Failed promises and persecution of Islam in Myanmar

Failed promises and

persecution of Islam in Myanmar

General Aung San’s promise

General Aung San’s promise to Indians and Muslims before Independence of Burma at the Indian Chambers of Commerce_
“I want to address the Indians and Chinese residing in this country. We have no bitterness, no ill will for them, or for that matter for any race and nationality in the world. If they choose to join us, we will welcome them as our own brethren. The welfare of all people of this country irrespective of race or religion has always been the one purpose that I have set out to fulfill. In fact it is my life’s mission. Race, religion, and language are thus by themselves not primary factors which go to the making of a nation but the historic necessity of having to lead common life together that is the pivotal principle of nationality and nationalism. Nowadays, with the increasing mutual intercourse of nations, there is such a provision in many of the constitutions of the world for naturalization of foreigners.”[94] [4]

Chief Justice U Chan Htoon

Genal Aung San’s promises were later legally and officially confirmed on 2.10.1947 by U Chan Htoon, Advisor on constitutional affairs to the Constituent Assembly, who later became Chief Justice.

“Muslims born in Burma, raised and educated in Burma, whose Burmese citizenship, according to paragraphs # 11 (ii) and # (iii) of the parents, or at least one of them, were Burmese, automatically had constitution.[95] As citizens, they would enjoy the same status, rights and privileges as all other citizens of Burma.”

Paragraph 13 of the Constitution guaranteed that all the citizens of Burma, (without regard to origin, religion, race, or sex) should be equal before the law.
Paragraph 14 guaranteed equal opportunity to all citizens in matters of public service and in employment in any post, professional or business whatsoever. They also were entitled to all the other privileges of the citizen mentioned in the constitution, even the right to candidacy for the election to the post of President of the State and to the membership in the two Houses of Parliament.” General Ne Win’s Military Government arrested the Chief Justice U Chan Htoon on 2.3.1962, threw away the Constitution and ignored the rights of all the minorities including Myanmar Muslims.

The Supreme Court of Rangoon

The Lordship of the Supreme Court of Rangoon remarked: “… Today, in the 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 of speak of events which had occurred outside the limits of their habitation. They are nevertheless statutory citizens under the Union (of Burma) Citizenship Act….. Thus mere race or appearance of a person or whether he has a knowledge of any language of the Union is not the test as to whether he is a citizen of the Union”. [96]

Opposition leader Daw Aung San Su Kyi said that she had a great respect for other religions. She believed that no one has the right to look down on anybody’s religion.

PMs U Nu and U Ba Shwe

The Prime Minister of Burma U Nu, in a speech over Radio Rangoon at 8.00 PM on 25th. September 1954 stated that_
“The Rakhine State is situated towards the south-west of the Union of Burma. The Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships are included in Sittwe Division of the Rakhine State. These two townships are bordering East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The majority of the people in these two townships are Rohingya, who profess the Islamic faith.” [97]

U Ba Shwe

Again the Burmese Defence Minister and the Prime Minister U Ba Shwe, at the mass rallies for the people of Buthidaung and Maungdaw on the 3rd. and 4th. November 1959 said_

“The Rohingyas are equal in every way with other minority races like Shan, Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Kayah, Mon and Rakhine. They have lived in Myanmar (Naing Ngan = country) according to the historical facts. They are of the Islamic faith. There is historical evidence that they have lived faithfully and harmoniously with the other races of the Union of Burma”. [98]
Even the Burma Broadcasting Service (BBS) carried out the Rohingya Language Programme, twice a week, regularly from 15th. May 1961 to 11th. October 1965. ([99]

Muslims under General Ne Win

When General Ne Win swept to power on a wave of nationalism in 1962, the status of Muslims changed for the worse. Muslims were expelled from the army and were rapidly marginalized[5]Myanmar has a Buddhist majority. Muslims are stereotyped in the society as “cattle killers” (referring to the cattle sacrifice festival of Eid Al Adha in Islam). The generic racist slur of “kala” (black) used against perceived “foreigners” has especially negative connotations when referring to Burmese Muslims. The more pious Muslims communities who segregate themselves from the Buddhist majority face greater difficulties than those who integrate more at the cost of observance to Islamic personal laws.[6]

Muslims in Myanmar are affected by the actions of Islamic extremism in other countries. Violence in Indonesia perpetrated by Islamists is used as a pretext to commit violence against Muslim minorities in Burma. The anti-Buddhist actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan (the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan) was also used as a pretext to commit violence against Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhist mobs.Human Rights Watch reports that there was mounting tension between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Taungoo for weeks before it erupted into violence in the middle of May 2001.Buddhist monks demanded that the Hantha Mosque in Taungoo be destroyed in “retaliation” for the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.[7] Mobs of Buddhists, led by monks, vandalized Muslim-owned businesses and property and attacked and killed Muslims in Muslim communities. This was followed by retaliation by Muslims against Buddhists.

The dictatorial government, which operates a pervasive internal security apparatus, generally infiltrates or monitors the meetings and activities of virtually all organizations, including religious organizations.Religious freedom for Muslims is reduced. Monitoring and control of Islam undermines the free exchange of thoughts and ideas associated with religious activities.[8] Accusations of “terrorism” are made against Muslim organizations such as the All Burma Muslim Union.[9]

It is widely feared that persecution of Muslims in Myanmar could foment Islamic extremism in the country.[10] Many Muslims have joined armed resistance groups who are fighting for greater freedoms in Myanmar.[11]

Anti-Muslim Riots

The racial tension in March 1997 between Buddhists and Muslims and the attack on Muslim properties was apparently masterminded by the ruling regime in Burma. The bronze Buddha statue in the Maha Myatmuni pagoda, originally from the Arakan, brought to Mandalay by King Bodawpaya in 1784 AD was renovated by the authorities. The Mahamyat Muni statue was broken open, leaving a gaping hole in the statue, and it was generally presumed that the regime was searching for the Padamya Myetshin, a legendary ruby that ensures victory in war to those who possess it.[116]Since March 15, 1997 abbots from different monasteries in Mandalay held meetings over the issue and there was a general dissatisfaction against the ruling regime for it. As it was turning to agitation, the SLORC authorities incited the Buddhists with alleged rape case involving a Muslim. Leaflets were extensively distributed by hired local goons and members of the USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association) who are widely seen as stooges under the guidance of military intelligence officials disguising as monks. A group consisting of about two-three hundred goons, apparently drunk led a lightening swoop on in the Muslim areas. The attacks on Muslims soon spread to five other townships around Mandalay and to the lower Burma including Rangoon, Prome and other major cities like a wildfire. The monks in the group were not seen before and were presumed to be army personnel in robes.

The ruling junta in the process had targeted to materialize its plans_ (a)to punish Muslims in line with anti-Muslim strategy, (b)diversion of an imminent threat and countrywide confrontation with the Buddhist monks, Many in the world witnessed the unfortunate situation in Burma where Muslims were fallen prey. Mosques in Yadanabone, Daywin, Seinpan, Payagyi, Zar Wai Yar, Thayai Yon, Hlwa Htaung, Tho Chan, Al Myauk Dan Gyi and Nan Dwin (high security area in the Mandalay palace) in Mandalay, central Burma were substantially damaged. Other townships in the central Burma where the religious riots took place were Amarapura township’s two mosques, Patheingyi township’s one mosque, Shwebow township’s one mosque, Monywa township’s one mosque and Pakhukku township’s two mosques. In lower Burma the attack on Muslims took place in Rangoon, vandalizing Alone Chowdry mosque, Ahlone Eidga mosque, Haji Salamat mosque in Pazundaung, Kyee Myindine mosque, Thakeda 17th Ward mosque, Kanbe mosque, South Okkalapa Madarasa, 48th street Madarasa and seven Muslim houses in Yankin and several houses in Dawbon. Also four mosques in Pegu and two mosques in Prome were damaged by the mobs. Religious books including copies of holy Quran were also destroyed. A total of 32 structures – mosques, Madarasa and residential buildings of Muslims worth millions of dollars were destroyed.

Newsletter ABIM. Malaysia.and WAMY World Assembly of Muslim Youths, Saudi Arabia The Nation newspaper, Thailand, Saturday, April 5, 1997. reported this news with the colour photographs of a large group of Buddhist monks with weapons marching to search for Muslim properties, damaged exterior and interior of the Mosques complete with destroyed Korans.

  1. ^ ‘Aung Sans’ Plan for Reconstruction of Corrupted Myanmar” by Dr San Oo Aung published in Burma Digest on 14.5.06.
  2. ^ U Chan Htoon, Advisor on constitutional affairs to the Constituent Assembly, who later became Chief Justice on 2.10.1947
  3. ^ (The case of Hason Ali, a Rohingya from Arakan, Vs. Union of Burma, Supreme Court Criminal Miscellaneous Cases No. 155 & 156 of 1959. Nurul Islam. Present atmosphere in Arakan. The New Nation Newspaper, Bangladesh, Monday October 12, 1992.)
  4. ^ The press releases of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, March 12,1992.
  5. ^ The press releases of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, March 12,1992.
  6. ^ N. Kamal. Building confidence in Rohingyas’ mind. The New Nation Newspaper, Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 26, 1992.)

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