MYANMAR AND ROHINGYA MUSLIMS 
Posted on April 3rd, 2018

 Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

 The Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar are not indigenous to Myanmar. Most of these Rohingya Muslims are illicit immigrants who have illegally migrated to Myanmar starting in the British colonial period, from Muslim neighborhood regions of Bengal India. Later they continued to migrate from East Pakistan (present Bangladesh). Being illicit immigrants, the Myanmar governments of the past and present and the public of Myanmar do not consider Rohingya Muslims as legitimate citizens of Myanmar. Myanmar’s Muslims account for about 04% of the total Myanmar population of about 60 million. They live mostly in Myanmar’s western state known officially as Rakhine or Arakan. Rakhine State consists of a population of about 3,8 million, with the indigenous Rakhine people forming the overwhelming majority in the State, who live mainly in the lowland valleys.  Most of the indigenous people living in Rakhine State adhere to Theravada Buddhism. The Muslim community of Rakhine state was estimated to be about 800,000 in 2012. Culturally the Rohingya Muslims are quite different to the indigenous people of Myanmar. The indigenous people of Myanmar are ethno-linguistically Sino-Tibetan and are predominantly Buddhists as opposed to the Rohingya Muslims who are ethno-linguistically related to the Indo-Aryan Bengali people of India and Bangladesh and their religion is Islam. The language spoken by the Rohingya Muslims is different from that of the indigenous people of Myanmar. It is derived from  a Indo-Aryan sub-branch of the greater Indo-European language family and is closely related to the Chittagonian language spoken in the southernmost part of the present Bangladesh bordering Myanmar.

RAKKHITA BUDDHIST COMMUNITY OF ROHANG

Rohang is an important region of Myanmar inhabited from ancient times by the Rakkhita, Rakkha or Rakhaing people, who belong to the indigenous Buddhist community of Burma.  From historic times, this was a highly respected Burmese community, well known for the honourable life they led. They were well known for their contribution to the development and preservation of the national cultural heritage and Buddhist spiritual values.  These Rakkhita people had their own language and their livelihood was strongly based on Buddhist principles. The name of the state Rakhine isderived from the Pali word Rakkhita or Rakkhapura which means “the land of the Rakhasa” or Rakkha or Rakhaing.

It was mostly during the British colonial period that Muslim people illegally crossed the borders and settled in border regions of Burma, concentrating largely in Rohang which was also known as Rakhine or Arakan, located in the immediate neighborhood of Bengal. Their numbers increased substantially during the British colonial period, and thereafter. Despite the government rule limiting Muslims to two children per family, Rohinghas ignored this law and the Muslim population in Myanmar has continued to show an increasing trend. According to historians of Myanmar, the name ‘Rohingya’ is of recent origin and appears to have been created in the1950’s, by the descendants of the Muslim Bengali people who settled down in the Rohang or Arakan region of Myanmar. The name Rohingya has not been used or recognized in the Burma population census conducted by the British in the year 1824.  It is also noteworthy that the name Rohingya is not found in any historical source in any language before the 1950’s.

There were striking differences in the customs, traditions, and livelihood patterns of the two communities – the indigenous Burmese Buddhists of the Arakan region, especially the Rakkhita community and the Muslim immigrants from Bengal. These cultural incompatibilities and differences resulted in open conflicts between the two communities, which were well evident from about the mid-20thcentury.  Soon violence broke out in the Arakan region and the Muslim Rohingyas became a serious threat to the people of Myanmar. Occasional isolated violence involving Myanmar’s majority Buddhist and minority Muslim communities has occurred for decades, even under the authoritarian military governments that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011.

BRITISH RESPONSIBLE FOR AGGRAVATION OF THE PROBLEM

According to Aye Chan, a historian at the Kanda University, communal violence between the Arakanese or the indigenous Myanmar (Burmese) Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims began during World War -II in 1942.  The British were primarily responsible for the aggravation of disharmony between the Rohingya Muslims and the indigenous people of Myanmar. During the World War, when the British were retreating, they took action to arm Muslim groups in Northern Arakan to create a buffer zone against the Japanese invasion.  Furthermore, the British promised the Muslims living in Burma (Myanmar) at this time, that if they supported the British during the war, the Muslims will be given their own “national area” within Burma. Once acquiring arms, the Muslim Rohingyas became a serious threat to the people of Myanmar. They soon began a spree of violence against the Buddhists of the Arakan region. They began destroying Buddhist villages in Arakan, using the firearms given to them by the British.  In 1942, a major armed confrontation occurred between the Rohingya Muslims and indigenous Arakanese people which led to many casualties on both sides.  Rohingya Muslims massacred about  20,000 Arakanese in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships.  In retaliation, about  5,000 Muslims in Minbya and Mrauk-U Townships were killed by the Arakanese.

In the mid-20th century, Rohingya Muslims living in Arakan organized into several militant groups. They formed an aggressive movement known as the Mujahideen movement which was active during the 1947 to 1961 period.  There were several Mujahideen uprisings in Arakan.  The aim behind the riots of the Rohingya militant groups was to separate the northern part of Arakan, or the Muslim populated Mayu frontier region and create an independent Muslim state for the Rohingya Muslims and annex it to the newly-formed Muslim East Pakistan as an exclusively Muslim country.

In 1947, when a new Islamic country of Pakistan was about to be formed, Rohingya Muslims who had already possessed arms from the British, wanted to obtain a “national area” for them within Burma, in accordance to the assurance given to them by the British. They formed the North Arakan Muslim League  and  met  Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and requested that Mayu region of Myanmar be annexed to East Pakistan which was about to be formed. Jinnah however, was not in favour of such a move. This did not stop the Rohingya Muslims in their agitation for separation from Myanmar.  During the 1960’s and early 1970’s, there were several uprisings which were popularly known as Arakan State Riots.  A widespread armed insurgency started with the formation of a Muslim political party called Jami-a-tul Ulema-e Islam, demanding separation.

The Burmese central government refused to grant a separate Muslim state in the Mayu region and the Muslim militants of Northern Arakan declared jihad on Burma. The Mujahid militants began their insurgent activities in the Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships within the Mayu region that lies on Burma-East Pakistan border, led by a long-term Muslim criminal named Abdul Kassem who was a leader of the Mujahid movement. There was  widespread violence in the Arakanese villagers and the Buddhist Arakanese inhabitants of Buthidaung and Maungdaw were forced to leave their homes. By June 1949, the Mujahid rebels were in possession of all of northern Arakan. In the meantime, the Mujahid extremists encouraged and supported illegal immigration into the Arakan region of thousands of Muslim Bengali people from the over-populated East Pakistan. 

When the rebellion was becoming intensified the Myanmar government declared martial law and took firm action to contain the militants. This led to the subjugation of the Mujahid insurgency and the Muslim insurgents fled to the jungles of northern Arakan. Between 1950 and 1954, the Burmese army launched major military operations against the Mujahid rebels in Northern Arakan. All major centres of the Mujahids were captured and several of their leaders were subdued. Towards the end of 1961, most Mujahids surrendered, but some formed small armed groups and continued to loot, harass, and terrorize the Burmese Buddhists, especially in remote regions in Northern Arakan.

THE RADICALIST MOVEMENTS (1971-1988)

During Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, the Rohingya Muslim who resided in the Myanmar-Bangladesh border had the opportunity to collect weapons.  In 1972, the Rohingya Muslims formed the Rohingya Liberation Party (RLP) with activities based in the jungles of Buthidaung.  Military Operation conducted by the Burmese Army in 1974 led to many Muslim insurgents fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. In March 1978, the Burmese government launched a campaign to check illegal immigrants residing in Burma. This led to many thousands of Rohingyas in the Arakan region crossing the border to Bangladesh.  Arrests of illegal migrants by the Burmese army created unrest in Arakan and as a result, there was a mass exodus of around 252,000 refugees to Bangladesh.

In late 1982, the Burmese Citizenship Law was introduced and most of the Rohingyas were denied Burmese citizenship. Radical Rohingya militant group took this opportunity to recruit many Rohingya Muslims who were occupying the region along the Bangladesh-Burma border. In the early 1980s, radical Muslims formed the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) which soon became the most militant faction among the Rohingyas on the Burma-Bangladesh border.  Using the Islam religious card, the RSO was able to obtain various forms of assistance and support from the Muslim world, including the JeI in Bangladesh and Pakistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami (HeI) in Afghanistan, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir and the Angkatan Belia Islam sa-Malaysia (ABIM), and the Islamic Youth Organization of Malaysia. In 1991 and 1992, there was forced relocation of Muslims by the government and the creation of new Buddhist settlements in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships. This provoked another mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh.

CONNECTIONS WITH TALIBAN AND AL-QAEDA (1988-2011)

The military camps of Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) were located in the Cox’s Bazaar district in southern Bangladesh. In 1991, it possessed a large number of military equipment, including light machine-guns, AK-47 assault rifles, RPG-2 rocket launchers, claymore mines and explosives. They were equipped with UK-made 9mm Sterling L2A3 sub-machine guns, M-16 assault rifles and point-303 rifles.  Afghan’s Taliban instructors were associated with RSO camps along the Bangladesh-Burma border. Many RSO rebels were undergoing training in the Afghan province of Khost with Hizb-e-Islami Mujahideen. The expansion of the RSO in the late 1980s and early 1990s made the Burmese government launch a massive counter-offensive to clear up the Burma-Bangladesh border. In December 1991, Burmese troops crossed the border and attacked a Bangladeshi military outpost. The incident developed into a major crisis in Bangladesh-Burma relations, and by April 1992, more than 250,000 Rohingya civilians had been forced out of Arakan, western Burma.

In late 1998, Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) and Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF) combined to form the Rohingya National Council (RNC) with its own armed wing, gathering the different Rohingya insurgents into one group. In 2001, they underwent training in Libya and Afghanistan, in guerrilla warfare and the use of a variety of explosives and heavy-weapons. They had several meetings with Al-Qaeda representatives. Throughout 2012 and in 2013, there have been a series of riots and much violence in Northern Arakan in the Rakhine State, between extremist Rohingya Muslims and the indigenous Rakhini or Arakanese people.   Muslim fanatics are largely responsible for the outbreak of violence. The 2012 riots began after a Rakhine teenage girl was brutally raped and cut into pieces by three Muslim fanatics. This immediately led to an outrage and retaliation by the Rakhine community. This was followed by the extremist Muslims resorting to extreme forms of violence, destroying many villages in their entirety, and murdering many innocent people. Those displaced by these riots exceeded 50, 000.  The situation in the Rakhine state remains tense.

In 2013, the worst violence in Myanmar was in Meikhtila city, which resulted in widespread bloodshed and destruction of property, and the displacement of nearly 10,000 people who were forced out of their homes. A State of Emergency was declared, and the army took control of the city.  The devastation was reminiscent of last year’s clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya that left hundreds of people dead and more than 100,000 displaced. The struggle to contain the violence has become a major challenge to the government.  Buddhist and Muslim communities live in near-total segregation, constantly fearing more violence. The violence in Meikhtila city began once news spread that a Muslim man had killed a Buddhist monk. Soon, Buddhist mobs rampaged through a Muslim neighborhood and the situation quickly became out of control.

RISE IN ISLAMIC FUNDAMANTALISM

In the last few decades, owing to the newfound wealth of oil rich Islamic countries and massive immigration to the West, Islamic fundamentalism has been on the rise and the dormant spirit of Jihadism has been rekindled.  This fervor has been translated into upheavals, revolutions and    terrorism, and world peace has been put in jeopardy. Millions of lives are now in danger. Islam encourages aggressive spirit explicitly.  Muslim believe that he can go to paradise if he kills non-Muslims. The Quran tells Muslims to slay the unbelievers wherever they find them (2:191), do not befriend them (3:28), fight them and show them harshness (9:123), and smite their heads (47:4). It prohibits Muslims to associate with their own brothers and fathers if they are non-believers (9:23), (3:28).

Buddhists have been the most victimized and harassed religious community in the world, owing to actions of Muslims guided by their theistic traditions and beliefs. Throughout the ages the Buddhist religion experienced many calamities.  As far back as in the 10th century, because of the Muslim invasion of what is modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the Buddhist religion which formed the basis of life of the people of this part of the world, was viciously wiped out in an act of virtual genocide. In some Asian countries indigenous Buddhist spiritual traditions have been severely weakened by decades of persecution. Muslim terror and atrocities have inflicted severe damage to Buddhism in many Asian countries, some of which were exclusively Buddhist at one stage in their histories. The destruction of the colossal Afghan Bahmian Buddha statues is not the first destruction resulting from Muslim fundamentalism.

The biggest problem with Muslims is their belief that Islam is one and only ‘chosen religion’ and Muslims are the one and only ‘chosen people’. In an Islamic state people of other faiths are not tolerated. Non-Muslims cannot establish their shrines or monasteries in any of the Middle Eastern Muslim countries. They cannot hold their religious functions or prayers in public in these countries. No meaningful dialogue on Islam or on the divisive attitudes and activities of Muslims is possible because they unnecessarily feel intimidated whenever legitimate questions on Islam or the Quran are posed. Those who question are immediately branded as racists or anti Muslim. Most Muslims lack the courage to respond to even the most abject injustices evident in Islamic beliefs and practices. No Muslim gives any other religion a status of equality with Islam. They fail to realize that true open-mindedness consists of contemplating all premises and weighing the evidence. Reasoning involves deduction and induction. Why do Muslims cause disharmony and bring about conflicts and confrontational situations in all societies they infiltrate? Why?   Buddhists need to be vigilant and need to initiate actions against the abuse of privileges, aggression, and misdemeanor by Muslims.

ISLAM AND VIOLENCE  

Buddhists cannot consider Islam as a religion of compassion and peace. Those professing Islam have been the biggest enemies of Buddhists and Buddhism throughout history. There are ample historic records which describe vividly the atrocities committed against millions of Buddhists in several countries. Their criminality has not subsided despite their living among other religions in different countries. It is a well-known fact that Buddhism disappeared from India under the sword of Islam. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the great Indian Buddhist leader said that there is absolutely no doubt that the fall of Buddhism in India was due to the invasions of the Musalmans or the adherents of Islam. For five centuries, from the 13th to 17th centuries, most parts of India were under Muslim rule. Over 50 million Buddhists and Hindus were massacred by Islamists in greater India (which in the past included   Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan).

Islam destroyed Buddhism not only in India but wherever it went. Before the onslaught of Islam, Buddhism was the religion of almost the whole of Asia – ancient countries/regions such as Bactria, Parthia, Afghanistan, Gandhar, Chinese Turkestan, along with Tibet and Inner Mongolia were Buddhist nations that formed almost the whole of the Asian continent. Buddhism was the dominant religion of the people of this vast area of the Asian continent. Islam destroyed and eliminated Buddhism from almost all these countries. Those conversant with global affairs, know, especially in recent years, Muslims have become a curse to humanity, resorting to violent and unethical means of serving their religious ends, or to ‘resolve’ their obsessive religion-based issues and self-created problems.  Peace and harmony in many countries in the West and East, have been impaired greatly owing to unwholesome actions of Muslim religious fanatics.

CRIME AGAINST BANGLADESHI BUDDHISTS

In recent years, the indigenous Chakma Buddhists of Bangladesh, inhabiting the Chittagong Hill tracts of Bangladesh have been subject to untold violence by Muslims.  In the early 1990s, Chakma Buddhist monks were subject to persecution and violence and were forced to flee their traditional lands. Successive Muslim governments of Bangladesh were engaged in implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing to eradicate the indigenous Buddhists. The encroachment of land owned and occupied previously by Buddhists has   continued a rapid scale in recent decades. More than 100,000 military and paramilitary personnel are stationed in the Chittagong Hill Tract making life insecure and miserable for the Buddhist community. It has become a region that is extremely crime prone, characterized by arson, killing, rape, land grabbing, and destruction of Buddhist temples, extra-judicial arrest, and detentions. Thousands of Jumma Buddhist families, with many children have been e displaced and left homeless owing to violence, and the number of poverty-stricken Buddhist refugees have increased substantially. Many indigenous Buddhist people of affected villages continue to live in hiding, in dense forests and some have abandoned their ancestral land and had moved to other villages and are leading desperate lives. Since 1986 many Buddhists have fled Bangladesh and sought refuge in the Tripura state of India.

Muslim religious fundamentalism and intolerance of Buddhists and other religious minorities are on the rise in Bangladesh. The country’s military has become ruthless in this regard. In 2006, a group of illicit Muslim settlers led by Rafique Uddin destroyed the Buddhist temple of Challyatali village under Longadu, Rangamati and occupied the temple land. In the last three decades the exclusively Muslim Army of Bangladesh, motivated by religious fanaticism have destroyed many Buddhist shrines and monasteries. Religious persecution takes place in the form of torture, murder, intimidation of Buddhist monks and deliberate and systematic destruction of their places of worship. Fanatical Muslims destroyed and desecrated the renowned “Navajyoti Buddhist Vihara” (Navajyoti Buddhist Temple) at Lalyaghona Village in Baghaichari Upazillact) breaking down many Buddha images.

VIOLENCE AGAINST THE THAI BUDDHISTS

 Muslims are a very small minority settler community in Southern Thailand, smaller than the Muslim settler community of Sri Lanka. Their objective is to have a separate country for Muslims in Sothern Thailand. Buddhist civilians and monks have been frequent targets of Muslim attacks in Southern Thailand in recent years. In late 2005, Muslims again started killing Buddhists in Southern Thailand. The bloodshed here could mark a resurgence of a long-simmering Muslim insurgency and, some officials fear, fertile ground for Islamic terrorists. More than 500 people were killed in 2006, in three southern Thai provinces, including attacks targeting Buddhists in possible bids to drive out non-Muslims.

Authorities are investigating possible links between these Muslim separatist groups and Islamic terrorist organizations such as Jemaah Islamiyah, which seeks a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia. It is blamed for attacks including the 2002 bombing in Bali that claimed 202 lives. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an assistant professor of international relations at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University says, “We have not yet seen escalation, “but I still think we may be headed from bad to worse.” “The gruesome fashion of beheadings of Buddhists by Muslim assailants … is not normal violence,” said Pongsudhirak. “It is driven by deep animosity and hatred.”

MUSLIM EXTREMISM IN SRI LANKA

Islamic community in Sri Lanka is a small non-indigenous minority amounting to about 9% of the total population. In recent years, there is clear evidence of disregard and disrespect on the part of most Muslims, for the national Sinhala Buddhist cultural heritage of the country. The fundamentalist Wahhabi” Islam’ is being widely propagated by present day Muslims. This is having serious negative implications not only in terms of national security, but also importantly, as far as the national culture is concerned. Although a small non-indigenous settler community of the island, these Muslims insist on living an alienated and un-integrated life and are agitating for concessions specified by their Islamic religion and Muslim Shariah law. The interests of the country are not their concern, because Sri Lanka is not an Islamic country. They are least interested in joining the national “mainstream” and work towards national unity and well-being. During the last few decades, the Muslims have gained strength in Sri Lanka owing to their increased economic power largely owing to tangible and moral support received from Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia, and owing to the political patronage.

The younger generation of Muslims are being brainwashed with extremist Islamic Wahhabism, in the so-called” Madrasas which are exclusively Muslim schools that have sprung up in the country in recent years. What appears to be propagated in these Madrasas have serious negative implications as far as national security and national culture is concerned. Their new male and female attire has changed and reflects their inclination to be exclusive and separate from the nation’s mainstream. This polarization tendency of the Islamic community is self-imposed. There is evidence of destruction of archeological and historic cultural monuments and remains in areas inhabited by Muslims. Muslim encroachment of traditional Sinhala Buddhist temple land and the demolition of historic sites and archeological remains of Buddhist heritage show the sheer lack of respect for Buddhism and related and cultural heritage of the country that gave them shelter.

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

2 Responses to “MYANMAR AND ROHINGYA MUSLIMS ”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    2018 HINDU-BUDDHIST riots in Endia have killed 8 so far.

    “http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-43616242”

    Hindus have killed a Buddhist Dalit boy for riding a horse saying horse riding is a pass time of ONLY high caste Hindus. What barbaric Endia!

  2. Christie Says:

    Rohigiyas are Indian Colonial Parasites like the ones in our island nation.

    The Rohingiyas went to work in rice fields owned by High Caste Hindu Colonial Parasites.

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