Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ramadan - Highlighting the plight of the Rohingyas

********************** In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. ********************** Reflection *********************** “Invite to the way of your Rabb with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious, for your Rabb knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance." (An-Nahl: 125) ************************** When I was in Makkah performing hajj a few years ago; while shopping with my wife, we got to know a textile trader, Ahmed who claimed he had migrated from Burma a few years back. ******************** "Myanmar," I corrected and reminded him about the new name of his former homeland. *********************** "No," he said. "The name is still Burma. We are Burma Muslims. We do not recognize that name given by the military junta. We are proud to be Burmese!" ******************** Now, years later when the plight of Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar has taken centre stage, slowly I begin to understand why the trader I met in Makkah, refused to acknowledge the new name of his former country - Myanmar. *********************** To him Burma was the exact name, the military junta's move in giving the country a new name (Myanmar) was not recongnized by certain groups of Burmese especially those living overseas. ******************** Burma Muslims are proud about their history in Burma. The first Muslims arrived in Burma's Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River delta, on the Tanintharyi coast in Rakhine in the 9th century, prior to the establishment of the first Burmese empire in 1055 AD by King Anawrahta of Bagan. ********************** The early Muslim settlements and propagation of Islam were documented by Arab, Persian, European, and Chinese travellers of the 9th century. ********************** Burma Muslims are the descendants of Muslim peoples who settled and intermarried with the local Burmese ethnic groups. *********************** They arrived in Burma as traders or settlers, military personnel and prisoners of war, refugees, and as victims of slavery. However, many early Muslims also held positions of status as royal advisers, royal administrators, port authorities, mayors, and traditional medicine men. ********************* Browsing through the history of the Burmese Muslims can make us understand why former Burmese such as Ahmed prefer the old name of Burma rather than Myanmar which is often associated with the military junta. ************************* From 1962 to 2011, the country was ruled by the military junta that suppressed almost all dissent and wielded absolute power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions. The generals who ran the country stood accused of gross human rights abuses, including the forcible relocation of civilians and the widespread use of forced labour, including children. ************************ Myanmar was among the last country in South East Asia to be included in the regional grouping of Asean, in 1998. It was a well known fact that Asean countries tried not to interfere in the internal affairs of another country but surprisingly during the just concluded Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia through its Foreign Minister, Anifah Aman, urged Myanmar to take stronger action to prevent persecution of Muslims and bring the perpetrators to justice. **************************** Malaysian's actions was seen as the latest sign that the inter-communal violence is straining ties in Southeast Asia. Thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to escape the violence and worsening living conditions, many of them making their way by boat or overland Malaysia. **************************** “Myanmar has to address the problem,” said Anifah. “I know it’s complex but they have to address the problem in a transparent manner so that we can see what actions had been taken … I think the perpetrators have to be brought to justice and so that it does not occur again.” ************************* The UN refugee agency says about 28,000 Rohingyas are registered as refugees in Malaysia, but groups representing them say the real number of Burma Muslim immigrants is much higher and has surged this year because of the violence. ************************ Critics say the Burmese government has done little to bring instigators of the violence to justice or to stem a growing anti-Muslim movement in the country, which returned to democracy in 2011 after a half century of military rule. ************************* Anifah said the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had voiced concern that Asean’s Muslim-majority nations were not doing more to resolve the problem. ************************* If Muslims nations have been told to buck up in resolving the Rohingya's issue, as individual Muslims have we a thought for our brothers' plight especially in view of the coming holy month of Ramadan? *********************** The campaign to highlight the plight of Rohingyas is on going, and during a trip to a masjid recently, I found stacks of leaflets on the Burmese Muslim issue; perhaps this information might inspire readers to give a helping hand to them; at least we could have 'du'a' (pray) to SWT for their safety in their homeland and abroad. ********************** Casualities and destructions list of Rakhine state ************************ The genocidal attacks against unarmed defenseless Rohingya civilians resumed in Arakan from 8 June 2012. The military government that has kept quiet over the 60 million population of Burma for five decades, wisely pretends to be unable to control the situation while local media is still trying to neglect the ongoing violence by repeating a fabricated murder case of an individual. ************************* The list of casualties and destruction of Arakan is described as below in order to compare with the quasi-government's latest report that fancily balanced up by putting up: "the number of casualties on both sides at 77 dead and 109 injured, 4,822 houses, 17 mosques, 15 monasteries and three schools were destroyed, some 14,328 Arakanese Buddhists and 30,740 Rohingya Muslims have been effected and are currently living in 89 temporary camps." **************************** In reality between 8 June to 20 Oct 2012, the death toll was more than 10,000 people, burned and destructed about 16,000 homes plus 57 mosques from 70 Muslim villages across eight different towns of Arakan state. While the number of injuries, rapes, looting, arbitrary abuses is uncountable. There are about 90,000 homeless Rohingyas in Sittwe/Akyab alone but less than half of them have been listed in five refugee camps and are receiving very poor assistance. *************************** The rest about 50,000 shelterless Muslims victims comprising Rohingyas, Kaman and Rakhine Muslims in Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Kyauktaw, Pauktaw, Rambre, Myebon and Ponnagyuan towns are still compelled to die due to starvation. And no aid group has visited from the beginning of the crisis. Arakanese Muslims all over Arakan are also facing food shortage since the beginnng as a result of the government's imposition of confinement upon them. ************************** The displaced number of Rakhines is less than 500 people from burnt down houses and about 50 of Mingan village of Sittwe town and less than 1,000 people from about 100 houses of Maungdaw township. ***************************** It is very sad to know all reports still display poor calculation. Let us say that only at Sittwe town about 90,000 were displaced. Where they lived 22 persons to a house as every report mentioned about 4,000 houses have apparently been burnt down there? And how about 50,000 other displaced in seven different towns - Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Kyauktaw, Pauktaw, Rambre, Myebon and Ponnagyuan? And how many thousands houses have been destroyed in these regions? *********************** Additionally, from 20 Oct 2012, vigillant attacks by Rakhine Buddhist people caused about 6,000 houses plus 35 mosques to be burnt down and about 1,000 people including about 20 Rakhines has also died in six different towns - Minbya, Mrauk U, Kyaukpyu, Myebon, Pauktaw, and Rambre towns of Southern Arakan state. The dead bodies of 178 those found in Mrauk U town were buried in the graveyard of Yainetay (Zula Fara Village). *********************** Muslims countries of Asean and UN should form an ad hoc body to pressure Myanmar authority in all levels on the Rohingya's issue, otherwise the junta would just turn on a deaf ear. *************************** Some individuals and groups have called on Malaysia to boycott the coming 27th SEA Games to be held in Myanmar at the end of the year as a way to pressure the regime to settle the issue. ************************ The question is, have we done our part in helping our brothers, the Rohingyas, especially during this Ramadan?

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