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July 22, 2012
Grave Threat to the Survival of the Burmese Muslims
By Saeed Qureshi
Will the conscience of the international community awaken at the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority population in Burma or Myanmar? The Buddhist monks and the newly inducted democratic government seem to be poised against a small-sized Muslim population and have embarked upon unleashing a reign of tyranny and specter of terror on them in for about a year now.
Following the Myanmar’s President Thein Sein’s call in early June this year that the Rohingya Muslims must be expelled from the country and sent to refugee camps run by the United Nations, 11 innocent Muslims were killed by the Burmese Army and the Buddhist mobs after disembarking them from a bus.
Retaliating to the protests by the Burmese Muslims for this gruesome slaughter, the army and the Buddhists killed 50 more Muslims. In the sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists, in Burma's western State, thousands of Muslims’ homes have been burnt. An estimated 90,000 Muslims have been uprooted.
The Muslim population in Burma is estimated to be 4 per cent of the entire population of around 60 million. It comes to roughly 2.4 million. These Muslims have been living in Burma for ages. They look like Burmese in features and speak the same language. Briefly they are native Burmese except that they profess a different faith in a country whose predominant population believes in Buddhism The state sponsored carnage of the tiny Muslim minority, is hurling up a colossal humanitarian disaster.
While Buddhists preach peace, tolerance and compassion, in the case of Muslims there seems to be an unholy alliance between the tyrannical Burmese army and the Buddhists monks for massacring the defenseless and helpless Muslims. It is suspected that the Burma's large and much feared military intelligence service, the ‘Directorate of Defense Security Intelligence’ may have agents planted within the monk-hood.
Sadly, there is no let up in terrorizing and killing the hapless Muslim community by the hostile Burmese police and government. Those Muslims, who were pushed or fled on their own towards the neighboring Bangladesh, were refused entry. They were returned by the BD authorities back to Burma. The international humanitarian organizations such as UNHCR and the Islamic countries have not even mutely protested or taken up this most heart-wrenching human crisis at any forum.
One is reminded of the East Timor ethnic crisis when the Indonesian Islamic regime was accused of maltreating and suppressing the Christian population there. The entire Christian world with Australia in the lead, under the aegis of the United Nations truncated Indonesia. On May 20, 2002, East Timor separated from Indonesia and became an independent Christian state.
Likewise the western countries and particularly the United States pressurized and isolated president Omar al-Bashir of the Republic of Sudan (North Sudan) to such an extent that he finally gave in and agreed to the cessation of South Sudan as an independent country. South Sudan became an independent state on 9 July 2011. The population of Christians in the south is 80 percent while that of Muslim is 18 per cent. Understandably the division of Sudan was maneuvered to create a separate independent state for the Christians so as to live in peace and to save them from the civil war.
In former Yugoslavia, the NATO saved Muslim population from a brutal spree of ethnic cleansing by the Serbian army and that was one of the most marked human relief and rescue by the Christian west for the sake of the oppressed Muslims.
The Bosnian Serb army committed atrocious and most heinous genocide against the Muslims and Bosnian Croats in 1995. Besides, a bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing of Muslims was also carried out throughout the areas controlled by the Bosnian Serb Army during the 1992–1995 Bosnian War. The United Nations and NATO”s role (April 1933-December 1995) in ending genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Bosnians Muslims by the Serbian military is a golden chapter of history. Otherwise the Muslims would have been reduced to a tiny minority in their own territories.
Hopefully among the comity of nations, two countries can play a vital and decisive role in rescuing besieged and distressed Muslims of Burma. One is Saudi Arabia that can exert her influence and persuade other Muslim countries to approach the United Nations for an urgent action on the miserable plight of the Burmese Muslims and the grave existential threat to them. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and other Muslim states can also approach the Burmese regime urging it to stop the persecution and intimidation of the Burmese Muslims that are entitled to equal rights as citizens including that of religious freedom under the constitution.
Secondly, it is China that is in the strongest position to exert her clout to ask the Burmese leaders to desist from their bestiality against the Muslim population. If the Burmese incumbent government continues its brutal extermination of Muslims, then it would lose its good image as a democratic regime established after long spell of military dictatorship. Its decision to release the most prominent Burmese opposition politician, chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and human rights activist San Suu Kyi after her incarceration for 21 years, was also lauded internationally.
In 2005, the Burmese Ministry of Religious Affairs issued a declaration concerning freedom of religion for all religious communities. The stated official policy of the government of Burma is that “all ethnic, religious, and language groups in Burma are equal”. The Burmese Supreme Court observed in a verdict that “in various parts of Burma, there are people who, because of the origin and the isolated way of life, are totally unlike the Burmese in appearance or speak of events which had occurred outside the limits of their habitation. They are nevertheless statutory citizens under the Union (of Burma) Citizenship Act”
In case of Burmese Muslims’ nightmare, the NATO's role is not at all needed. This grave humanitarian calamity is in need of diplomatic efforts to prevail upon the Burmese government to stop aggression against a community living there for ages and is essentially Burmese.
Nor for Burmese Muslims, it is a question of a separate independent land for them. It is essentially to guarantee their survival, security and equality within the Republic of the Union of Myanmar against the burgeoning ethnic and religious challenges to them.