Rohingya Muslims: The world’s most persecuted minority

Rohingya Muslims: The world’s most persecuted minority

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Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

Rohingya Muslims are considered to be the most persecuted minority in the world. This fact is recognized by the United Nations and by almost all human rights organizations. Several prominent international human rights activists have noted that Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to massive ethnic cleansing in Myanmar (formerly Burma), a predominantly Buddhist country in Southeast Asia.

The military government in Myanmar has deprived these hapless people of their citizenship after considering them to be illegal residents who migrated from Bangladesh irrespective of the fact that they are an ethnic community who have been living in the northwestern Rakhine state since the 8th century CE.

Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to persecution and injustice; they have been killed and driven out of their homes. Their houses and mosques have been torched and their properties seized. Those who escaped torture managed to run away to neighboring countries. Buddhist extremists are perpetrating crimes against these hapless people with the clandestine support and blessing of the military government which ruled the country for more than half a century. The military junta still wields its influence in the upper echelons of the state under a constitution which it has framed. However, the military government held general elections in November during which Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition party – the National League for Democracy – won a sweeping victory and is now set to take over as the head of a democratic government in the country.

Suu Kyi was put under house arrest for more than a decade by the military junta and this helped her to garner global sympathy and support. She was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize and the growing global pressure in favor of her forced the military government to end her house arrest. However, the government imposed restrictions in order to prevent her from taking over power in the country. These include the condition that those citizens who married foreigners or have children from foreign spouses are disqualified from assuming power as the head of the country’s government. Suu Kyi was married to a Briton and the couple had two children. Moreover, the army took control of 25 percent of parliamentary seats as well as some key cabinet portfolios.

It was evident that Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, while serving as opposition leader, avoided reacting to the atrocities being perpetrated against Rohingya Muslims. She also declined to comment on the criticism leveled against the military government by prominent rights activists from various parts of the world.  It is unfortunate that Suu Kyi has yet to speak out against the plight of the Rohingya. The continuous persecution of these hapless people has not prompted her to break her long silence on the issue.
She did not even respond to criticism leveled against her by some Nobel laureates. They accused her of sacrificing fundamental principles and human values for the sake of political gains with an eye to gaining the votes of the Buddhist majority. However, some of them defended her by drawing attention to her limitations in the prevailing situation in the country where the majority community is hostile to Rohingyas.

Even after the landslide victory of Suu Kyi’s party in the parliamentary elections, the military still controls the state’s affairs. They consider themselves to be the saviors of the constitution. Any political reform in the country is possible only by making the necessary amendments to the constitution and this can be done only with the blessing of the military leadership. The military commander recently indicated that major constitutional reforms are on the anvil. This means that the military would continue wielding control over the government in future as well. Any attempt to change the status quo without the consent of the military might lead to the toppling of the government and the return of military rule to the country as in the case of several other countries in the Third World. It will not be easy to restore the usurped rights of Rohingya Muslims. The opposition leader Suu Kyi, who won the election, does not seem to be willing or able to stop the atrocities and crimes being perpetrated against these people. Hence, I believe that there is a need for further international pressure, including tough sanctions even against the democratic government to be formed by Suu Kyi this month.

International and regional bodies such as the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and ASEAN must take the initiative, including convening international conferences, with the objective of ending the persecution of Rohingya Muslims. Similarly, it is the moral and humanitarian responsibility of neighboring states, especially Muslim states, to stand by these people who in the words of South African bishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu are facing slow genocide.   Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com

13 COMMENTS

  1. Jazakallahu khairan Dr Ali al Ghamdi for bringing this issue up. The Rohyingia issue is a very tragic case where it seems no one is taking their plight seriously enough to make a difference. It has been a very depressing existence for the Rohyngia Muslims for the last 60+ years. In the UK, where I live, there doesn’t seem to be any discussion on this topic politically. Even the UK based NGO’s or the Muslim community isn’t proactively campaigning for their rights…

  2. First of all, who are Rohingya Muslims? In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, majority of hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have entered KSA from that region, for economic reasons are called
    “Burmese”.
    How could one be persecuted if they were granted Burmese passports to perfrom Pilgrimage ( In KSA) which is a costly affair?
    Did the writer know that majority of those Burmese ( Bengali?Rohingya) refugees collected Zakat from KSA and then set up huge businesses in the capitlas of the current day ” Myanmar”? All big companies in Myanmar construction sector are Bengalis/Rogingya.
    In fact, KO Ni, one of the leagl advisors at Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD is a Rohingya/Bengali origin with dark skin, who studied at the university in Myanmar and gained law degree.
    Hopfully, the author would stop writing nonsense.

    • World, US President, German President and other human being requested to consider about Rohingya’s suffering in Burmese created hell. Only few blind cruel hearted and ignorant people are pretending as they do not know Rohingya. I have seen pictures of Muslim young students burned alive in Mikitila by extremists. You will not find a single Muslim member in Parliament( Lut Daw) .

    • Brother Sulaiman Mohammed, please kindly do a little research on the history of the Rohyngia Muslims on Google, if you can’t get it from any other reliable sources. You may have come across a first hand bad example of these people but without knowing their full history, I think some of your comments are irrelevant. FYI, the Rohyngia Muslims live concentrated in the Arakan area bordering Bangladesh. Currently, due to ethnic pogroms carried out by the extremists Buddhist locals, most of the Rohyngia Muslims live in refugee camps.

    • This is in response to Sulaiman Mohammed who seamed to be ignorant of what is happening in Myanmar. But he seemed not to be living in this world. Where is he from What the whole world are saying about the rohingya plight. Even the south African religious leader bishop desmond tu tu who declared that rohingya Muslims are facing slow genocide. The dalai lama of Tibet has recognized the oppression the rohingya Muslims are facing. I advise Mr. Sulaiman to read history and geography before he comments on such problem which the whole world is aware of it.

  3. All vulnerable peoples are oppressed and persecuted wherever they may be. That’s the shame of it. Let’s clean up our own vulnerabilites instead of worrying about others.

  4. AT REGULAR INTERVALS THIS SUBJECT COMES UP. APART FROM TALKING WRITING ETC. LITTLE IS DONE FOR THEM. WHAT IS THE O I C REPRESENTING 1.6 BILLION MUSLIMS DOING ?
    THE O I C TOO IS LIKE AN ELITIST CLUB THAT REGULARLY MEET GREET AND PART TO MEET
    AGAIN. I AM SORRY I ALMOST FORGOT THAT THEY DO ISSUE A STATEMENT,WHICH NO ONE HEEDS.

  5. Next come children of expats born in Saudi Arabia.
    We are neither citizens of the country we grew up loving or citizens of the country our parents belong to. That is if those countries are still safe from war…

  6. IF A CHILD IS BORN TO FOREIGNERS, THERE ARE SEVERAL COUNTRIES, WHICH GRANT
    CITIZENSHIP TO THE NEW BORN. I KNOW OF PEOPLE WHO LATER, BY BEING THE PARENTS
    OF THAT CHILD HAVE MIGRATED.
    ARE WE ALL NOT THE CHILDREN OF ADAM AND EVE.?
    ALLAH MADE US DIFFERENT THAT WE KNOW EACH OTHER.DID ALLAH DIVIDE THE WORLD INTO DIFFERENT COUNTRIES ? NOT AT ALL…
    WE HUMANS ARE THE BEST OF ALLAH’S CREATIONS, BUT DESCEND TO LOWER LEVELS THAN ANIMALS.

  7. I am rohingya from Burma, Mr. Ghamdi, thank you for spreading anti buddhist hate, we rohingya have no problem in Burma….

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