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Sunday, 18 November 2012
The OIC Takes the Rohingya Muslim Issue in Myanmar to the UN Bookmark and Share
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Buddhist Monks in Myanmar Protest OIC                                                                                            Rakhine state in Myanmar

Source: Agence France Press/Getty Images                                                                                     Source: Wall Street Journal

On the cusp of President Obama’s trip to Myanmar, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has launched a campaign to bring the problem of sectarian violence against the country’s minority Rohingya Muslims to the UN.  A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report in late October noted the ethnic problems of the Rohingya in Myanmar:

Around 800,000 Rohingya Muslims live in Myanmar, many of them subsisting in refugee camps, making up just 1.25% of Myanmar's 64 million population. Much larger ethnic groups include Bamar, who comprise 68% of the population; Shan, with 9%; Karen, comprising 7%; and Rakhine, who account for 4% of the total population.

The festering problem of sectarian warfare between the 800,000 and the predominately Buddhist majority in Myanmar has largely been concentrated in the Rakhine state were more than 70,000 have fled to refugee camps there prompted by sectarian bloodletting and burning of  more than 4,000 homes..

  The OIC, a globe spanning 57 member a virtual global Caliphate is headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. An ABNA news release  noted that the OIC condemned “the continued recourse to violence by the Myanmar authorities against the members of this minority and their refusal to recognize their right to citizenship”.  According to the ABNA report, a delegation of the OIC met  with Myanmar’s Reformist President Thein Sein  in Yangon on Friday  that resulted  in recognizing the “deplorable humanitarian situation in Rakhine State”. The OIC delegation “assured Thein Sein that “Islamic humanitarian organizations were willing to provide aid to … the strife torn state”.  The WSJ report in October cited concerns raised by Muslim Members of the OIC in the region to virulent opposition led by lead by Buddhist monks to the OIC presence in Myanmar:

Muslim nations—including regional trade partners such as Indonesia and Malaysia—are growing more concerned about the fate of the Rohingya Muslims after the Myanmar government reacted to protests from Buddhist monks, among others, and blocked plans for the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation to open a liaison office to help channel aid to the Rohingya. The denial underscored discrimination against the Rohingya, whom the government doesn't consider to be Myanmar citizens, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Prior to the Yangon meetings, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced a $50 million aid package to the 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar “several rights violations, including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement”.  On Saturday, at a Summit of OIC Foreign Ministers meeting in Djibouti issued a statement stating that these were “crimes against humanity” and that the Muslim World body “decided to bring this matter before the General Assembly of the United Nations.”

Critics like Ann Corcoran of the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog believe that the OIC may be expanding the Muslim beachhead in Southeast Asia and demands for more Rohingya refugees being admitted to the US.

According to an article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, the sectarian strife is a by-product of liberalization that freed Buddhist monks who may have stoked the ethnic violence, “Myanmar’s Ethnic Strife Undercuts Reform”.  The WSJ article cited as one example the release in a general amnesty of a virulent anti-Muslim Buddhist monk, Sayataw Virathu, jailed in 2003 for inciting anti-Muslim riots in Mandalay. Following his release, Virathu and followers traveled to Rakhine.  Virathu was quoted as saying:

We have to expel the Muslims. We don’t want to expel the Muslims; we don’t want what happened in Afghanistan, here (a reference to the Taliban destruction of two giant 6th Century Buddha statues in 2001).  

He said his biggest fear was that Rakhine state could become the gateway for growth of Islam in Myanmar: “Muslims are different to us”.

According to the WSJ report, Virathu and his followers have organized protests in Yangon endeavoring to block plans announced by the OIC to aid Muslims in Rakhine state.  US Ambassador to Myanmar, David Mitchell is quoted in the WSJ report saying; “it’s been disappointing to people on the outside that Buddhist monks have been leading the charge against Muslim communities here”.  That comment was echoed by local ‘hard line politicians’ in Rakhine.  The WSJ report  cited:  Oo Hia Saw, secretary general of the Rakhine National Development Party saying: “Look, we can’t accept the Muslims. They don’t belong here. But we have these young renegade monks making the situation worse. What we need is for the situation to be clam, but they’re not helping.”  Kyaw Hia Aung, a Rohingya living in a Sitwe refugee camp complained: “We are being cut off from the rest of Myanmar. It is as if the government is trying to turn us into foreigners”.

The bloodletting in Rakhine started in June following the rape and murder of Rakhine murder was blamed on Muslims and resulting lynching of Rohingya have resulted in scores of deaths.

But who are the Rohingya Muslims and why so much friction in predominately Buddhist Myanmar? A partial answer to the question can be found in an Express Tribune article by Khaled Ahmed. Ahmed notes:

The Muslims of Burma call themselves the Rohingya. They are 800,000 strong. Burma has a population of [64] million. Because Muslims were not accepted, they kept migrating with not much success. There are 300,000 of them in Bangladesh and 24,000 in Malaysia. The world is resisting Burma’s request to take charge of them. Their origins are uncertain mainly because of the varying versions of their genesis.

History speaks of them as living in the Arakan region of Burma, today called Rakhine. After a recent massacre, when a television channel interviewed the victims, they spoke in Urdu. But their speech is actually supposed to be another Indo-European language linguistically related to the Chittagongian language spoken in the southernmost part of Bangladesh bordering Burma.

Next door, Bangladesh has always been reluctant to absorb the Rohingya.

But the Bangladeshi Muslims are also perpetrating veritable pogroms against Buddhists there, burning their Temples. Witness this from a Jerusalem Post report:

On October 2, according to a report in Al-Jazeera, “Crowds of Muslims descended onto Ramu after pictures desecrating Islam and the Koran were found on the Facebook page of a young Buddhist man living in the area.”

In another report from Dubai-based Big News Network, it was noted that: “the Buddhists moved to safety after an overnight weekend attack in which thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims burned at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes in anger over a Facebook photo of a burned Quran.”

The temples were over 250 years old. However, it appears that the photos said to belong to the Buddhist were in fact only tagged with his name and were download by local imams and passed around. According to Madrassa teacher Shamsul Haque, who downloaded the photos, the “Muslims in this community wanted justice and are fed up with being insulted.”

The problem of Rohingya refuges has even spread to the US.  Our colleague, Ann Corcoran at the Refugee Resettlement Watch noted in a recent report the emergence of Samantha Power, Special Assistant for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights prepping President Obama on the Rohingya Muslim issue in Myanmar and the surprising lack of interest by human rights icon  Aung San Suu Kyi.

But, now we see she (Powers)  is out and about and talking about Obama’s trip to Burma (Myanmar) where I expect he will scold the government for being so mean to the Rohingya Muslims. He will probably also put pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi who has so far refused to jump into the controversy and take the Rohingya side. As we reported hereafter huge protests by monks, the Myanmar government had the audacity to disallow the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to set up shop in the country.

Aung San Suu Kyi continues to tick-off the “human rights” cabal for not speaking up in defense of the Muslims.

Corcoran cites a recent statement by Aung San Suu Kyi  in a Voice of America report when queried about her silence on the Rohingya issue during a pro-democracy visit with the Indian Foreign Minister in New Delhi:

Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday told an Indian news channel that the violence was a “huge international tragedy.” She said she had not spoken on behalf of Rohingya Muslims, because she wanted to promote reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.

“But don’t forget that violence has been committed by both sides. This is why I prefer not to take sides. And, also I want to work toward reconciliation between these two communities. I am not going to be able to do that if I take sides," she said.

In an email exchange, Corcoran commented about the benighted US State Department position and those of contractors like the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

As for how many we have brought to the US, there is no way of telling because the State Department lumps them all in as "Burmese" ...the majority are Christian Burmese (Karen) and some Chin.


Five years ago the State Dept. was trying hard to NOT bring Rohingya but somehow over the years they've been worn down.


There is also a very awful murder case in Utah where a Burmese Muslim refugee killed a young Christian Burmese girl. They don't use the word Rohingya when discussing him, but he surely is Rohingya.


This past spring I attended the State Department hearings for Refugee Resettlement for 2013. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops witness testified that they wanted the State Dept . to get moving on the Rohingya. Other groups mentioned the poor vulnerable Rohingya....

Given President Obama’s trip to Myanmar and visits with  President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi  will the matter of the Rohingya Muslim  “problem ‘come up and will the ‘iron lady’ of Myanmar, Ms. Suu Kyi set him straight on resolution. With Ms. Power back in the picture whoever takes over at our State Department might be pressured to open the floodgates of refugee resettlement in the US for these problematic Rohingya Muslims that nobody wants.

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Posted on 11/18/2012 6:06 AM by Jerry Gordon
Comments
18 Nov 2012
Send an emailLogan

 Good for the Burmese. If they're smart they will expel all muslims and not let in a single one. The inevitable threat is too great. If you don't belive me, then read your history books. Start with the slaughter of around 80,000,000 people in India by muslims. Yes, 80  million.





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