Burma is a country that that is bordered by China, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India. Throughout the country’s history, Muslims have faced struggles. The country is ruled by a military dictatorship and is one of the most predominant Buddhist countries in the world. Muslims in Burma tend to live in isolated regions where they have their own culture, languages, customs, and of course religion.
Muslims, specifically those who are living in the Rakhine state have faced intense forms of oppression in the last century. Amnesty International reports that, “the Rohingya people have continues to suffer human rights violations under the Burmese regime since 1978 and as a result many have fled to neighboring Bangladesh as a result.” The US State Department Human Rights report suggests that Rohingya are subject to serious abuses including, “reported killings, beatings, torture, forced labor, and rape.” These crimes are primarily carried out by the Burmese security forces. Unfortunately, the persecution of the Rohingya seems to be based on their religion. The prejudice towards the Rohingya is very strong and freedoms for the Rohingya are extremely limited. In 2007, the Economist had an article in which locals were asked about their troubles.
“It’s because we’re Muslim,” declares a rickshaw driver. He says people give work to Buddhists. There are many poor Buddhists in Sittwe too. But the perception of unfair treatment lingers amongst Muslims, though some made common cause with September’s anti-government protesters.
An option for the Rohingya is to obviously flee Burma, however their options in other places are also very limited. For the past 30 years there has been a slow exodus from Burma. Many of the Rohingya have gone to nearby countries such as Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Indonesia, however, the main choice is typically Bangladesh. Rohingya in Bangladesh face even more difficulties in trying to join society. The Rohingya in Bangladesh are very poor and have very little rights granted to them as refugees. It’s very sad to see Muslims treating Muslims so poorly. Insh’Allah it’s not all gloomy. There are efforts inside Burma advocating for change. People who are open minded and educated on the situation of Muslims and other ethnic groups struggling under the Burmese military can help by helping to create awareness and advocating for change through social circles.
One thing we can all do is make duah for our Rohingya brothers and sisters. Yes, this sounds cliché. However, never underestimate the power of duah and especially collective duah! By creating awareness of this issue and encouraging others to ask Allah (swt) to help, we can insh’Allah go a long way!