“But if they ask you for help in respect of the deen, it is your duty to help them” [Al-Anfaal: 72]
The desperate sight of Rohingya Muslims is difficult to comprehend. In the 21st century there are men, women and children, young and old stranded in the middle of the sea, with no state willing to take the responsibility of providing them with shelter and food.
They have been forced to venture in boats to trafficking camps on remote Thai islands. They have been victims of extreme violence, lack basic food and water and often forced to drink their own urine. Those that have fallen victim to disease are thrown overboard if dead or close to dying.
In Thailand Rohingya Muslims have been held in internment camps until they can either pay thousands to human traffickers to be released or be sold as slaves to the highest bidder. Those who are unable to pay become slaves, women and young girls are forced into marriages and men sold to Thai fishermen.
UNHCR estimates that 130,000 Rohingya have fled Bangladesh and western Arakan state since the outbreak of violence in 2012. As a result, the Burmese Navy and local security forces are profiting off the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in western Burma by demanding payments from smugglers who deliver Rohingya to human traffickers, as well as those seeking passage.
Recently mass graves of Rohingya Muslims have been uncovered in Thailand. ASEAN countries (specifically Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia) have refused Rohingya refugees to seek asylum. They have instructed their military forces to take them back to sea and abandon them to nature’s forces
A snapshot of the approach of neighbouring countries to Rohingya Muslims include:
Thailand- Its navy says that it has given aid to migrant boats in its waters and has indicated it may allow refugee camps on its shores. However it has turned boats away and does not want permanent settlers.
Malaysia- A natural choice for most Rohingya travellers because it is predominantly Muslim and short of unskilled labourers. But Malaysia has ordered its navy to repel them.
Bangladesh- Sometimes allows them to live in camps on its south-eastern border and sometimes sends them back to Myanmar. It is estimated there are currently about 200,000 Rohingyas living in refugee camps, many in terrible conditions.
Indonesia- Has made it clear they are not welcome, turning away boatloads of migrants. It has accepted those rescued by fishermen but has warned them not to rescue any more. A group of migrants who made it ashore in early May may be expelled, the government has warned.
Racist laws against Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
To highlight further the situation which has forced Muslims to flee Burma are the Government’s inhumane practices towards them
Rohingya Muslims are the only ethnic group in Burma that must ask the Government permission to marry. The Government’s “Requirements for Bengalis who apply for Permission to Marry” mandates that Rohingya seeking marriage licenses be subject to humiliating and financially burdensome requirements.
In January 1994, the NaSaKa introduced a local order requiring official permission to marry, contradicting customary marriage practice. This order later included penalties for non-compliance. In practice, marriage authorizations can take up to several years to obtain and are only granted against the payment of bribes. Currently, 535 Rohingya men are serving sentences for unauthorized marriages in Buthidaung Jail, according to research by the Arakan Project.
Freedom of movement
The Burmese Government has placed strict limitations on social movement within or between townships in the Rakhine State. These restrictions restrict Rohingya Muslims to obtain vital healthcare because they cannot travel freely, even for a medical emergency. This limits also limits their access to education, healthcare, employment, basic necessities, and an improved standard of living.
In May 2013, authorities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state issued a directive placing a two-child limit on Rohingya couples in two predominately Muslim townships in the region. Rohingya women (and Rohingya women alone) in northern Rakhine State are legally forbidden from having more than two children.
Children born beyond the two-child limit are denied legal status, education, employment, and basic services. This has forced many pregnant Rohingya women to flee Burma under dangerous conditions or get unsafe abortions, causing health complications which can be fatal.
Although there are 1.33 million Rohingya in Burma, only 40,000 have citizenship. Rohingya have lived in Burma for generations, but the 1982 Citizenship Law denies Rohingya official legal status. As a result, thousands of Rohingya are stateless.
Burmese President Thein Sein outright denies the existence of the Rohingya as an ethnic group of Burma, calling them “Bengali” instead. “Bengali” is a discriminatory term used to imply that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Heartlessness of Muslim rulers
Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have now taken in migrants until they can be sent ‘home’ or resettled in a third country. It has been the first official action by Southeast Asian nations to try to resolve a crisis well into its second week. This has been only due to international pressure many of whom have been on boats for weeks with little food or water. The previous position of those Governments, was to push them back into the sea. This is not for permament residence but to appease the growing condemnation of their inhumane stance.
It is an indictment on the rulers of the Muslim world, that they have watched the Rohingya Muslims being oppressed. The Muslim regimes specifically in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia have abandoned the Rohingya women and children, abandoning their responsibility towards them in the name of preserving national interests. Indeed this is an approach which Islam has condemned.
These regimes as well as those across the Muslim world have very little interest into the plight of the Muslims. The Rohingya Muslims are suffering from the same gross neglect that the Muslims of Palestine, Syria, Kashmir face today.
Indeed it was the Khilafah under which true protection and honour would be provided. It is under this fine framework that regardless of faith of background, human life, property and honour is protected and cherished. It is a system under which the Khalifah Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik sent Muslim armies under the leadership of General Muhammad Bin Qasim to rescue Muslim women and children who were captured by a Hindu Raja Dahir in the southern Indian port city, which resulted in liberation of the whole area of Sindh from a cruel system.
Indeed it is such a Khilafah state which is needed today to rescue the Rohingya Muslims.
“Only the Imam is a shield, from behind whom one would fight, and by whom one would protect oneself.” [Muslim, Sahih]