Arakan’s Muslims: A Snippet

IINA – 02

Kuwait City, Shawwal 24//Jan 8 (IINA) – The military rulers of Burma (Myanmar) continues its repressive actions against the Muslims of Arakan Province, which is situated in the southwest of the country, and the repressive measures include the assassination of some individuals and the destruction of mosques.

Many have been displaced, and many have been forced to work in the construction of homes for the Burmese soldiers and their families, apart from using them in buildings roads and other facilities for the government.

After expelling the Muslims from their homes, the houses are allocated to Buddhists. Even Wakf (endowed) Muslim lands are confiscated, and the Muslims are denied freedom of movement within the country, and even travel outside the country. According to the amendment to the citizenship law that was effected in 1982, the Rohingya Muslims of Burma have been deprived of their Burmese citizenship, and therefore they could not involve themselves in business.

The Muslim women are subjected to rape, and they are not allowed to cover themselves with the Hijab, and many are forced to work in military barracks.

Apart from the destruction and desecration of mosques, the junta also sanctions the destruction of Muslim schools, Muslim cemeteries, and the detention of Muslim scholars.

The Rohingya Muslims are not allowed to organize themselves into political or social organizations, and no charitable or humanitarian organization is allowed to offer its services to them. Muslims are not allowed even to travel abroad for the Haj or to slaughter sacrificial animals during the Haj occasion.

Muslim young men and women in Burma are not allowed into any of its institutions of higher education, nor are they allowed to travel abroad in order to pursue further education, in addition to other forms of deprivation and harassment.

Muslims are even denied medical attention and treatment in government hospitals and clinics, and they are forced to abandon their Muslim names and adopt Buddhist ones.

Since 1991, the harassment of Muslims in Burma has been increasing by leaps and bounds, and this has forces many to take refuge in such neighboring countries as Bangladesh, where there are now not less than 300,000 living as refugees, but under very difficult and trying conditions. Many of them have had to return to Burma.

Arakan is separate from Buddhist Burma by a range of mountains called the Arakan Mountains, and their province is about 20,000 square miles in area, with Akyab as its provincial capital. It has a population of around 4,000,000, of whom 70 percent are Muslims, 25 percent Buddhists, and five percent made up of various faiths, including Christians and Hindus.

The Rohingyas take their name from the ancient name of Arakan, and Islam was introduced to it by Arab merchants who visited it in the first century of the Hijri calendar, followed by other waves of Muslim visitors, who brought with them, the Message of Islam. The response to the message was spontaneous, according to historians.

In 1406 AD, King Naramakhbala, who was the ruler of Arakan, was attacked by the king of Burma, and he had to take refuge with Sultan Nasiruddin Shah of Bengal, and, in the process, he embraced Islam 24 years later. He chose for himself the Muslim name Suleiman Shah, and was later able, with the help of his Bengal host, to regain his lost kingdom.

In 1420 AD, the first Islamic state was declared in Arakan, under the leadership of Suleiman Shah, of course, and for the next 350 years the country was ruled by one Muslim ruler or another. But in 1784 the country was once again attacked and occupied by Buddhist Burma, and when Britain took Burma in 1824, the Muslim population in Arakan was rendered weaker and weaker.

Then in 1948 Burma became independent from Britain, and despite all efforts to gain independence for Arakan as a separate state, those efforts did not meet with success. However, the Burmese Government of the time gave guarantees that the Arakanese would be afforded the right to self-determination.

But when the Burmese became stronger and sure of themselves as a sovereign state, such guarantees were thrown overboard, and let alone the right to self-determination being denied to the Arakan people, even their basic human rights have been flouted and violated. And since the military junta took power in Burma, matters have gotten even worse for the Muslims of Arakan, and everything is being done to cleanse the region of its Muslim population, and replace it with Buddhists.

The President of the Gulf-based Muslim Students’ Federation, Ibrahim Muhammad Atiqurrahman, told IINA that Myanmar’s Government demolished 72 mosques in the year 2001 alone. He added that there is now there is a new law the forbids the construction of new mosques or the repair and renovation of any old mosque, plus a rule that says that any mosques that was built within the last ten years should be pulled down.

Atiqurrahman went on to say that the government of Myanmar has now set up a committee to survey the Muslims of Arakan and their properties and other types of wealth, which committee has been imposing exorbitantly large tax assessments on them, and anyone who fails to pay up is jailed, unless he could pay a huge bride to the committee’s officials.

Even Arakan fishermen have not bee spared the oppression of the junta in Burma, and several get killed from time to time, simply because they are practicing their profession, though with legal permission from the concerned authorities.

In yet another effort to reduce the number of Muslims in the province, the Myanmar Government has passed a decree forbidding any male to get married before the age of 30, and a woman from being married away before she reaches the age of 25 years, according to Atiqurrahman.

But even if and when a couple wishing to get married reach the legal age, the marriage would not be sanctioned by the Marriage Bureau of the government, unless and until a proper bribe is paid to the official concerned with the issuance of such a permit, adds Atiqurrahman, who concluded by appealing to Muslims and Muslim governments and organizations to help their brethren of Arakan, in whatever way possible.



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