A Helping Hand for Refugees

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The Rohingya Muslims are being exiled in their own lands

The Burma Times - 20 March 2015

Islam first came to Rakhine, part of the Far East and inside the borders of Burma (Myanmar) through Muslim travelers to the region in the 8th century. When Bengal adopted Islam in 1203, Rakhine came under Muslim rule. Between 1430, when the region was conquered by Muslims, and 1638, with a few exceptions, the rulers generally chose to live by Islam. The Muslims settled in Rakhine are therefore the descendants of Sulayman Shah, who was placed on the throne by the Bengali Sultan Jalaluddin Muhammed Shah.17

History confirms that the Rohingya Muslims who are now being persecuted in their own lands, whose homes and villages are being burned, whose mothers and daughters are being tortured and whose men are being slaughtered, are the rightful owners of that territory. In addition, Muslims have occupied important positions in the governing of the country and in its political and cultural life for more than 350 years. They have even provided such senior officials as five viziers, along with governors, army generals and ministers.

However, following the killing of the Muslim Sultan Shah Salim II in a conspiracy in 1638, the empire entered a period of decline and collapse. With its invasion by Burma in 1784, the Muslim people living in the region suffered great oppression. Many of them were forced to flee to Bengal, which was under British rule. According to East India Company records, in 1799 35,000 Rakhine Muslims fled their lands because of persecution by the Burmese. The records tell us this; “…in one day soon after the conquest of Arakan the Burmans put 40,000 men to Death: that wherever they found a pretty Woman, they took her after killing the husband; and the young Girls they took without any consideration of their parents, and thus deprived these poor people of the property…"18 Some of the Muslims fleeing Burmese violence left the country and had to migrate to India.

After the withdrawal of the British who had been in control of the region, in 1824, there was soon a considerable increase in the number of attacks on Muslims. During the Second World War and the Japanese occupation the pressure on Muslims increased still further, culminating in Muslim men, women and children being barbarically murdered by swords and spears in the village of Chanbilli in the township of Minbya in 1942. After the slaughter the district was pillaged. All gold, silver and valuable items belonging to Muslims were seized, and their animals were confiscated. In the attacks that started in this village and spread across Rakhine, 307 Muslim villages were wiped off the map, more than 100,000 Muslims were martyred and some 80,000 were driven from their homes.19

1. The military regime after the 1962 coup in Myanmar has completely rejected the identity of Muslim people.
3. In 1982, Muslims were fully excluded from the citizenship.

Restrictions on the movements of Muslims were imposed following Burmese independence in 1948, the aim being to eliminate the Muslim population of Rakhine entirely. A military regime that took power following a coup in 1962 entirely rejected the identity of the Muslim people and began using propaganda to depict them as foreigners. They were removed from their posts in the police and the civil service and were prohibited from moving freely in the province of Rakhine.

Muslims, to whom Rakhine actually belongs, have been living under very harsh conditions again since 1990. There has been systematic pressure intended to reduce the population. They are unable to engage in agriculture or raise livestock because of arbitrary local taxation. Their lands are being taken into public ownership. Other examples of the persecution of Muslims include arrests, torture, the destruction of mosques and cemeteries, Muslim girls being taken away from their village under the pretext of 'development of the status of women,' and their being deprived of their rights to education.20

The Rohingya Muslims have been forced from their own lands, their true homeland to migrate to other countries in search of safety. The people to whom these lands really belong are today abandoning their roots, culture and history and struggling to survive under harsh conditions as refugees in other countries. More than 240,000 Muslims in Burma are living as refugees inside the country, and citizenship rights are denied to more than 810,000 Muslims living in the country. There are 120,000 refugees on the border with Thailand.21 There are also Rohingya Muslims with refugee status in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh and some European countries. One and a half million Rohingya Muslims are living at the hunger threshold in Bangladesh alone, trying to survive in the jungles and valley margins.

Every person whose conscience and heart are not totally atrophied, wherever in the world they may be, has a responsibility to defend the rights of these innocent people, to maintain justice and to strive to eliminate wickedness. A sentence appearing in the social media, an article shared, a word spoken at a meeting or making people aware of this blatant persecution, and every step taken for the sake of unity of public opinion against tyrannical regimes and evil people will constitute a barrier against such crimes against humanity and help prevent their reoccurrence.

The responsibility incumbent on every conscientious person is to defend the rights of the oppressed and bring and end to persecution. The oppression, which the Rohingyas suffer from today before the eyes of the world, is an affront to humanity, which has been few and far between throughout the history. It is our responsibility to protect them from persecution.

 

Footnotes

17 Dünden Bugüne Arakan, Dr. Muhammed Yunus, 2012

18 Soas Bulletin of Burma Research,(Buchanan 1992:82), https:// www.soas.ac.uk/sbbr/editions/file64388.pdf

19 Arakan Rohingya Milli Organizasyonu, 1942 Müslüman katliamı, http://www.rohingya.org/portal/index.php/rohingya-library/26-rohingya-history/55-the-muslim-massacre-of-1942.html

20 A Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia,s. 330-340, https://books.google.com.tr/books?id=ZzMmpCinBYoC&pg= PA327&lpg=PA327&dq=Arakan+islam+embraced&source=bl&ots=CqkoQvEL1N&sig=EcmIrnCsz9Ops40I95VeTI6Ok2k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dcn6VP7iA4WfyAPwx4C4BA&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Arakan%20islam%20embraced&f=true

21 BM Mülteci Ajansı, UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e48 77d6.html

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