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;
source: exileimages.co.uk) 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.
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)