By Iman Amin
Rohingyan Muslims make up roughly one million amongst Burma’s fifty two million Buddhist population. They are a people of South-Asian origin who once lived in Arakan, an independent state (which is now called the Rakhine state). Arakan is on the western border of Burma, near what is now Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are being persecuted to the extent where the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ is now seen as appropriate, however their plight seems almost unheard of
“They have been persecuted and discriminated against for decades but few can even pronounce their name let alone know of their plight.”
A brief history:
In 1942 when Japan overtook British ruled Burma, Burmese nationalists attacked Muslim communities who they thought had benefited from British colonial rule. Later in 1947 when Burma became an independent state, tensions rose because the Rohingya wanted Arakan to join Pakistan. In1962 General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party seized power and took a hard line against the Rohingya. In 1971 the Myanmar government aimed to evict Bengali refugees (who sought had refuge due to the Bangladeshi war of independence) along with large numbers of Rohingya out of the country, but later in 1978, 200,000 refugees were sent back to Myanmar in 1978 due to a repatriation agreement. The Rohingya community have been violently persecuted for years and have sought refuge and been sent back by force multiple times.
In July 1991, Operation Pyi (Clean and Beautiful Nation) took place, where the Myanmar government launched another campaign against the Rohingya, which led to around 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh. The Rohingya community were continuously being ostracised and the Myanmar and Bangladeshi government consistently pushed the burden of responsibility on the each other. The status of the Rohingya in Myanmar was constantly put under question when the 1982 Citizenship Law excluded the Rohingya from both full and associate citizenship, and slowly but surely, their rights were being stripped.
When one looks at the events that have unfolded from 1942 and onwards, you cannot help but see that the world is telling them they have no place they belong.
“Stripped officially of their citizenship, the Rohingya found their lives in limbo: prohibited from the right to own land or property, barred from travelling outside their villages, repairing their decaying places of worship, receiving an education in any language or even marrying and having children without rarely granted government permission.” – Professor Akbar Ahmed (former Pakistani high commissioner to the UK)
Often when we learn about history, and the great atrocities that took place, we see it as a thing of the past. However the reality of the Rohingya Muslims now, unfortunately is not much different. Myanmar’s security forces have committed mass killings, gang rapes, and used the most despicable forms of torture against the Rohingya, burning thousands alive. Despite a campaign that amounts to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, the UN has refused to fully recognise their plight. In 2012, violence between the Rohingya and the Buddhist community killed hundreds and forced about 140,000 people – predominantly Rohingya – to flee their homes to camps for the internally displaced.
One does not need to look further than the Qur’an, where it narrated to us a people who were similarly violently persecuted for professing their belief in Allah and His Messenger
“Indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire.” 85:10
Learning our history as well as keeping up to date with the affairs of our Ummah here and abroad is incumbent upon us not only so we can learn admire the likes of Umar ibn al Khattab, but so that we can see how they protected the honour of our Muslims, and were firm and just against their oppressors. It’s absurd to think the leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi (shown right), who ironically is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, denies the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar whilst Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asks Myanmar to take back tens of thousands of refugees, and says “they’re not our problem”.
But ultimately when accountability to Allah (swt) is not apparent on a state level, the rights of people will never be upheld in a just manner.
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
«إِنَّمَا الْإِمَامُ جُنَّةٌ يُقَاتَلُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِ وَيُتَّقَى بِهِ»
The Imam (Khaleefah) is but a shield, behind whom the Muslims fight and by whom they are protected” (Muslim)
Until the rights of the Rohingya are protected by a state that truly embodies Islam, they will continue to face persecution. May Allah (swt) protect and grant relief to our Rohingyan brothers and sisters. Ameen