I Believe in the Rights of Rohingya Muslims

Two readers of my blog reached out to me and asked my thoughts about the oppression and killings of Rohingyas in Arakan State. I wish I had more time to write about this and share my perspective, but my spare time is little and my perspective probably would not be at all illuminating. After all, I condemn the violence against the Rohingya community in Burma, and I believe that they should be recognized as citizens of the Burmese state and guaranteed the same protections that every citizen is due.

Many people are shocked that a predominantly Buddhist nation, such as Burma, would have such violent and ethnocentric responses to the Rohingya community. Though I am incredibly saddened, I am not as surprised or indignant as the rest of the Western Buddhist blogosphere perhaps because this is a situation that I have been aware of my entire life. This is not the first time that Rohingya Muslims have been violently targeted in Burma, and this is not the first time that some of the Burmese public have reacted with violent force. Just as I felt powerless to do much in the past, I feel powerless today. After all, what else can I do but express my support for those oppressed and condemn the violent injustices levied against them?

In general I do not write about these complex issues on this blog because my audience here are predominantly white middle-class Western Buddhists who know very little about either Burma or Islam. The discussions and even arguments I have with individuals of the Burmese expatriate community are of a completely different nature than the ones I have with most Western Buddhists on this blog simply because with the former I do not have to waste a thousand words explaining why I write “Arakan” instead of “Rakhine” or why I make the effort to specify Rohingya Muslims rather than use a more general term such as, Burmese Muslims.

I believe in the rights of Rohingya Muslims in Burma just as I believe in the rights of Jumma Buddhists in Bangladesh. I condemn the violence against both groups, and I condemn the history of persecution and oppression which cannot simply be washed away overnight. I furthermore condemn the simplification of political and socio-economic conflicts into religious terms of “Buddhist” versus “Muslim.” But I also try to cultivate understanding and compassions toward all involved in this conflict, I recognize that I have neither answers for nor a complete understanding of this conflict, and I don’t believe I can do anything of more substantive consequence on this blog than make this statement of my support for their rights and condemnation of their persecution.

What more I do say and do, I do offline. So my apologies in advance if I neglect your comment.

Rights on Hold for Bangladeshi Buddhists

In case you forgot about the Buddhists in Bangladesh, IANS reports on the current status of the dragged out Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.

A prominent Buddhist tribal leader of Bangladesh escaped an attack on his motorcade Monday, a day after he discussed with the government a peace agreement signed in 1997, which is yet to be implemented. […] The accord that proposes autonomy for the Buddhist tribals has been delayed because of protests from the Muslims. They were settled in the Buddhist majority region since Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) became part of the erstwhile East Pakistan during the India-Pakistan partition in 1947.

I previously blogged about violence against Buddhists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and Bangladesh’s uneven concern for its ancient Buddhist heritage. You can learn more at the Chittagong Hill Tracts Comission website.

Buddhist Massacre in Chittagong

I hope the title got your attention! I’m not using the term “massacre” glibly. You can get an idea of the situation from a few of the news headlines I was able to pull from Google News:

  • Chittagong Hill Tracts: Massive Communal Attack on Jumma Villages (UNPO)
  • 15 hurt as ethnic violence continues in Bangladesh (Thaindian News)
  • Fresh violence erupts in Bangladesh tribal region (Reuters India)
  • New clashes in Bangladesh tribal area (AFP)
  • Army deployed in tense Bangladesh tribal region (BBC News)
  • Bangladesh Deploys Troops to Stop Ethnic Clashes (VOANews)
  • Bangladesh Reimposes Night-Time Curfew In Southeast Town (RTTNews)
  • Ethnic violence continues in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill tracts (The Times of India)
  • Beyond the fires in the hills (The Daily Star)
  • Human Rights Abuse against Indigenous People in Bangladesh (The Buddhist Channel)

The single post that I could find from the Buddhist blogosphere was on Ajahn Sujato’s blog, Bangladesh Buddhists under attack

Recent events in the Chittagong Hill Tracts deal with Bangladeshi Buddhists who by and large are not ethnically Bengali—although there are many Bengali Buddhists in Bangladesh too. Collectively called Jumma, these tribes are culturally and linguistically different, the plurality (if not majority) of whom are Buddhist. You can learn more about this situation at the links below. 

More on this later.