Categorised | Letters to the Editor

The forgotten Muslims

OF the unjust borders drawn by Western colonial powers after World Wars I and II, the border between Arakan and south Thailand is among the most cruelly drawn. The Rohingya Muslims of Arakan (now Rakhine) were cut off from the Malay Muslims of south Thailand, as well as the Muslims of present-day Malaysia and Bangladesh.

A Rohingya mother with her child in a refugee camp
on the Bangladesh-Burma border (© Howard Davis;
Placed under the political authority of Rangoon (now Yangon), capital of the country formerly known as Burma, the Arakan region entered a long period of neglect and oppression. Finally, after many years of immense suffering, they began to take small boats to the open sea in hopes of landing somewhere as political, economic, and religious refugees. They have been refused everywhere.

No one wants them. Countries that claim to represent Muslims do not want them, thus proving that there is no such thing as a Muslim ummah. The Rohingya are applying now for the most they can hope for, that is, the United Nations’ temporary refugee status, until other countries agree to take them in. Indonesia is said to be considering their application to land in Aceh temporarily.

Myanmar ignores the Rohingya completely, saying they are the problem of Bangladesh. How the Myanmarese military regime can get away with such a blatant lie is incredible. The border defended by the United Nations clearly places these people as a Muslim minority in the predominantly Buddhist state of Myanmar and nowhere else.

If Myanmar doesn’t want anything to do with the Arakan region, they must give this part of their territory away to another country. Instead, the regime is driving the Arakanese, including the Rohingya, away, forcing them to become “boat people” at the mercy of rape, robbery, and drowning or starving in the open sea.

Suppose the Indonesian foreign minister, who has already gone on record as having no interest in “Muslim issues”, does grant temporary asylum to the Rohingya. Even so, some other country, presumably non-Muslim, must be identified to take them, or else they will be cast out yet again, to die unwanted and without a homeland to call their own.

What did these Muslims do to deserve such treatment at the hands of their fellow Muslims, not to mention the documented evidence of rape and pillage at the hands of the Thai authorities? They have never fought a war, nor do they sit on top of any proven deposits of oil or other valuable minerals. Perhaps this is why no one wants them — they are truly among the “have nots” of this world.

Rohingya huts in southern Bangladesh [email protected]$([email protected], source: Flickr)

As were the muhajirun (Meccan refugees) who followed prophet Muhammad to establish their city-state in Medina in the first years of the Hijrah calendar. At least back then, there was a prophet of God to teach and protect them. Evidently, Muslims have totally lost their spirit and do not care to intervene in the tragic deaths of so many of these “boat people”. What would the prophet do now, seeing the plight of this community of Muslims?

Undoubtedly he would weep. He never feared to show his grief, either for the deaths of his own children or for the danger of hellfire for his Muslim followers. And that same hellfire looms close to us all now, unless our elected authorities and leaders do something to rescue the Rohingya. And they must do it now. Or else part of our so-called ummah may perish finally and forever from this earth.

Azril Mohd Amin
Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim)

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9 Responses to “The forgotten Muslims”

  1. t says:

    While it is a heartening note to (finally) hear of a Malaysian Muslim organisation pay attention to the plight of Rohingyas, is there a deliberate attempt to not mention the existence of the Rohingya population currently residing in Malaysia and their constant risk of arrest and detention?

    Why should only Indonesia or other non-Muslim countries accept them? What about the Malaysian government’s silence on the issue? Even if Muslim countries don’t want to accept Rohingyas to reside temporarily in their countries on the basis of religious solidarity, they should do so in the name of human rights.

    Whether nations in this region like it or not, they have to address the refugee issue and implement durable solutions. The exodus will not stop until the Rohingya have a place to live like normal human beings.

  2. zaw aung says:

    Actually, the Rohingya is not a race that belongs in Myanmar. I don’t understand why the media makes this a problem. I never learnt about the Rohingya race since I was in school.

  3. rin says:

    As a non-muslim, I’m outraged that Azril did not call on the non-Muslims to support the Rohingya. Ain’t we all human?

    I’m further enraged that he did not call for the other host countries, i.e. Thailand, Bangladesh, India, and most importantly our beloved Malaysia, to uphold the international principles of human rights to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to the Rohingyas (stop the detention and arrests)!

    I’m absolutely appalled with his hypocrisy and exclusivity, and demand that his movement to appeal/urge/plead strongly to our government to call for an emergency regional meeting to find a viable solution for the Rohingya refugee crisis during the Asean summit in Thailand from 27 Feb to 1 Mar. Period.

  4. support from all says:

    Agree that it is a question of universal human rights; why should any cause be solely appropriated by certain groups only? There is a coalition of NGOs that are calling for just treatment of migrant workers and refugees, and they do not belong to a certain religious group only. Likewise, religious groups can show solidarity in the interest of justice to work hand in hand with all.

  5. jwd says:

    It is heartening and commendable that Abim has come out with such a fantastic appeal to the world community.

    The Rohingya are a race now facing the ethnic cleansing and should be referred to the World Court because their case qualifies as the highest degree of systematic genocide.

    Maybe the Rohingya community does not have a legal expert to do so. We are urging the international community or any organisation or legal institutions to frame a tangible case.

    This action shall be very feared by the authorities in Myanmar as they do not have the excuse any more saying it is an internal matter.

  6. S. Hussein says:

    Zaw Aung, your ideology is racist.

  7. t says:

    Zaw Aung, do you honestly trust the things you learnt in school back in Burma? You don’t think that the syllabus was controlled by the Myanmar government and propaganda fed to the students?

    Question everything you learn.

  8. deepo says:

    Zaw Aung,

    I used to treat the Rohingya in Pati camp with other medical doctors. We provided free medical supplies to them at the Pati detention camp under NGO movements.

  9. A. says:

    The Rohingyas came into Burma from Bangladesh illegally because of economic hardships in their country. They were not born in Burma (maybe excluding young children). Look at the photo in the article. They don’t even know how to speak any Burmese dialects.

    They want to leave again because Burma is also a poor country. Even Burmese leave the country for the same reason too and some ended up dead on their way. Of course, the Burmese government should take care of them but again, they don’t even care about their own people.

    The persecution is not the Buddhists and the Burmese against the Rohingyas. It’s the Burmese government against all the people in Burma.

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