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Random thoughts: The Rohingya massacre

For the past few weeks, we have been seeing and hearing about the horrific persecution of Muslims in the Arakan district of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Fanatic Buddhist monks and regular troops have burnt huts, killed thousands of people and raped hundreds of women.

Western powers and the UN are just paying lip service to the matter – in the same way that they reacted to the crises in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. According to the UN, the atrocities perpetrated by the monks and the troops fall under various crimes against humanity.

Nobel Laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi has not said anything against these horrendous atrocities. As a matter of fact, she has become a spokesperson for the perpetrators. She insists that the events that are being reported have not occurred and that the media is simply exaggerating the matter.

Despite these claims, many Western journalists have shown terrifying pictures of atrocities and the bodies of murdered men, women and children. Some of the bodies shown in these photographs had their arms, legs and heads chopped off. These atrocities are in no way any less than those committed by fanatical, orthodox Serbs in Bosnia. At least some of those evildoers paid the penalty that befits their crimes.

History is, once again, repeated itself. Similar inhuman treatment and atrocities were committed by the colonial powers in Africa, Asia, North and South America against the original inhabitants. History is filled with accounts of such barbaric actions. In our generation, we have seen this happening in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The Americans and their allies have attacked and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent, unarmed people, all under an imaginary perception of a security risk to their countries.

If we examine the history of the Rohingya Muslims, we will realise that during the reign of Mughal Empire and the British Raj, Burma was a part of the Subcontinent and there were no barriers involved in travelling from India to Burma. From the 15th century onwards, Muslim and Arab traders and preachers from various countries started visiting the Arakan district of Burma and a large number of them settled in the region. A majority of those who settled there were from undivided Bengal and were considered to be peace-loving people.

Even though they considered themselves to be Burmese, their physical appearance and attire made them looked like Bengalese. The trouble started in 1982 when the Myanmar government adopted a law whereby the Rohingya were deprived of their Burmese nationality.

According to the UN, the Rohingya people are the most persecuted minorities in the world. The total population of the Rohingya in the Arakan district was between 1.3 million and 1.4 million. They mostly lived in the northern Rakhine State, which consisted of around 90 percent of the Rohingya populace. The current atrocities have caused about 900,000 people to flee to south-eastern Bangladesh and neighbouring Muslim countries. More than 200,000 others have been forcibly confined to camps and are living under deplorable conditions.

Government officials claim that the Rohingya are Bangladeshi refugees. However, the Rohingya say that they have belonged to the area for hundreds of years as they came during the Mughal and British colonial periods.

Historical evidence shows that migration from the Subcontinent to Burma took place for centuries – mainly as a part of the spread of Buddhism and Islam. Bengal had historical and cultural ties with the Rakhine State (formerly Arakan). The presence of Bengali-speaking settlers has been recorded in the history of Arakan history since the 15th century. In 1936 and 1939, many Muslims were elected to the Legislative Council of Burma under the Burmese Native Category in British Burma.

After independence in 1948, Rohingya leaders held high positions in the government and parliament. They requested the government to declare Arakan as a separate province under the central government. After the 1962 military takeover, Gen Ne Win’s government started enacting laws against the Rohingya. After the return of martial law in 1988, the army launched a violent crackdown against Muslims. After life became unbearable for them, more than 200,000 moved to Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan and the Middle East in 1991-1992. During British rule, Muslims from the Subcontinent formed the second-largest community in Rakhine – the largest being the Buddhists.

Human beings are an aggressive species. Whenever there is a chance to obtain power and wealth, they immediately become aggressive towards those who are weaker and terrorism, killings, expulsion and torture take place. This has happened all over the world and continues to happen today. Perhaps nothing has caused as much violence as religion and ethnicity.

What is happening against the Rohingya Muslims is a crime against humanity – a war crime. At least for once, Muslim rulers should show solidarity to protect their Rohingya brethren. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan could teach Myanmar a lesson that it would remember forever. They should occupy Arakan (Rohingya land), declare it a non-entry province for the Burmese Army and the police and ensure that the refugees are resettled. A token multi-national force could be put in place to protect the people and no nonsense should be tolerated from the Myanmar government. If the West could create Lebanon, South Sudan and East Timor, Muslim countries should use the same logic and help the Rohingya.

Since it is a matter of Muslim repression, the UN and the West will never take concrete action to address the plight of the Rohingya. We hope Muslim rulers will realise that it was their silence in Bosnia, South Sudan and East Timor that allowed new countries to be created from Muslim countries. Let’s not forget how Hajjaj bin Yousuf sent Muhammad bin Qasim to sort out Raja Dahir of Sindh after hearing about a Muslim woman who had been looted and imprisoned by the locals and was in Raja Dahir’s custody. Remember, the Almighty will hold us all responsible for the indifference shown towards our Muslim brethren who are in need. He has ordained that we help the aggrieved and fight against tyranny and oppression. May Allah Almighty show mercy on the Rohingya.

Email: dr.a.quadeer.khan@gmail.com

Dr A Q Khan, "Random thoughts: The Rohingya massacre," The News. 2017-09-25.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Muslim rulers , Military takeover , Martial law , Violence , Terrorism , Hajjaj bin Yousuf , Muhammad bin Qasim , Turkey , Burma