It’s a shame that this could be the first time you’ve heard about the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in Burma. News coverage on the plight of the Rohingya people – described by the U.N. as “one of the most persecuted people in the world” – has been scant, especially since sectarian violence flared in June.
<< An old picture of protests demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, who, since the violence erupted, has yet to speak out.
It’s been two months since a Buddhist woman was apparently raped by three Muslim men in Rakhine, Burma (also known as Myanmar). Following the killing of ten Rohingya Muslims by Buddhists in retaliation, endless violence has ensued between the Rakhine people – Buddhists, who lead normal lives – and the Rohingyas – an oppressed and stateless Muslim population. The Burmese government call them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Some of the coverage coming from Rakhine has been exaggerated and fabricated. A photo (left) which went viral on Facebook apparently showing scores of dead Rohingya people was actually false, however, it brought much needed attention to the situation.
Since the conflict, hundreds have died and tens of thousands have been displaced. Amnesty International have said the Rakhine Buddhists, together with security forces, have purposefully meted out devastating violence against the Muslim minority.
Apart from a protest on 13 August in Bradford for the Rohingya people, which saw hundreds come to the streets in support, as well as the tireless work of Restless Beings, a UK based charity which supports the most marginalised communities in the world, not much else has been done.
Even though Palestinians are also one of the most persecuted people in the world, what would the reaction be if Israeli’s began killing hundreds of Gazan’s today? There would be worldwide condemnation and anger by those who support the Palestinian cause. And as author Reza Aslan aptly tweeted: “Folks. If you condemn Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes make sure you also condemn every home ever demolished anywhere in the world.” The point being, injustice is injustice, no matter where it is.
Life isn’t just about Palestine: Yes, what is happening there is one of the grossest mistreatment’s of any people worldwide, but just as Western governments refuse to recognise or take action against many of the genocides around the world, or sit by while Syrians are slaughtered, supporters of the Palestinian cause are at risk of being blamed for the same thing: turning a blind eye to other injustices.
In Kashmir, The Case For Freedom, Pankaj Mishra writes: “With more than 80,000 people dead, the killings in Kashmir dwarf those in Palestine…millions exposed to execution, rape and torture…why then does the immense human suffering of Kashmir occupy such an imperceptible place in our moral imagination?”
Religion is often blamed for many of the problems and conflicts around the world. In the case of Palestine, the problem is not religion: In Jewish scripture, the Jews were banished from their homeland by God and therefore should not be settled in Israel, this is a view held by many orthodox Jews, including Jews for Justice for Palestinians. So the problem isn’t two religions fighting for land, it is ideology of the Israeli, Zionist government and its supporters, who, for decades, have colonised land. In the case of Burma, some have been appalled by the acts Buddhists – generally regarded among the most peaceful people – have perpetrated. Is Buddhism an inherently violent religion? Of course not. Neither is Islam. It’s a human problem, not religion. “Religions are okay, we need to get rid of all the humans,” Hamza Yusuf, American intellectual, once joked.