Muslims in Burma by Nurul Islm Uk

March 16, 2018 | Author: ashraf_alam_13 | Category: Rohingya People, Myanmar, Human Rights, Politics, Crimes


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MUSLIMS IN BURMABurma is a resource-rich and diverse Southeast Asian nation. It shares borders with China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh and India. It is home to numerous ethnic groups. Burma official information shows that 4 percent population practices Islam, but “independent scholarly researchers place the Muslim population at between 6 and 10 percent” 1 while Muslim leaders estimate that approximately 20 percent of the population is Muslim.”2 Burma’s statistics are not reliable, and many millions of Arakan Muslims or Rohingya are not included in these statistics.3 Sometimes, Muslims themselves prefer to hide their religious affiliation to circumvent disapproval. However, Muslim population can be estimated to be 12-15 percent of the Burma’s population of 55 million. Islam reached Burma through Muslim seamen as early as eight century. “Since 8 th century Islam spread and deeply rooted in Arakan from where it spread into interior Burma.” 4 “In subsequent centuries, Arab, Persian and Indian Muslim traders settled in coastal trading towns. Muslims also served as mercenaries and administrators to Burmese kings...Beginning the sixteenth century, Burmese kings settled Muslim prisoners, refugees and soldiers in central Burma. Chinese Muslims, referred to as Panthay, arrived in Burma as early as thirteenth century, and greatest numbers in the late nineteenth century following the Ch’ing government’s crushing of the Islamic sultanate in Yunnan.”5 The heyday of Arakan began with the influence and spread of Muslim civilization when “Arakan was virtually ruled by Muslims from 1430 to 1531.” 6. Generally, “the current Muslim population of Burma are descendants of Arabs, Persians, Turks, Moors, Indian-Muslims, Sheikhs, Pakistanis, Pathans, Bengalis, Chinese Muslims and Malays who settled and intermarried with local Burmese and many Burma’s ethnic groups such as Rakhine, Shan, Karen, Mon etc”.7 Muslims in Burma are dispersed geographically and are highly diverse in ethnicity:-Rohingya in Arakan, Panthay or Chinese Muslims in north-eastern Burma, Malay speaking Pashu in Kaw-thaung in southern Tenansarin, and Bama Muslim or Burmese Muslims (sometimes called Pathi) mainly in cites with some pockets in lower and central Burma. North Arakan, the “Traditional Homeland” of the Rohingya, is the largest Muslim concentration. The Rohingyas population is estimated to be more than 3 million, including those in Diasporas or overseas that number about 1.5 million. Burmese regime policy towards Muslims Like State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the ruling quasi-military regime is pursuing a subtle strategy of ‘de-Muslimization’, ‘Burmanisation’ and ‘Buddhist-isation’. It practices policies of intolerance, bigotry and hostility towards non-Buddhist people, particularly towards Muslims. “The regime wants Burman Buddhism to dominate. They want all people to be Buddhist.”8 Burma has been ranked as one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom, a “Country of Particular Concern” by the US State Department every year since 1999. Generally all groups of Muslims in Burma have become third class inhabitants. They are not considered to be citizens and are not accepted for government services, particularly in military service. National Registration Cards (NRCs) are no longer issued to them. They have difficulty obtaining birth certificates and acquiring permission to build new or repair existing mosques, although many historic mosques are standing in ruin across the country. Lots of US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, 2009 US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, 2006 3 J.A. Berlie, “The Burmanization of Myanmar’s Muslim”, White Lotus Co., Ltd, G.P.O. Box 1141, Bangkok 10501, Thailand, p.1. 4 1. “Sasana Ronwa Htunzepho” in Burmese , official publication of the military government, SLORC about the religions in Burma, 1997, 5 “Voice of Islam in Southeast Asia”, compiled by edited by Greg Fealy and Virginia Hooker,Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2006, pp.23-24. 6 “The Coming of Muslims to Burma, 1700AD”, A paper presented by Colonel Bashin, Chairman of the Burma Historical Commission, at a Seminar held in Azad Bhavan, New Delhi, in 1961, p.4. 7 “The Muslims of Burma”, A Study of a Minority Group, by Moshe Yegar, 1972, Otto Harrzssowitz Wiesbaden, pp.31-32. 8 Christian Solidarity Worldwide: “Briefing Burma: Visit to Kachin State, Burma, 25 August-1 September 2006, p.5. 1 2 1 mosques, religious sites and schools were desecrated, demolished, closed down mostly. The ancient Sandi Kahn mosque of historical importance in Arakan and was razed to the ground. Publication and distribution of holy Quran and other religious texts are restricted. “Historically, Muslims have often been the targets of communal violence, and many live a tenuous existence, especially under the military government that has ruled since 1962”.9 Rohingya problem The Rohingya problem is a problem of ‘religious, ethnic and political persecution’ to rid Arakan of the Muslim population.” The Rohingya are one of the most persecuted and forgotten peoples on earth.”10 The regime has rendered them ‘stateless’ while subjecting them to systematic, consistent and widespread human rights violations, which amount to ‘crimes against humanity’, and are similar to the abuses discussed by the United Nations. They include denial of citizenship rights, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, education, marriage and religion, land confiscation, destruction of settlements, expulsion, extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, disappearance, arbitrary arrests, relentless taxation, food insecurity, forced labour and extortion. They have become landless and jobless, with illiteracy rate running near 90% and malnutrition rate 60%. These systematic criminal measures indicate the regime’s intention to wipe out this Muslim minority from Burma. Thus “Rohingyas are listed as one of the ten world’s populations in most danger of extinction.”11 It is an ‘attempted genocide’. Bangladesh is the first country of asylum for most Rohingya refugees. There were mass exoduses to Bangladesh in 1978 and again in 1991-92. Each time, international pressure persuaded Burma to accept them back and repatriation followed, often under coercion. But the outflow still continues, despite intimidation, arrest and pushback by the Bangladeshi security forces. There are about 28,000 official refugees resisting repatriation while more than 200,000 undocumented refugees are languishing in villages of southern Chittagong. In addition, large numbers of refugees or forced migrants are living in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Thailand; but the host countries seldom arrested and sent them back to Bangladesh, Burma or bordering countries, where they were at risk. In early 2009, the tale of horror by Rohingya refugees escaping poverty and repression in Burma and Bangladesh had again highlighted their suffering particularly at the hands of the Burmese regime. But they found their reception, especially in Thailand, equally inhumane, as more than a thousand were pushed back out to sea with little food and water, and no engines; they were effectively set adrift to die. Many of them ended up in India and Indonesia where they were treated with some dignity. There were many such occurrences. Nevertheless, they are refugees with “well-founded fear of persecution” and deserve international protection. . The Rohingyas are on the horns of dilemma. The regime and Rakhine Buddhists of Arakan reject the existence of “Rohingya” as an ethnic group in Burma. They are lying that Rohingyas are not the products of Arakan. They accuse them of illegal immigrants, British time settlers ignoring their bona fide historical roots in the region. These campaigns of vilification have currently become vigorous. This unjust view has influenced the Burmese democracy movement greatly. No Rohingya political organization has been admitted into any of the numerous Burmese alliances. Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma stated, “Despite being in this region for generations, this population is stateless. This population is not recognized by the Government as one of he ethnic groups of the Union of Myanmar and is subject to discrimination…it should be granted all other privileges, including the citizenship, which recognized ethnic groups, citizens of Myanmar do enjoy in the Union.”12 Burma should guarantee human rights and freedom, including total religious freedom, to all Muslims. Muslims should not be made scapegoats. They should be treated justly on “equal terms”. The Rohingya problem, having political and humanitarian aspects, is essentially a regional problem with international perspective that calls for a ‘permanent solution’. The Rohingya should be allowed to coexist as equals in Arakan. Their citizenship and ethnic rights are to be guaranteed, and their rights and privileges are to be ensured, on par with other national groups of the Union of Burma. Meanwhile, all political and democratic process in J.A. Berlie, “The Burmanization of Myanmar’s Muslim”, White Lotus Co., Ltd, G.P.O. Box 1141, Bangkok 10501, Thailand, p.23. 9 10 Mike Thompson, “Burma’s Forgotten Rohingya”, BBC News, Saturday, 11 March 2006, 00:26 GMT The Statement of MSF dated 26th November 2006. Statement of Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma at the 10th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2009. 11 12 2 Burma must be genuinely inclusive and the Rohingya should be allowed to be a part of it. The international community with UN, OIC and regional organisations should bring increased pressure to bear on the Burmese government. Last not least, international response to the needs of the vulnerable Muslims for protection and humanitarian assistance such as, food, shelter, healthcare and education uplift are most vital. 3
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