheering as
    flames leap from corpses, not a single suspect has been convicted.
    But not only are the”
    Rohingya” a disenfranchised people, they are dark-skinned Muslims with little
    relevance, representation and significance to anyone. The much-vaunted Nobel
    peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has not adequately handled this issue, and the
    western world also tiptoes around it. Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence is evidently
    an attempt to placate her constituency ahead of general elections in 2015, and
    to criticize her now would be like admonishing Nelson Mandela in the run-up to
    the 1994 election in South Africa. However unlike South Africa in the 1990s,
    Burma is not on the verge of some tremendous political shakeup; while the”
    Rohingya” are being sacrificed as collateral damage in the greater project of
    the democratization in Burma, “Aung San Suu Kyi” is missing an extraordinary
    opportunity to live up to her reputation as a human rights activist.
    A massacre took place
    shortly after reports began to circulate about the alleged rape and murder of
    an Arakanese woman by three” Rohingya” Muslims in late May 2012. A large
    Buddhist mob surrounded a bus filled with non-Rohingya Muslim pilgrims, who
    were leaving Taungup for Rangoon, dragging off several passengers and beating
    them to death with clubs and sticks.
    One suspect
    reportedly escaped, while the others are being detained in Sandoway awaiting
    According to a report
    published by Human
    Rights Watch
     in August 2012, “local police and soldiers stood by and
    watched the killings without intervening.”
    An initial probe into
    the massacre reportedly floundered after investigators were unable to find a
    witness who was willing to testify against the killers.
    Five days later riots
    kicked off in Maungdaw town in northern Arakan, pitting Buddhists against the
    stateless Muslim Rohingya, who are widely despised and considered illegal
    Bengali immigrants by most locals. It resulted in four days of rioting that
    spread throughout the coastal state, killing dozens of people and leaving more
    than 100,000 people displaced.
    Nevertheless, in a
    bid to solve the disagreement between Muslims and Buddhists, the Myanmar
    government follows an exclusionary policy regarding the six million Rohingya
    Muslims. The president proposed expulsion or the collective gathering of
    minority Muslims in refugee camps as the only solutions for the Muslim minority
    in this country.
    Wirathu, the
    extremist monk behind the hateful 969 movement in Burma, which has been fueling
    hatred against Muslims, calls himself the “Burmese Bin Laden,” according to a report
    by The Guardian.
    Edited by Anna Jacobs