Genocide of Muslims in Myanmar
Mohammad Jamil


Despite, UN resolutions and Conventions in regard to genocide, the UN has failed to take timely action to stop mass killings of Muslim minority in Myanmar. Their enforced conversion into Buddhism, subjecting them to all sorts of violence and harsh treatment, denying them fundamental human rights and not accepting them as citizens with equal rights are some of the atrocities committed by the majority Buddhists and Hindus. Dr. Mohammad Elmasry, Professor in University of Waterloo, while writing in the Egyptian Gazette has enumerated the different hardships the Rohingya Muslims have historically undergone. He writes " They are subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation, land confiscation, forced eviction and house destruction and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps".

Historically speaking, Rohingya Muslims arrived in Burma in early seventh century, but Myanmar military regime maintains that Rohingya Muslim immigrants came from India during British colonial rule. The régime refuses to issue them identification cards, deny them education, health and travel facilities. They have no land property rights/ownership of the land on which they live, which can be taken away at ay time. They are barred from government employment, face marriage restrictions, and are subjected to forced labour, extortion and other coercive measures. Recent massacre of Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar has resulted in thousands of innocent people's killings, including women and children.

Unfortunately, Muslim Ummah represented by the OIC, and international community are indifferent to the sad plight of the Burmese Muslims, despite various UN resolutions and conventions declaring genocide as crime. The declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (1) dated 11th December 1946 stipulates that genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world. According to Article 1 of 1951 Convention, it was confirmed that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, was a crime under international law, which the signatories of the Convention undertook to prevent and to punish. Article 2 stated "In the present Convention, genocide means any of the acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

Thus, torturing, killing, inflicting physical pain and causing mental harm or psychic trauma to any human being or group/community fall under the category of criminal acts punishable under international law. In April 2004 marking the 10th anniversary of 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had announced his Action Plan to Prevent Genocide. Belatedly, the United Nations has come out of stupor and taken note of human rights excesses and killings of Muslims in the Southeast Asian country, which is a welcome development after a prolonged criminal silence over the mayhem that the Buddhist population was unleashing over the Muslim minority in Rohingya.

For years, Muslims throughout the world are facing death and destruction. It is still fresh in the minds of the Muslims throughout the world the massacre that took place in Sabra and Shatila - Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon between September 16 and 18, 1982, during the Lebanese civil war. Palestinian and Lebanese civilians were massacred in the camps by Christian Lebanese Phalangists while the camp was surrounded by the Israel Defence Force. In that period of time, Israel was at war with the PLO in Lebanon. Israeli forces occupied Beirut, controlled the entrances to the refugee camps of Palestinians and to the city. On December 16, 1982, the United Nations General Assembly condemned the Sabra and Shatila massacres and declared it to be an act of genocide. There was no precise number of victims, but estimates range from 700-800 to 3,500 in a single massacre (depending on the source). Though genocide is a crime under international law and is punishable, yet there was no punishment, as Israel has unqualified support of the US.

Efforts are being made to divide the Muslims throughout the world. Seymour M/ Hersh in his article captioned 'A strategic shift' and published in The New Yorker magazine of 5th March 2007 wrote "The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat". This is the way the West views Shia and Sunni area of influence. One could infer from the testimony of then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when she said "There is a new strategic alignment in the Middle East separating reformers and extremists". She referred to Sunni states as centers of moderation and said that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of Lebanon were on the other side of the divide. The US in fact has twin-objectives one to secure Israel, and secondly to control oil resources. Meanwhile, China has clinched deals in African countries and has eye on other sources of oil, the West could face serious crises in future.

Having that said, the fundamental cause for plight of the Muslims in the world is that the Muslim world faces leadership crisis unparalleled in the history. The Organisation of Islamic Conference and the Arab League have not been able to provide either leadership or collective wisdom to extricate Muslim Ummah from the multifaceted crisis. Had the rulers of the member countries ensured socio-economic justice, strengthened the institutions, established democracy and fostered the spirit of tolerance and accommodation in their societies, they would have been spared the ordeal and ignominy they face today. In other words, they did not try to discover the verities of freedom, equality and solidarity, which is why some Muslim countries have become breeding grounds for extremists and criminals. In view of the current world political scenario whereby Muslim countries are looked upon as places that engender terrorism, it is imperative for the Muslim countries to put their heads together and use collective wisdom to improve their image, and also counter the shenanigans of their enemies.