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Mr. Win’s Win-Win Formula For Rohingyas Of Burma Is Recipe For Fascism – OpEd

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Last week, I came across Mr. Kanbawza Win’s article – “Killing two birds with a stone or a Win, Win Situation”  – discussing his thesis for solving the Rohingya crisis in western Burma. As a global citizen who has worked for decades to make our world a more inclusive one away from the brunt of racism and bigotry, I could not resist the temptation to read Mr. Win’s piece. After all, Mr. Win is part of the so-called pro-democracy movement for Burma. He has been critical of the military regime that has been ruling Burma. He is also considered by many to be the voice of reason within the Burmese exiles.

Burma
Burma

Unfortunately, Mr. Win has not been able to shed his deplorable prejudice and racism when it comes to the ‘other’ people. And he is not alone in this serious moral failing. As I have noted many times, when push comes to shove, most of these pro-democracy leaders have either proven to be or acted like closet fascists. It is they who have often led the campaign for expulsion of the Rohingya population or to engage in genocide or to institute an apartheid system against the Rohingya. Ironical as it may seem many of these charlatans are seeking asylum in the USA, UK, Germany and Canada while they feel comfortable engaging in ethno-nationalism that might have made genocidal mass murderer Slobodan Milosevic proud.

Their narrative about the Rohingyas of Arakan starts with the British colonization of the territory in 1826 after the first Anglo-Burma War of 1824-26, as if they had no past connection to the soil of Arakan. To them, the East India Company, which had already been administering next-door Bangladesh (Bengal in British India) since 1757, lured those “Bengali inhabitants” (mostly from the district of Chittagong) to come and work as seasonable laborers. Mr. Win writes, “The arable land expanded to four and a half times between 1830 and 1852 and Akyab, became one of the major rice exporting cities in the world. Indeed, during a century of colonial rule, the Chittagonian immigrants became the numerically dominant ethnic group in the Mayu Frontier. That is the origin of the Mujahid or the Bengali Immigrants.”

I doubt if Mr. Win understands the meaning of the Arabic word Mujahid (literal meaning: a person who strives). Surely, not; otherwise, he should have avoided using such an adjective to describe the Rohingyas. They are not Bengali immigrants either that settled since the British era. Yes, some of them may look like people of Bangladesh, separated from Arakan by the Naaf River. Living in a frontier territory sandwiched between the Hindu and Muslim dominated India/Bangladesh to the west and the Buddhist dominated Burma to the east, it would be silly to say that the Rohingyas, as the original inhabitants of the land of Arakan, should have looked different. As any student of Buddhism knows, Buddha himself was an Indian (a Kala) from the state of Bihar (Magadha), neighboring Indian state to Bengal. He was not of the Mongoloid race that resembles the Rakhine and Buddhist races today. (One has to just make a trip to Bihar in India to find if the Biharis look closer to the Bangalis or the Rakhines of Arakan.)

Like many of his group of chauvinists in the so-called pro-democracy movement in Burma, suffering from selective amnesia, Mr. Win forgets to tell his readers that before the British came to Arakan there were already one Arakanese Muslims for every two Arakanese Buddhists. And this, in spite of the marauding campaign to colonize Arakan by the Buddhist zealot – Burman (Burmese) king Bodawpaya – in 1784 which witnessed slaughter of tens of thousands of Arakanese people – Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists alike. Some 20,000 inhabitants (including Muslim Arakanese) were taken as prisoners to the Burmese capital city of Ava. Afraid of their lives, many Arakanese (of all faiths) – numbering probably in excess of 200,000 — fled to Chittagong and other southern coastal territories of Bangladesh, where their descendants continue to live as citizens of Bangladesh today.

As noted by Professor Abid Bahar, who has done much field studies on the Rohingyas of Burma, when the British took control of Arakan, some of the descendants of those refugees in Bangladesh returned to their ancestral homes. But contrary to Rakhine myth or popular belief, the proportion of the returning refugees or their descendants was comparatively larger from the Rakhine (Buddhist) community than that of the Rohingya (Muslim) community in the British era.

Sadly though, simply because of their Buddhist faith, the Rakhine descendants of those returning refugees are not subjected to the same litmus test for proving their ties to the region anterior to 1823. Additionally, any Bangladeshi Rakhine can today move into Arakan and become a citizen of Burma simply because of his looks and faith while the Rohingyas are denied citizenship simply because of their race and religion. If this is not pure racism and bigotry, what is?

Mr. Win forgets to tell that since at least 1430 C.E., when the Muslim Sultan of Bengal helped to restore the fleeing Arakanese king – Narameikhla (Maung Saw Mwan) to the throne a very sizable Muslim population had thrived in Arakan, who later held important government positions. He does not tell his readers that the golden age of Bengali literature thrived in the courts of Arakan during that Mrauk-U dynasty when its kings even used Muslim names. He also does not tell that for nearly a hundred years during the Mrauk-U dynasty, taking advantage of the unrest in Mughal India, Chittagong was annexed and administered by the Arakanese kings (until 1666). He also does not tell that for hundreds of years the Arakanese Buddhists, in collaboration with Portuguese pirates, were involved in piracy, abducting tens of thousands of Muslims and Hindus from the territories of Bengal who were either sold or forced to work as slaves in Arakan. Their number accounted for 15% of the population of Arakan before Bodawpaya’s campaign.

As a Buddhist fanatic, while Bodawpaya destroyed most mosques and Islamic shrines, he could not exterminate all Muslims of Arakan (the ancestors of today’s Rohingyas of Burma). Many survived, as did the (Buddhist) Rakhines. Thus, some 30,000 Muslims survived when the British first took control of the territory. They were not planted by the British in 1826. It is not difficult to understand why over the last two centuries their number has grown to more than a million. To claim that the Rohingyas of Burma are outsiders or intruders or mujahids is not an analysis, but a paralysis of one’s wits that cannot decipher the truth from falsehood. And hatred will keep one close minded, unwilling to objectively analyze matters. That is the sad reality with most Rakhine politicians and charlatan scholars like Mr. Win who have no problem borrowing pages from the fascist Nazi era to ethnically cleanse the Rohingyas of Burma.

Mr. Win may like to read my work on “Muslim Identity and the Demography in the Arakan State of Burma (Myanmar),” available from the Amazon.com to see the utter falsity of his accusations against the Rohingyas of Burma. As children of the early settlers of Arakan, their claim to the land of Arakan precedes those of the Tibeto-Burman stock of people whom we now call the Rakhines of Arakan. To call these indigenous people of Arakan — who identify themselves as the Rohingyas in Burma — “unwanted guests” is like calling the Native Americans unwanted refugees who had settled in America after the influx of the Europeans. As much as no massacre of yesteryears and ghettoization of the Native Americans today in designated American Indian Reservation camps has been able to obliterate their genuine right, place, history and identity to America, no Myanmar government and local Rakhine sponsored pogroms can erase the rightful identity of the Rohingya people of Burma. History and justice is one their side.

As hinted above, reading Mr. Win’s win-win formula is like reading a borrowed page from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. One simply has to change the words ‘Jewish’ to ‘Muslim’ (or as Mr. Win puts it ‘Mujahid’) and ‘Communists’ to ‘Chinese’ to see the similarity with his fascistic ideas. Mr. Win feels threatened by these ‘4 million Chinese immigrants’ who are more numerous than the Rohingyas and who apparently have made Mandalay their ‘second capital after Beijing’. His solution: he wants them deported to Muslim-populated Arakan state. As to the Rohingyas – the other ‘peril’ – he wants them forcibly deported to the eastern part of Burma. He wants a special ID card issued to these two ‘alien’ groups and ‘compel them to respect the local Burmese laws and customs’. He says, “If anyone refused to go along with this order then he must be persecuted according to law and finally deported to the country of its origin. In this way it will stop the illegal immigrants entering the country by fair or foul means. Just by looking at the features of the person one can pin point that he is an illegal immigrant from China if found in the Mujahid area or Bangali in Chinese dominated area. We will have to take drastic action once caught. This will solve the problem at least for half a century until their children got married to each other or the local population.” Towards assimilation, of course, “all these aliens must become Burmese.”

As to the funding for this cross-country forced ‘mass exodus’ (relocation) project, he opines, the Burmese government won’t have to ‘spend a single Burmese pyar’ (cent or penny) since the 31 INGOs (international NGOs) will ‘gladly fund.’

Mr. Win seems genuinely concerned about Burma’s image abroad as a racist country. He says that his solution would “paint the picture that Burma accepted all these aliens both Bengalis and Chinese, mercifully and magnanimously in as much the Burmese refugees are accepted in the West in all these 50 years. It will earn credit in taking her rightful place in the family of nations.”

I don’t know whether to take him seriously; after all, his win-win solution relies on forced eviction and encampment similar to the fate that awaited the Jews and gypsies in the Nazi-era. I smell fascism there. He refuses to open his mind to the fact that the Rohingyas are not aliens to the soil of Arakan, but they are the locals who had settled before his own Rakhine/Burmese race. Simply because of their darker color (more like Buddha’s) and different religion, they cannot be called aliens. Nor can they be denied citizenship simply because the English colonial government did not record them under the name Rohingya but as Muslims (or Mohamedans). [Note; The English rulers used the terms like Mugh and Magh for the Arakanese Buddhists, who now are known by the name Rakhines.] The Rohingyas don’t need to be forcibly relocated and encamped away from their ancestral homes (and surely not murdered) but need to be integrated within the broader society by restoring their full citizenship right, as is currently enjoyed by Mr. Win’s own Rakhine Buddhist community who has no greater claim to the soil of Arakan.

He is also concerned about the image of his faith as a result of on-going pogroms directed against the Rohingyas of Burma. He says: “But most importantly of all, is that it has a very bad and negative impression on Buddhism especially the Theravada Buddhism, when Buddhism is considered to be the most compassionate religions of the world. How are the followers of Lord Buddha, Burmese Buddhist in general, and Rakhine Buddhist in particular, practice their compassion to the other human being not similar to them, when in face. Lord Buddha has showed several ways to curb their own passion and desires.”

I wish, on this note, his community – the Rakhine and Burmese Buddhists – had agreed and taken positive measures to change their bad image. With such persecution of the Rohingyas, the Rakhine Theravada Buddhists and their partners-in-crime the Burman Buddhists, have repeatedly shown that they are no better than the criminal co-religionist perpetrators of some of the worst crimes in human history in places like Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

It is, however, never too late to reform. I hope Mr. Win and his people have the inner wisdom to evaluate their past actions and reform, making our world more inclusive and tolerant of other people and their faiths and customs. And they can start that process by campaigning for renouncing the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law – which for decades has epitomized racism and bigotry in our time. Truly, if Burma is to succeed and meet its true potential, it must learn to get along with others. There is no shortcut about it. The sooner they learn this and amend their ways the sooner will be the dawning of a better future.

About the author: Dr. Siddiqui has authored 11 books, co-edited one and written a chapter for another book.

The views expressed are the author’s own.



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Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Dr. Habib Siddiqui has a long history as a peaceful activist in an effort towards improving human rights and creating a just and equitable world. He has written extensively in the arena of humanity, global politics, social conscience and human rights since 1980, many of which have appeared in newspapers, magazines, journals and the Internet. He has tirelessly championed the cause of the disadvantaged, the poor and the forgotten here in Americas and abroad. Commenting on his articles, others have said, "His meticulously researched essays and articles combined with real human dimensions on the plight of the displaced peoples of Rohingya in Myanmar, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine, and American Muslims in the post-9/11 era have made him a singular important intellectual offering a sane voice with counterpoints to the shrill threats of the oppressors and the powerful. He offers a fresh and insightful perspective on a whole generation of a misunderstood and displaced people with little or no voice of their own." He has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through Amazon.com. His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia.

7 thoughts on “Mr. Win’s Win-Win Formula For Rohingyas Of Burma Is Recipe For Fascism – OpEd

  • Avatar
    July 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm
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    Excellent, Dr. Habib Siddiqui! We expect more articles like this.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    July 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm
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    More than excellent! I really appreciate you not for writing a good article as few writers do.But it is of course,because of the truth in your article that you mentioned about the Muslim Rohingya.Your balanced, logical evaluation on Mr Win’s Win-Win formula is likely to be a great Masterpiece. I hope you would write articles better than this. Thank you Dr.Habib Siddiqui for your extra-ordinary work.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    July 29, 2012 at 7:36 am
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    Really true and reality can not hide by anyone, even alike heartless Myanmar government and racism Rakhine buddiest . Rohingya Minorites Muslims ethnic is original of Myanmar (Burma) very earlier of seven century .

    So thank you(Dr Habib siddique) very much for your such article. And expect else more regarding Rohingya Muslims of Burma.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    July 29, 2012 at 7:40 am
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    Really true and reality History can not hide by anyone, even alike heartless Myanmar government and racism Rakhine buddiest . Rohingya Minorites Muslims ethnic is original of Myanmar (Burma) very earlier of seven century .

    So thank you(Dr Habib siddique) very much for your such article. And expect else more regarding Rohingya Muslims of Burma.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    July 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm
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    Burma preserve its unique identity with 33 ethical group despite situates between world’s most populous countries India and China. But most of Burmese culture is mixture of Indian and Chinese if you look at Myanmar traditional dress upper dress is Chinese traditional coat and lower part is Indian Lungis. But Myanmar remains intact as today because Myanmar people know how to protect their self. So People in Myanmar know who are our guys and who are not.
    Of course Burmese people worship Buddha who is happen to be Indian and resemble to Rohingya in features (Pole are resemble to Russian but Pole are not Russian) This is my answer to your irrelevant conclusion that Rohingya must be accept in Myanmar because they are resemble to Buddha.
    Actually we are talking about different issues and we think that we are talking same issue. yes all international media are talking on one issue and Burmese media and people are talking about another issue.
    Whole world and Burmese people know that previous military government suppressed all minorities group in Burma including Rohingya. There was civil war in Burma last 6 decades with different minorities group but those General turned current civil government trying to reverse all those conflicts when Rohingya incident took place 2 months ago.
    Two Rohingya guys raped a girl who happened to be Buddhist and local Arakan people outrage and killed 10 people who happened to be Muslim. Then Muslim in Burmese capital protested about killing of 10 Muslim after their Friday prayer. (People living in Burma never allow to protest but new civil government allow protesting of the people of Myanmar and just 1 month before Muslim protest there was protesting against shortage of electricity)
    Then Rogingya who living in Rakhine state energized by their Muslim brothers protest in Yangon, they did the same but their protest run out of control and started burning homes and killing people. Of course angry people can do anything. Furthermore to make matter worse, Rohingya leadership in oversea took perfect opportunity and they turn the story upside down and create “Rakhine people are burning and killing Rohingya people” They up loaded all fake pictures and photos to social and International media (They still do) But world medias buy into it. Because Burmese government get solid history of suppressing all minorities (FYI not only Muslim) amd It was easy to convince the world. “Ex-con man commits the crime again” it was piece of cake to build such case. Then the government controls the situation with emergency law. Then the Government take measure on those who commit the crime during unrest (Very normal procedure all governments around the world do, this is why after riot most of boat people flee to Bangladesh are young male group and during riot most refuge flee to Bangladesh are female and Children) But when Burmese government take such measure against criminals whole world shout “Burmese are committing crime against Rohingya” worse including U.N and world media paint whole incident as Muslim Vs. Buddhist but if it is the case all hundred of Mosques around the Burma already burnt down. You know what “Whole wide Burma gets extremely angry toward international media accusing people of Burma committing crime against Muslim”
    Furthermore, there is no solid evidence that Muslim flourish in ancient city of Rakhine but you will do see old Buddhist temple when you Google “Myauk-U old temples” one of main tourist attraction in Burma. By the way Burmese kings were brutal and they even destroy all Buddhist temples and statue when they occupied Thailand and Thailand still preserve the ruin. But I do not see such ruins in Rakhine. Well today is Internet age you do not need to take grant on my words you can research yourself. Open your mind and you will find the truth behind all media and religious hypes.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    August 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm
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    JohnnyMyanmar’s views show his bias towards the Rakhine criminals of the latest mayhem against the Rohingya. Who said that Rohingyas have raped a Rakhine girl? Where is the proof? Simply because 3 guys were arrested and then one dies in the prison being accused does not prove that they did it. In an open trial people learn the truth but not in a kangaroo court. Simple allegations do not prove anything.
    For years, the military regime has exploited division to hold onto power. And nothing comes easier for them than creating racial riots.
    The govt does not Rohingyas to live in Burma because of their faith and race. Period! That is why in the past 50 plus years, it has periodically attempted such ethnic cleansing drives to drive the Rohingya out. The latest one was one such one. But like anything else, it needed a justification. It is highly possible that the gruesome murder of a Rakhine girl, but whoever was used as the catalyst to start this latest pogrom.
    As Jimmy’s (whoever he is) comments that Rohingyas have no history to Arakan, he needs to read history books. Why not start with Smart’s, GBE Hall’s and others books to see how Muslims settled in Burma? Muslims don’t believe temples and pagodas. Wherever they go they organize the prayers either individually or in a modest structure. In the last 200 years, since the time of fanatic Burman Bodawpaya’s rule, most of the mosques have been destroyed by Buddhist bigots. Even the Sandi Khan mosque, dating from the time of early 15th century did not survive because of such destructive activities by the zealots like Jimmy. Shame on them for ignoring historical evidences about the Rohingya! It is simply preposterous to ignore that they existed and continues to do so in spite of all such pogroms. What Burma needs tolerance and not racism.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    August 4, 2012 at 11:22 pm
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    Sorry for some typos in the above posting. Here is the revised version:

    JohnnyMyanmar’s views show his bias in favor of the Rakhine criminals of the latest mayhem against the Rohingya. Who said that Rohingyas have raped a Rakhine girl? Where is the proof? Simply because 3 guys were arrested and then one died in the prison being accused does not prove that they did it. In an open trial people learn the truth but not in a kangaroo court. Simple allegations do not prove anything.
    For years, the military regime has exploited division to hold onto power. And nothing comes easier for them than creating racial riots.
    The govt does not want Rohingyas to live in Burma because of their faith and race. Period! It is an apartheid regime.
    That is why in the past 50 plus years, it has periodically attempted such ethnic cleansing drives to drive the Rohingya out. The latest one was one such attempt. But like anything else, it needed a justification. It is highly possible that the gruesome murder of a Rakhine girl, by whoever (may be someone within the criminal regime and its supporters within the Rakhine community), was used as the catalyst to start this latest pogrom. We would never know that possibility because the govt does not allow an open trial. It acts as jury, plaintiff, judge and executioner with no opportunity for an accused victims to prove his innocence.
    As to Johnny’s (whoever he is) comments that Rohingyas have no history to Arakan, suffice it to say that he needs to read history books (and not some anti-Muslim diatribes by racists). Why not start with unbiased historians like Smart, Anthony Irwin, GBE Hall, Moshe Yeagar and others to educate how Muslims settled in Burma for nearly a millennium? Muslims don’t build temples and pagodas. Wherever they go they organize the prayer service either individually or in a modest structure. In the last 200 years, since the time of fanatic Burman Bodawpaya’s rule, most of the mosques have been destroyed by Buddhist/Rakhine bigots. Even the Sandi Khan mosque, dating from the time of early 15th century did not survive because of such destructive activities by the Rakhine zealots. Shame on them for ignoring historical evidences about the Rohingya! It is simply preposterous to ignore that they existed and continues to do so in spite of all such pogroms.
    Contrary to Johnny’s whitewashing attempts about current riots, the peaceful demonstration and gathering of Muslims on Friday following the murder of 10 Burmese Muslims were vicisouly attacked by Rakhine mobs, and then when the Rohingya people started to chase them, the police and paramilitary force opened fire on them. It is shameful to see how facts are twisted by supporters of the crime. Shame on his kind!
    What Burma needs is tolerance and not racism.

    Reply

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