News / Asia

    Muslim Groups Increasingly Worried About Fate of Burma's Rohingyas

    A Muslim Indonesian holds a banner during a protest in front of the Burma Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 13, 2012.
    A Muslim Indonesian holds a banner during a protest in front of the Burma Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 13, 2012.
    Muslim groups worldwide are increasing pressure on the Burmese government to stop human rights abuses committed against ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

    The plight of the technically stateless group in Burma's western Rakhine state has long been a concern of the global Muslim community. But attention has intensified in recent weeks after longstanding tensions erupted between the Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, leaving dozens dead and tens of thousands displaced.
    Rights groups such as Amnesty International say Rohingyas are the victims of state-sanctioned violence and discrimination in a country that has a long history of mistreating ethnic minorities.
     
    But others, including the government of Iran, have gone much further, calling the conflict a religiously inspired "genocide" and spreading what observers say are doctored photos and fabricated stories of the conflict.
     
    Several extremist groups have also joined the conversation, including the Pakistani Taliban, which on Thursday threatened to attack Burma to avenge the abuses against the Rohingya population.

    Outside pressure may not help
     
    Increased attention from Muslims globally could help pressure Burma's government to give more rights to Rohingyas, says Jim Della-Giacoma of the International Crisis Group. But he adds that it could also make the situation worse.
     
    "This is an issue around which Burmese or ethnically Burman nationals rally around, and that is part of the problem," says Della-Giacoma. "So any sort of threats from outside groups would only enforce or harden that nationalism and definitely not help the problem."

    Rohingyas reject Taliban threats
     
    Maung Kyaw Nu, a former political prisoner turned activist who works with Burmese Rohingya Association of Thailand, says he not only doubts the threat of an attack should be taken seriously, but the message runs counter to his group's goal of a peaceful solution.
     
    "Even we don't like it," he says. "You know my political attitude toward Burma is to restore the peace and the rule of law so that we don't like this kind of group, and we condemn them, you know, not only regarding Burma, regarding any area particular area in the world."
     
    Despite the rejection from some prominent Rohingyas, Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, an NGO that monitors Rohingya issues, says there may already be repercussions from the outside threats. Lewa said that Burma's military reportedly arrested 38 Muslim religious leaders in northern Rakhine state Thursday following the terror threat by the Taliban.
     
    "It appears that [the Burmese military] has responded in arresting a number of imams and mullahs from Maungdaw and Buthidaung along the border with Bangladesh," says Lewa, who says a number of other religious leaders have been arrested recently in a crackdown seemingly aimed at preventing protests during the religiously important month of Ramadan.
     
    The violence and discrimination against Rohingyas is not genocide according to Lewa, who says such exaggerations are partly the result of recent statements from Burmese President Thein Sein. The president said earlier this month that deportation or refugee camps were the only solutions for the Rohingyas, who are denied citizenship in both Burma and neighboring Bangladesh.

    Not just about religion
     
    Benjamin Zawacki, a Burma researcher at Amnesty International, insists that it would be a mistake to view the conflict through only religious lenses, saying it should be viewed in the wider context of Burma's struggles with ethnic minority groups.
     
    "I think that religion is clearly a part, but my assessment is that it is more secondary than it is primary in terms of why these violations and this discrimination takes place," says Zawacki.
     
    Not only do Rohingya have a clearly different physical appearance from the majority of Burmese, says Zawacki, they have also adopted what some consider to be a "foreign" or "minority" religion.
     
    But he says the widespread prejudice and discrimination against Rohingyas in Burmese society is partly the offspring of government policies that limit the rights of the minority group.
     
    "If you look at the sort of discrimination that Rohingyas have faced for decades, it's very much part of the institution," says Zawacki. "The restrictions on marriage, the restriction on education, the restriction on movement - these are all systems within Myanmar [Burma] society."
     
    Zawacki says these kinds of policies have the effect of making Burmese citizens feel they are justified in treating Rohingyas differently from other groups. Rights groups such as Amnesty International say the crisis can begin to be resolved when Burma amends its 1982 citizenship law that says Rohingyas are not citizens.
     
    Many were encouraged that democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week called for laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities. But Zawacki said she should go a step further, and clearly state that Rohingyas should receive the same rights as all other Burmese citizens.

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    by: Tun from: Myanmar
    July 30, 2012 1:18 AM
    You are claiming that Myanmar government is persecuting Rohinjas, but you don't see the problem in wide view. Who started the problem? Who ignited to happen the problem? not Myanmar nationals, only Rohinjas. You should ask to receive them as an ethnic group,not to Myanmar government. You must ask to Bangladesh where they migrated from. They are not born in Myanmar. They are not Myanmar nationals, only refugees from Bangladesh. by Tun, Myanmar national
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    August 23, 2012 6:52 PM
    Do not tell a story.Your govn't have been killing people owing to being muslim and nothing else.
    In Response

    by: AMZB
    July 31, 2012 6:53 PM
    Stop justifying prosecution with such absurd reasons. Are you trying to say that that makes it alright to prosecute them because they dont "belong" in your country? you have tonnes of Burmese working in Saudi Arabia, under Bangladeshi Idenfications. So then You must ask these Burmese working in Saudi Arabia WHY they're doing that. You don't prosecute refugee's u give them asylum!

    by: DEF from: USA
    July 28, 2012 9:45 PM
    The whole slant of the article misses the real underlying issue. If there are true human rights abuses, they should be vigorously opposed. The fact that Muslim groups are "increasingly worried" really doesn't amount to much given their appalling record on human rights themselves.

    Whites played a vital role fighting for civil rights for blacks in the U.S. south and even in South Africa while Israeli Jews have set up organizations defend and advance the rights of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Where are the Muslim organizations fighting for the rights of Ahmadi, Bahai, Christians, and others? Their silence is deafening. Iran is talking about genocide, really?

    The fact that the Muslim world only finds moral outrage in defending its own people really speaks to an impoverished ethical state. When I hear a single Muslim organization stand up and defend the rights of minorities living in their midst, will I find their contribution worthy of attention.
    In Response

    by: Hbd from: USA
    August 01, 2012 1:36 AM
    There are several Muslim organizations that aid all people regardless of their race/religion. You, just like many other people, fail to realize that Muslims are constantly under attack as well, not just by outside forces, but by extreme/radical muslims as well.. so yeah, lay off and stop using the *corrupt* governments who claim to follow Islam as your example to define how all Muslims think. If all Muslims were as selfish and corrupt as the few in power, then the war on terror wouldn't be going as well as it is today.
    I will not back some of the "Muslim" governments and tell you they would do the same, because they wouldn't.. because they're not practicing the religion properly.
    In Response

    by: AMZB
    July 31, 2012 6:49 PM
    When the Muslims had their empires ruling half the world, they protected Christians, Jews, and various other religious backgrounds, without enforcing their religion on them. Check your sources and do your research, since you obviously don't know the history of Islamic civilisations. A human life, regardless is precious, whether it belongs in the country or has the right to live there, does not give one the license to end a life.
    In Response

    by: CraigD from: Chicago
    July 30, 2012 1:54 AM
    Very well said. The muslim attitude is also seen in their Red Crescent charity which serves only muslims. The koran gives value and rights only to muslims, not to people in general. This attitude is exhibited in their policies and their rhetoric. Because of their selfishness, lack of generosity, and lack of gratitude I find myself with no sympathy when muslims are mistreated. I know that muslims will never support or defend my rights or my life.

    by: Ashley from: Alaska, US
    July 28, 2012 8:52 PM
    @GlockMonk... how is it hypocritical for someone to say that human rights are being violated in this case? you have no idea what that person's view on the other tragedies in Burma is. It's very narrow minded to just assume that since he/she didn't mention them that he only cares about the current situation.
    In Response

    by: Abu Lahab from: US
    July 29, 2012 6:04 PM
    @Ashley

    If you're concerned about "Human Rights" you should focus on the Islamic world, who are the champions of "Human Rights." A non-Muslim isn't allowed to set foot in Mecca. Perhaps you should fight for that.

    by: Abu Lahab from: US
    July 28, 2012 4:39 PM
    Also this site is claiming that Rohingyas were planning this six month in advance.

    http://wontharnu.com/index.php/news/129-breaking-news-bangali-rohingya-has-been-planning-the-violent-riots-in-rakhine-state-since-last-six-months

    If this information is true, we can stop the belly aching about the Rohingya.

    by: Aby Lahab from: US
    July 28, 2012 4:29 PM
    Telegraph is reporting, "Pakistani Taliban threatens Burma
    The Pakistan Taliban has warned Islamabad to cut ties with Burma or face attacks in support of persecuted Muslims in the south-east Asian country. "

    Maybe Jihad will come to Burma.
    In Response

    by: Hashim Mahmud from: Cox'sBazar Bangladesh
    July 29, 2012 3:18 PM
    Brother Abu Lahab ,Please don't believe this king of baseless and fake news. I think this is a conspiracy of Rakhine terrorist group because they are trying to turn the real issue and draw the attention of international community into Taliban terrorism ,It is very clear that there is no Taliban connection with the Rohingya issue.
    In Response

    by: Taw from: tawbyargyi@yahoo.com
    July 28, 2012 11:10 PM
    Don't abuse on using Jihad. That is holy words. If we are wrong doing on reality the Jihad will failed. Only we can able to win when our accusation are bloody right. Burma had their own immigration law and that we can not able to blame their own constitution which is good or bad. Okay.. so many Rohingyas got citizenship via corrupted immigration system, but they are still do not belong to Myanmar history. They are still foreigners who never belongs to any ethnic groups of Myanmar. Now, the Royingyas are claiming their own land financially supported by some Islamic groups. Overseas educated rohigyas groups also campaigning for international supports. They do not win yet, they will not win never ever because we are using wrong weapon I meas Jihad and religious issue. That is totally wrong. Holy words should not use for wrong accusation. Local Rakine people never raped any Muslim royingyas women. The rakkhine people do not even marry other women of racial group of Myanmar. They care only about only rakhine. We accusing rohinhigyas women are rapped, no.. that is wrong, the rohingyas started rapping poor Myanmar girls long time ago. Recently they killed myanamr girl and killed her like an animal. Rohingyas started this problem. Local rakkhine people waited for justice, local authority took bribe form groups of Muslim rich people supported by other rich Muslim countries. Local government was slow to take action. Finally, rakhine killed few Myanmar Muslim. Then, rohingyas revenged and killed over 50 Myanmar people using weapons including guns supported by terrorist groups. That would be a simple conclusion. That is not religious war, we don't need to say Jihad. Some Muslim organizations around the world just blamed on Myanmar people. We ignored the reality, we, deaf and dumb people pretending that we do not know Muslim people also killing back Myanmar people, burning down many hundreds houses of Myanmar. That is not fair. That is stupid propaganda. The people of both side who were innocent or guilty got killed by both side. Well... come stay at that area, you guys will know about reality. Accusing wrong and demanding Jihad may not help good innocent Muslims of Myanmar. We Myanmar muslim are good people like good Buddhists and good Christians around the world. Please do not bring Jihad issue on struggling country. In many countries, many innocent muslim are killed by muslim. Why do not call for Jihad. Humm.. Taliban killed many thousands of innocent Muslims. It still happen in Somalia, Syria, Iran, Iraq..Russia.. etc. We all just blamed on American and Europe only. Are we forgot to blame on extremist Muslims groups who supporting to kill good muslim around the world?

    by: Habib from: Malaysia
    July 28, 2012 8:13 AM
    It is the time to find a political solution to end the crisis in Arakan and to save the world most persecuted Rohingya victims but VOA's goal goes different.
    It has not enough reporting partially and sidiously since the beginning of riot in Arakan. I was well aware about VOA and RFA, even during boat people crisis, the both VOA and RFA reports highlighted the trafficking rathern than presenting the problems..
    Arakanese native origins were Indian and it was Indian kingdom until 9 Century. The signs, appearences and language of those close to Indiana, are found in non-Rakhine people?. Don't finger to those ancient statues as they were not belong to today Mahayana religon of today Buddhism.




    by: Shabana from: India
    July 28, 2012 7:58 AM
    Whats happening in Burma is really said just because someone is not Citizen, ethnic or Buddhist doesn't give any one License to kill other. for about Burma there are several Buddhist around the world living in other countries who are also migrants what if people of that state started killing them just because one among them mistreated or did something wrong to resident.
    Burma should treat Muslims fairly and give them their Rights
    And all this killing should be stopped.........
    In Response

    by: Andy Chakma from: CHT, Bangladesh
    July 28, 2012 7:14 PM
    People of Myanmar or Burma are very peace loving and hospitable as long as you do not cross certain lines. The Bengali infiltrators crossed that line by raping and murdering a Burmese woman, distorting their history, laying claim on their land. And they got a befitting response from the native people. Though they are peace loving Buddhists, even they have a limit how much abuse they can take from the Bengali infiltrators.

    There are Buddhists all over the world, but unlike Bengali infiltrators they are not raping local women, violating laws, distorting the history of host nation or laying claim on land which is not theirs.

    by: ninenine from: japan
    July 28, 2012 7:25 AM
    You all muslim!
    Don't try to destory any other countries!
    Christian,Buddish and all other religions are watching you!

    http://www.burmacampaignjapan.org/2012/07/myanmar-kosovo-theory-absolutely-does.html#/

    http://wontharnu.com/index.php/news/129-breaking-news-bangali-rohingya-has-been-planning-the-violent-riots-in-rakhine-state-since-last-six-months

    http://farazahmed.com/muslims-killing-in-burma-and-our-social-media-islamic-parties-1010.aspx#comment-2446

    http://newarakan.blogspot.jp/2012/06/of-rohingya-terroists-photo-news-this.html
    In Response

    by: Ashley from: Alaska, US
    July 28, 2012 8:59 PM
    This is a human rights issue, not specific to any religion. I'm betting that I'm not the only non-Muslim who's appalled by it.

    by: Hemchandra from: India
    July 28, 2012 6:17 AM
    For those who are showing sympathy I would ask them where were your sympathies & human rights people when Indian Parliament was terrorized, when 170+ innocent people were killed in Mumbai, when twin towers in the US was demolished, when underground train in Madrid was ruined to crap & many more to come. Our planet is better off this species.
    In Response

    by: WASIM from: RIYADH
    July 29, 2012 8:00 AM
    mr Hemchadra , we have sypathy for all the person who died in blasting, in fact in Mumbai attached more than 45 was muslim amongh 180 with high%. But if you calculate all of these then it will not cross more than 4000 and regarding WTO towers who did this you dont know.
    but what happen in ASSAM, Rakhine, Gujrat- if you see the result than you will be very happy becasue you hindus like genocide of muslim- more than 50000 people was dead, now where is your sypathy and the otherhand the kafir does not have heart, no sympathy, only is matter of religion
    fyi- who respect & blessed muslim will be blessed, otherwise they will be cursed.

    by: Andy Chakma from: CHT, Bangladesh
    July 27, 2012 7:19 PM
    So called Rohingyas are Bengali migrants brought by British during colonial rule without the consent of the Burmese people. They must go back to their ancestral land Bangladesh and spare the native people of Burma of rape and terror.

    Burma is not an immigrant nation. Burma is a Buddhist nation made up of Tibeto Burman tribes. People do not get citizenship just because born there or forefathers lived there for centuries. Even western countries let alone Muslim countries do not grant citizenship on the basis of born there or lived there for many years.

    Muslim nations are the worst violators of human rights. Justice and rule of law though exist in theory, but seldom practiced in any Muslim country without exception. Even so called liberal Muslim countries are not liberal at all by universal standard. For example Muslims do not have the freedom to convert to other religions. Muslim nations should not preach Myanmar what they themselves do not practice.
    In Response

    by: Abu Lahab from: US
    July 28, 2012 10:19 PM
    @ nik from US,

    It is really not about ethnic, but rather an ideology with an aim to expand using any means necessary. You seem to have ignored what Andy said, "Muslim nations are the worst violators of human rights. Justice and rule of law though exist in theory, but seldom practiced in any Muslim country without exception."

    I disagree with what he said. I doubt the sensors will publish this, but anyway...

    "Sheikh Mohammad Humoud Al-Najdi said building churches in Kuwait should be prohibited... He added that giving excuses such as it is a matter of human rights and international norms to build it, is not acceptable, as Islam comes first..."

    Source - Arab Time Online. Did you read it? Sharia Law man.
    In Response

    by: nik from: US
    July 28, 2012 5:53 AM
    Surely the persecution of Rohingyas in Burma is a form of ethnic cleansing. the world needs to treat this very seriously and with urgency. gold rush should not triumph over human rights.
    In Response

    by: HumanKind from: Texas
    July 28, 2012 1:55 AM
    What can we say if god have taken mercy from you heart bro.
    In Response

    by: Pacifist from: msia
    July 28, 2012 12:11 AM
    dude, as a human, u shud b condemning all these violations itself in d the 1st place, regardless of ur backgrounds, a human shud never treat nother human being as how she/ he wudn wna b treated, dats pure common sense, obviously, andy, u lack tis, u aint human
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