The grim plight of Rohingya Muslims
(Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought)
The news from Myanmar is as grim as it can get. Not only have tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims been driven from their homes, their homes and villages have been torched by criminal gangs, aided and abetted by Myanmar security forces.
Many Muslims have also been burned alive. It would be tempting to blame only criminal elements for such outrageous acts but when the regime’s forces refuse to prevent the slaughter of innocent people and in many instances join in the killing, then the matter is not one of law and order. It has been a systematic policy of successive regimes to target Rohingya Muslims and drive them out of the country. This was confirmed, yet again, in a meeting in Yangun on July 11 when the Myanmar President Thein Sein met the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres telling him the Rohingyas should be either resettled in a third country or the agency should set up camps to look after them. This outrageous proposal was rejected outright by Guterres. The Myanmar (formerly Burma) regime refuses to recognize the Rohingyas as citizens alleging they are “Bengalis.” The Rohingyas have lived in Rakhine (formerly Arakan) since at least the seventh century but when a state insists on inventing fiction and peddling it as history, there is little that logic can rectify. The consequences of such a policy have been devastating for the Rohingyas. Since they are not considered citizens, the regime refuses to issue identifications papers or birth certificates. They cannot even marry without government permission. Violators face a five-year prison term. The Rohingyas cannot obtain a passport to travel because of lack of basic documents. These, however, are secondary concerns when their very survival is at stake.
The majority of Myanmar’s population is Buddhist. They are supposed to be non-violent people; most Buddhists may be, although recent developments have shown that they are anything but non-violent. There is overwhelming evidence from their brutal behaviour in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand that they can be as vicious as the Zionists or Hindu fundamentalists. In each case, their targets are Muslims and their places of worship. How do they get away with killing women and children and even burning them alive without evoking any global concern? It’s simple: the victims are Muslims. The world led by America and Israel doesn’t seem to have a problem with mass murder and gratuitious bloodletting of Muslims.
On July 24, there were rallies in many parts of the world in support of the Rohingya Muslims. In Tehran, there was a huge rally in front of the UN offices demanding protection for the Rohingyas. In Toronto, a rally on July 21, although called to demand the release of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr held illegally by the Saudi regime, also demanded an end to the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar. Similar rallies were held in London (UK) and other places.
How is the Myanmar regime able to get away with such crimes against the Rohingyas when it faced international sanctions because of placing the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for nearly two decades? Suu Kyi was released in November 2010 and is now feted on the global stage. So is Thein Sein, a former general, who has introduced modest political reforms but more importantly, Myanmar is being coveted by Western countries and companies because of its vast natural resources. Hitherto, only China benefited because the West had imposed sanctions on the country. On July 13, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a highly publicized meeting with Thein Sein in Cambodia. This came two days after President Barack Obama announced easing of sanctions.
When there is money to be made, what are the lives of a few hundred thousand Muslims worth?