Myanmar is a small southeast Asian country bordering India, China and Bangladesh. It is home to one of the most discriminated Muslim minorities in the global south.
The ongoing discrimination perpetuated by the Rakhine Buddhist communities, sectarian violence against the Rohingya Muslims.
A military crackdown on Rohingya civilians by Myanmar’s security forces displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims and was the start of a series of inhuman acts of violence against the Muslim community in northern Myanmar.
In this article, we’ll tackle the unfortunate situation of the Rohingya Muslims as well as what enabled their oppression to continue for as long as it did.
The Brutal and Systematic Genocide of the Rohingya Muslims
The Rohingya genocide is a series of continuous persecutions and murders by the Myanmar military of Rohingya Muslims.
It consists of 2 phases as far as we know. The first known phase was in the form of a military crackdown which took place from October 2016 till January 2017, and the second one has been ongoing since August 2017.
The crisis forced over a million Rohingya Muslim citizens to migrate outside the country. Most of them fled to Bangladesh, which gave birth to what we now know as the world’s largest refugee camp, while others escaped to India, Thailand, Malaysia, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia, where they continuously face discrimination.
Also Read: Rohingya Muslims: Citizens Of Nowhere
The UN acknowledged this to be a systemic ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.
There are countless harrowing tales that follow the innocent civilians who had their homes broken into, those who fled for a better life and those who suffered long-term consequences for everything they went through.
Take Uma Suleiman’s story for example. During the raid she had her home broken into, forcibly taken by 2 army soldiers into a rice paddy then raped and left bleeding by them both.
Now she’s living in an overcrowded refugee camp in Bangladesh housing over 900 thousand refugees, taking care of a 3 month old infant who’s a constant reminder of the nightmare/fueled trauma she had suffered a year prior.
Her story is one of many who have suffered either having watched their homes burst into flames, children kidnapped, killed, scarred and mutilated and family members shot execution style.
The mass rapes have resulted in an unknown numbers of unwanted pregnancies and forced survivors with a terrible choice, forcing them to relive their trauma while adding a new layer to it.
That’s not mentioning the hundreds of thousands human tracking incidents that took place in Bengali refugee camps. Luring in Rohingya Muslims with false dreams of finding work and a better life some place far away.
Another tale is of a woman who got separated from her husband during a clash in which he was attempting to buy them time to flee to safety. Now, the woman is forced to raise her children on her own in a poorly set up refugee camp with not enough food and water for her and her children wondering about the whereabouts of her husband who had gone missing since the day they got separated.
In reality, the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims by the military and police forces of their government dates back to the 70s, and has been a regular occurrence since then.
The continuous ethnic cleansing and killings of them resulted in a refugee crisis, over a million citizens fled the country, the destruction of villages and towns across the northwestern parts of Myanmar.
Refuged Rohingya Muslim Children Denied Education
It’s been almost five years since a brutal military operation caused the unfortunate demise of thousands of Rohingya Muslims and displaced over 800,000 over the border to Bangladesh.
In what seems to be the world’s largest refugee settlement, around five hundred thousand children are in a desperate need of a proper education, which most international relief efforts are failing to provide.
Also Read: Islamophobia in South Asia
The Rohingya Muslims were already denied education in their home country in Myanmar after a military crackdown that took place in 2012 and never let up. And in 2017 the government schools that taught them in Burmese quickly shutdown after Myanmar Military’s offensive in august of that year.
However, after hundreds of thousands migrated to different parts of the world including India in hopes of pursuing better livable lifestyles and a chance to go to school had their dreams shattered.
Take the story of Ibrahim Mohammad, a 10 year old Muslim from northern Myanmar for example. His family says he used to be a vibrant energetic child with a big love for school and learning— but after witnessing the fire burning his parents’ house by Myanmar military, his grandfather murder by aggressive militant soldiers, and his mother forced to deliver a baby in the forest as his family scattered along side hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh.
Ibrahim, who used to hope and dream of becoming a doctor in the future, is now prone to long stretches of silence, mood swings, and he barely smiles anymore.
Any education facilities provided by relief and charitable organizations did not have the children’s best interest at heart.
Reports say that most of these educational institutions focused on teaching the children songs in foreign languages to impress the foreign press and potential donors without taking into account the children’s other skills like speaking, reading and writing.
That made the parents frustrated and withdrew their children from these schools. The few families working odd jobs that could afford to hire private tutors to teach their children pay around $70 a month to ensure that their children learn.
Social Media’s Roles in Perpetuating, Enabling and Fueling the Hatred Against Rohingya Muslims
It’s a well known fact that social media influences the masses’ way of thinking regarding many topics and discussions. And the Rohingya Muslim situation is no different. Take the poorly constructed hate-speech censorship on Facebook against the Rohingya Muslims made by the Myanmar hate groups have elevated the general consensus and hatred towards the small Muslim minority.
During the UN’s reports on addressing the issue regarding what the Myanmar’s government and military forces and calling it a systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing.
But the UN report also addressed Facebook’s slow action regarding the hate speech that spread like wildfire in its platform, the UN report described it as a “useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate,” adding that the company’s response to concerns about its role had been “slow and ineffective.”
It said that the “extent to which Facebook posts and messages have led to real-world discrimination must be independently and thoroughly investigated.”
Facebook then worked to ban hundreds of hate groups created by military officials and citizens of Myanmar spreading hate speech against Rohingya Muslims. It said that some of them were followed by over 12 million people.
What Does Shraddha Walker’s Murder Mean for Love in India?
Earlier this month, India was shocked by the news of the murder of 28-year-old Shraddha Walker by her live-in partner Aftab Poonawalla. Aftab had killed Shraddha merely three days after they moved into their new home in Delhi in May this year. Aftab had cut the body of Shraddha into 35 pieces and stored them in a fridge. He was gradually disposing of the body parts in a nearby forest area.
Interfaith Couple and Sensational Murder Trial
After the news of Shraddha’s murder broke in mid-November following the arrest of Aftab Poonawalla, it became a sensational murder trial. The murder was debated on prime-time debates on TV.
While the murder was chilling and one could expect it to cause a sensation, it became a sensational murder trial for very wrong reasons in India. The fact that Shraddha and Aftab were an interfaith couple made it a sensational murder.
Even though Aftab has claimed that he killed Shraddha in a fit of rage while they were fighting, the police are yet to establish the motive for the murder. The media trial, however, has given a religious colour to the murder. Some people, including those on TV debates, have dressed the murder in the language of religion.
The religious colour given to the Shraddha murder and the transcending of the murder beyond its context is a result of the Love Jihad discourse adopted by the ruling right-wing party BJP. BJP used Loved Jihad as an electoral issue in many state elections.
At present, eleven states where BJP is in power have passed legislation against Love Jihad. The argument by the Hindu nationalists is that Muslim men intentionally fall in love with Hindu women and then these men force the women to convert from Hinduism to Islam.
There are also attempts to demonize Muslims after the murder of Shraddha. A man from the UP state recently went on TV to support the actions of Aftab. He claimed to be a Muslim, named Rashid Khan and justified the cutting of Shraddha into 35 pieces.
When the police arrested the said man, it was found that he is a Hindu, named Vikas Gupta.
Vikas Gupta’s statement went viral on social media and Muslims were called out and demonized for his statement.
A Setback to the Freedom to Love in India?
Shraddha’s sensational murder trial has raised questions about love in India. It will hurt the hard-won right of freedom to love.
There are two aspects to be considered. First is the freedom of young people to love or live in live-in relationships. Since the news of the murder reached almost every home in India, it will scare people from getting into live-in relationships. Further, society will also be suspicious of these relationships. Live-in couples already face difficulty in negotiating the conservative society in India and the case will only exacerbate it. For instance, live-in couples in India find it difficult to find a house or rented accommodation. Aftab and Shraddha also lived in rented accommodation. More people than ever before will now hesitate to rent their accommodations to live-in couples.
Second, as discussed above Shraddha’s murder will make it worse for interfaith couples to negotiate everyday life in India. Even though India was never a safe place for interfaith couples, the case is going to make society hostile to interfaith love. Those who were already against interfaith love will use this case to further cement their position on Love Jihad.
Further, society in general parents of young people in particular will turn hostile against love.
A Difficult Task Ahead
The sensational murder trial and the media trial of Shraddha’s murder by Aftab have raised questions about love in India. Further, the discourse of Love Jihad is also back. Hindu nationalists will make sure that the case is exploited to its full to make a case for Love Jihad.
For those in India, who want to preserve the hard-won right of freedom to love, the task ahead is very difficult. Even though the case has already become sensational, they must make sure that it is restricted to its immediate context. If the case transcends its immediate context, hate will win against love. Love must triumph!
The Scope of inter-religious pluralism within Islam
Even though pluralism is a loaded term, its generic meaning suggests a phenomenon of peaceful coexistence between entities of diverse cultural, religious, and political inclinations. It is important to remember that pluralism does not mean the elimination of difference, nor does the word “tolerance” do justice to its intended purpose. Pluralism is not merely tolerating the other but engaging with the beliefs of others with peaceful dialogue and action. The scope of inter-religious puralism within Islam proposes this kind of pluralism.
What does Pluralism mean in Islam?
Looking at the subjective meaning of pluralism within the ambit of Islam, the proponents of various Islamic discourses have proposed that pluralism is a pronounced feature of Islam. Many Muslim intellectuals claim that pluralism is central to the fundamental essence of Islam. A convincing case can be made for the presence of a compelling pluralistic ethos within the Islamic scriptures.
In his essay, Reformist Islam in Comparative Perspective, Mehran Kamrava claims that the rise in the level of religiosity amongst Muslims has given rise to other forms of Islam. One of which according to him is “likely to have the most resonating consequences for Islamic jurisprudence in both the near and the distant future” and calls it “intellectual Islam”. He claims that it is through this form of Islam that a Muslim reformist discourse is introduced. Which has produced significant work to locate the place of inter-religious pluralism in Islam. He further derives some themes out of the reformist discourse, very important with their reference to pluralism in Islam:
“First is a deep and abiding conviction in Islam as faith and a system of belief. In its current manifestation, the discourse of reformist Muslim intellectuals does not seek to instrumentalize Islam for purposes of achieving modernity in a manner palatable to the masses at large. Islam is not a means to an end; it is an end in itself. It simply needs to be re-thought and reformulated. The reformists’ reliance on and endless references to the Qur’an bespeaks of the text’s cultural centrality to them.”.
Such display of absolute faith by Muslim reformists whilst having reformist inclinations bespeak of their balanced position. A flexible modern vision can develop interfaith dialogue. The abiding conviction to Islam earns a sense of authenticity for their thought process in the eyes of fellow Muslims.
Read here, Islamophobia: Impacts on Muslim Women
What is Democratic Pluralism?
The next theme of the reformist discourse is “democratic pluralism”: “Pluralism, the reformist discourse’s proponents maintain, is a salient feature of the spirit of the Qur’an and the hadith.” (Kamrava )
To support his claim he cites another Muslim intellectual Abdulaziz Sachedina who quotes:
The challenge for Muslims today, as ever, is to tap the tradition of Koranic pluralism to develop a culture of restoration, of just intrareligious and interreligious relationships in a world of cultural and religious diversity. Without restoring the principle of coexistence, Muslims will not be able to recapture the spirit of early civil society under the Prophet.
In the globalized world, the facets of modernity like its political model of the nation-state have become a governing principle for all ethnic, cultural, and religious pluralism. This means the only larger identity governing the religious identity of the people is that of the nation-state. In the religiously pluralistic society of today, people may have different identities, but the model of the nation-state promises all of them the same status. People might identify with different religious inclinations, but the state identifies them as either citizens or residents of the state. This is exactly the kind of challenge that Sachedina talks about when he implores Muslims to revive the tradition of pluralism that is central to the Islamic texts for peaceful coexistence in the globalized world.
The Case of Muslims living as a minority
If Muslims live in a minority in a nation-state that runs on one of the political models of modernity like democracy or secularism, then for the sake of the welfare of Muslims they need to fulfill the duties that the nation-state demands from them. Andrew March talks about the jurisprudence of Muslim minorities also called Fiqh al-aqalliyyat al-muslima in Arabic:
Fiqh alaqalliyyat tends to be a discourse where departures from traditional Islamic commitments are not seen as desirable, and certainly not goals in and of themselves, but where creative rethinking often occurs in subtle and pragmatic guises. It is thus an important object of study for those interested in the ideal moral encounter between a public religion like Islam and modern/post-modern secularism. (March 6).
Important questions of interest toward non-Islamic institutions have been addressed from within internal Islamic discourses that advocate for a positive Muslim attitude concerning the issue of pluralism.
Islam’s relation with other Faiths
The third theme within the reformist Islamic discourse is “Islam’s relations with other great faiths”. An important aspect central to the Muslim understanding of pluralism is the conception that god’s message in the Quran is universal and that the revelation was made through more than just one prophet, which means that the revelations had multiple manifestations. The basic underpinning for this idea can be seen in the Quran which mentions the monotheistic traditions of Judaism and Christianity. Far from denying the Quran in fact validates that Torah and Bible were predecessor scriptures affirming that their message has come from the same god. Many Quranic verses echo the sentiments which envisage a world where diversified people are united by their pious intentions and mutual devotion to God.
Also, read Islam in 2075: World’s Largest Religion!?
Some Important Milestones in the Islamic History
Apart from the theoretical contributions to promote Islamic pluralism, efficient action has also been taken within the Muslim discourse on a practical level to perpetuate inter-faith harmony.
One such historic step was the “1981 adoption of the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, whose article XIII states: Every person has the right to freedom of conscience and worship in accordance with his religious beliefs.”.
Apart from this, another significant step was taken in 1990 when the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam was adopted, Article 1(a) of which states:
“All human beings form one family whose members are united by submission to God and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the grounds of race, color, language, sex, religious belief, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. True faith is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human perfection.”
Islamic Tradition of Peaceful Coexistence
The Quran recognizes fundamental rights for all humankind whether Muslims or non-Muslims and explicitly forbids compulsion in faith. The Islamic texts also provide a practical model of implementing pluralistic ideals which have greatly affected the treatment of non-Muslims in Muslim lands. Contrary to the Islamophobic stereotypes, Islam not only acknowledges pluralism, but it also goes beyond the reductive concepts of tolerance and intolerance to endorse and encourages a tradition of peaceful coexistence.
Also, read Islamophobia: Impacts on Muslim Women
COP27 Climate Change Summit: Greenwashing Scam Imperilling Human Rights
COP27 Faced Major Criticism
Morally, politically and economically COP27 climate change summit has been coined as a greenwashing scam imperilling human rights.
The world watched Egypt closely as it hosted the 27th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh from the 8th-16th of November. More than 190 governments attended COP27 to attempt to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.
Furthermore, Egypt hosting of COP27 sparked much controversy due to its abysmal human rights record. Additionally, COP27 faced heavy criticism due to some of the world’s top polluters, such as Coca-Cola sponsoring the event. Furthermore, attendees arrived in private jets; meat and dairy products remained on menus; dozens of domestic civil society organizations were excluded. Additionally, the summit was overshadowed by persistent calls to release up to 65,000 political prisoners in Egyptian prisons.
Worlds Top Polluter, Coca-Cola, Sponsored COP27
The UN climate conference announced a sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola, one of the “world’s top polluters”. Coca-Cola recently retained its title for the fourth year as the world’s top plastic polluter. The sponsorship deal is a greenwashing scam by campaigners, drawing intense criticism.
Coca-Cola produces 120 billion throwaway plastic bottles a year. 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels, exacerbating the plastic and climate change crises.
Private Jets, Bottomless Cocktails and Beef Medallion Dishes
Surprisingly, attendees indulged in the very activities which got us into this mess in the first place. Moreover, world leaders flew to Egypt in private jets. Attendees enjoyed bottomless cocktails, one-hour unlimited wine and beer packages, $100 beef medallion dishes, and $50 seafood platters.
This begs the question: do these foods belong at a climate conference? We have missed the true purpose of the climate summit: to help save the planet.
Meat and Dairy On the Menu – Not on the Agenda
In the three-decade history of the UN Climate Summit, COP27 was the first UN summit to discuss the meat and dairy industry’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.
COP27 faced massive criticism this year from climate activists due to the unsustainable meat and dairy items on its menus. It seems unimaginable that globally we are trying to reduce our meat and dairy consumption to save our planet. However, our governments cannot stop eating these foods at the world’s largest climate summit.
Cutting meat and dairy output are not yet on the agenda for governments at COP27. Many governments attending the summit give billions to livestock farmers in subsidies. Instead of focusing on plant-based diets, they are advancing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using feed additives that make animals less gassy and technology that sucks up the methane wafting off manure heaps. Andy Reisinger, a farm emissions specialist and vice-chair of the UN’s IPCC climate panel, said feed additives could worsen emissions by promoting intensive farming.
Dozens of Domestic Civil Society Groups Excluded
Hundreds of prominent human rights defenders, researchers and environmentalists were exiled from Egypt. They were unable to attend Cop27 due to the nature of their work. Many voices from Egypt were absent at the conference due to the government’s corrupt attempts to exclude dozens of domestic civil society groups.
“Arrests and detention, NGO asset freezes and dissolutions and travel restrictions against human rights defenders have created a climate of fear for Egyptian civil society organisations to engage visibly at the COP27”
Additionally, COP27’s wifi blocked access to international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other news websites needed during information talks. These prominent human rights organizations hosted talks at COP27 but could not access their sites due to previous work criticizing the Egyptian government. Egypt used this strategy to hide the nation’s decades-long record of cracking down on human rights.
65,000 Political Prisoners in Egyptian Prisons
Currently, there are an estimated 65,000 political prisoners inside Egyptian prisons. COP27 was overshadowed by persistent calls to release political prisoners.
A British-Egyptian detainee, Alaa Abd el-Fattah, was a significant focus in the media. As a leader of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, he has been in prison for the past decade. He started a partial hunger strike in April 2022 to protest his detention conditions. He spent the last six months consuming just 100 calories a day. A week before COP27 started, he stopped eating altogether. Then, on the day the summit began, he stopped drinking water. He has since resumed drinking water but remains critically ill.
COP27 Cracks Down On “Greenwashing”
Companies, banks, cities and states worldwide have continuously made broken promises to achieve net-zero emissions. These corporate climate pledges amount to little more than a greenwashing scam. Evading net zero claims is a common greenwashing strategy. Companies claim to be carbon-free due to strategies such as buying carbon credits while simultaneously pursuing new fossil fuel projects emitting greenhouse gases.
Greenwashing is when an organization spends more time and money marketing itself as environmentally friendly than minimizing its environmental impact. It’s a shady marketing gimmick that misleads consumers who prefer to buy environmentally friendly goods and services.
At COP27, the UN cracked down on greenwashing, laying down recommendations for how companies, financial institutions and cities must calculate their net zero emissions status. The new UN report aims to eliminate loopholes by laying out ten steps to bring integrity, transparency and accountability to net zero claims.
“I have a message to fossil fuel companies and their financial enablers. So-called ‘net-zero pledges’ that exclude core products and activities are poisoning our planet. They must thoroughly review their pledges and align them with this new guidance”.United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres.
The UN cracked down on companies stating that they can’t claim to be net zero if they are not in line with targets set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These targets include cutting global carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. The UN limited short-term carbon offsets and held that they could only be used sparingly in the long term.
Historic Deal: Governments Must Pay Poor Nations for Climate Damage
Governments at COP27 approved a historic deal to create a fund for compensating developing nations that are victims of extreme weather events worsened by rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions. However, many remained uncertain as countries argued over emission reduction efforts.
Moreover, this is a massive step for poorer countries bearing the brunt of climate change. These nations face extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heat waves, and famines despite releasing the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. This historical “loss and damage” deal will provide financial assistance to developing nations stricken by climate disasters.
However, this loss and damage deal has several flaws. Some nations held that the pledges to limit global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees showed little progress compared to the COP26 conference in Glasgow in 2021. Furthermore, others criticized how the language and guidelines on phasing out fossil fuels were weak. Despite many different opinions between nations regarding the guidelines of this historic deal, it is still a vital step towards achieving climate justice.
Read more: Climate Refugees: Pain of Unseen Victims.
COP27 has faced significant criticism this year for many justifiable reasons. Many believe COP27 is a greenwashing scam failing humanity and the planet by not leading to significant changes. The UN climate summit is losing its credibility in being able to create meaningful change to save our planet.
World leaders and people in power continuously use high-profile gatherings like COP for attention and are greenwashing, lying and cheating their way through pledges and commitments. The UN Environment Programme released the Emissions Gap report stating that only an urgent system-wide transformation can deliver the enormous emissions cuts needed to stabilize global temperatures below 1.5 degrees by 2030.
World leaders consistently fail to fulfil their commitments and act on time. We cannot place trust in greenwashing scams like COP summits anymore. Instead, we need rapid, far-reaching, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society if we want to build a sustainable world for future generations.
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