Say it ain’t so – Silence continues on plight of Burmese Muslims

Say it ain't so, Aung SanAn estimated 90,000 Rohingya Muslims have now been forced from their homes in Rakhine state in western Burma. Many have been trying to make the perilous journey over the Naf river estuary to Bangladesh only to be turned away by the authorities there.

The escalating violence between ethnic Buddhists and the minority Rohingya has led to the NGOs recalling their personnel on safety grounds. Homes have been razed to the ground, and many lives on both sides have been lost. The Burmese government, true to form, have denied access by external observers. This is not surprising as Rohingya Muslims brave enough to give interviews have spoken of Burmese government helicopters opening fire on refugee boats and similar atrocities.

Also true to form, many young muslims are expressing their frustration online and are demanding jihad. While I don’t wish to commentate at length on the relative ease with which theistic faiths can become violently radicalised, I have to confess a degree of incredulity at the behaviour of the Burmese Buddhist monks who have been proven to have assisted in the withholding of humanitarian aid to the Rohingya.

As Bomber Harris said in WW2 – “They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.”

If the Burmese government’s behaviour is reprehensible, at least it is true to form. The behaviour of the monks on the other hand is utterly disgusting, and made doubly bewildering considering the reputation Islam has gained for some of the most disgusting acts of reciprocity in recent human history. One can either conclude that the monks haven’t read a newspaper in the past 15 years, or truly wish to consign themselves to the sort of retribution that the US and UK have endured for years.

Professor Bob Thurman has noted that is is very often monastics who represent the strongest and most intractable opposition to moronic leaders such as Thein Sein, but here they are apparently assisting in the dirty work of racist nationalism. Like many Buddhists, I suspect the actions of the monks is being driven by┬áThein Sein’s regime.

Art of living July 2012What is upsetting is the utter failure of most Buddhist leaders to speak out on the matter The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and of course, our own Daisaku Ikeda. As a member of the Soka Gakkai I am disappointed that the July issue of Art of Living, the UK’s monthly SGI rag, has a front cover proclaims “Caring for our world” and doesn’t mention this crucial Buddhist story at all – business as usual. Given the SGI’s coverage of the Fukushima disaster it could be easy to label their failure to react to this issue as short-sighted.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s opposition leader has remained silent, and one report (around 5:40 minutes into the video) cites her as refusing to speak up for the Rohingya early in July stating that she was “not even sure if they were Burmese“. Her refusal to criticise President Thein Sein (former military leader), for endorsing the policies that have lead to the atrocities is disturbing.

Given the tensions between ethnic Burmese (who are not all Buddhists, just as Brits are not all actively Christian) and the Rohingya have gone on for years, and that we are only now starting to see the full scope of this issue due to the relaxation of media restrictions in Burma, it’s naive to think Suu Kyi was unaware of this problem when she made the above statement. Regardless of their nationality, the Rohingya are still human beings, and deserve better – much better.

Aung San Suu Kyi has lost so much personally in her battle for democracy in Burma, and I could never criticise her incredible bravery – perhaps this is why I am sending my prayers that she can maintain her previous resolve and see this disaster through to a humane end, and that the Burmese and the Rohingya can bring an end to what is becoming a bloody stain that will endure for generations to come.

Aung San Suu Kyi, PLEASE speak out against the violence – and PLEASE demand the monks to remain true to their faith. I was listening to Murray Head on the way home from dropping my grand daughter off today, and this song bought me to tears… Aung San, please tell us you don’t support this, say it ain’t so…

Say it ain’t so Joe, please, say it ain’t so
We pinned our hopes on you Joe
And they’re ruining our show

Ooh babies, don’t you think we’re gonna get burned
Ooh babies, don’t you think we’re gonna get burned
we’re gonna get turned, we’re gonna get learned
Yes, we’re gonna get turned, we’re gonna get burned
we’re gonna get learned,
Yes,we’re gonna get burned
we’re gonna get burned, we’re gonna get learned
yes, we’re gonna get turned, we’re gonna get burned

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