The Plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

[These are my answers to a set of questions from a journalism student at the University of Maryland on the situation in Myanmar]:

Q. Why are the Rohingya Muslim minority despised by the rest of Myanmar?

A. Although the Rohingya claim to be Muslims indigenous to Burma long before it became Myanmar, the Buddhist majority accuses them of being recent immigrants from Bangladesh. However, this dispute is only an excuse for the Buddhists’ bigotry since historical records prove the Rohingya were present at least 25 years before the 1823 cutoff for citizenship in Myanmar’s constitution. A more plausible explanation for the persecution is that the Rohingya, being over 10% of the population, are a large enough minority that the Buddhists fell threatened by them.

Q. Why has there been a recent explosion between the Muslim Minority and the Buddhist Majority in recent years?

A. The recent violence began in 2012 when the rape and murder of a woman in Rakhine state was blamed on Muslims, leading to the indiscriminate revenge killing of ten Muslims. That this flareup was merely a manifestation of fear of the empowerment of a large minority during democratization is supported by the fact that the location of the flareup was a state in which the Muslims are about 25% of the population of Rakhine state, far larger than elsewhere in Myanmar.

Q. How is Aung San Suu Kyi significant to Myanmar politics? What do you think about her turning a blind eye to the suffering of the Rohingya community?

A. Aung San Suu Kyi is the most significant player in the democratization movement and thus her silence over the atrocities against the Muslims is disturbing as it underscores how even the most courageous politicians may feel the need to condone or acquiesce to the fear of large minorities.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute


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