By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
It is good to read Bertil Lintner’s latest article “The Muslims of Myanmar” in the Irrawaddy. For years, his misconstrued article in the Far Eastern Economy has been the only staple for pseudo-experts on terrorism watch in south and south-east Asia. It was a flawed article on several points. The most striking assertion being the so-called link of al-Qaeda with some Rohingya groups that have been vocal about human rights of their people. Based on my own research on this sensitive subject I found out that there was absolutely no truth to the myth propagated by him, which was based on secondary and tertiary sources. We can probably guess who were feeding him such mis- or dis-information at the expense of the Rohingya people and their legitimate rights. The fascist,
hatemongers within the Rakhine and Buddhist community inside Burma exploited his half-baked flawed thesis towards fear-mongering against the Rohingya people as if the mythical Mujahids were a reality in Burma. To them, if they were to survive, they must eliminate the Rohingya people.
Interestingly, Lintner never met any of the leaders of those Rohingya groups he cited in his FEER article. And yet, as a self-promoting or perceived western “expert” who had settled in South East Asia, he was believed by many to be an expert and many would-be experts voraciously quoted his flawed FEER article to prove that there was connection with militant groups like al-Qaeda with Rohingya activists.
It is, therefore, good to see that Lintner is correcting his old flawed claims by stating that “purported RSO fighters were militants from the Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of the fundamentalist Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. The activities at the now closed Ukhia camp had more to do with Bangladeshi politics than any ethnic or religious conflict in Myanmar.”
As I have maintained, truth is never too late, and so is correcting one’s wrong thesis. My thanks to Lintner for correcting his views on the Rohingya people, and sharing how the Muslims of Burma, in general, had fought side by side fellow Burmese for the same rights, including independence of their motherland. Denying now such basic rights as citizenship to this religious/ethnic minority is a crime of highest proportion, and is highly reprehensible.
Let the people of Myanmar break the wall of exclusion, hatred and apartheid and accept the Rohingya and other minorities as equals with same rights to live in dignity and peace.
No one truly gains from xenophobia and intolerance. The sooner this lesson is learned the better it is for all of us and our posterity.