Thursday, June 30, 2016

Shura and democracy

Is there a difference between shura and democracy? Khalid Baig says, there is, and he explains below:
Those who hearken to their Sustainer, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance; (Ash-Shūrā, 42:38)

This āyah highlights the importance of shūrā or the system of mutual consultation for the running of all collective affairs, whether in the family, in a small group or at the highest levels of the Islamic state (not to be confused with a fake entity that is misappropriating that name).

When carried out properly, the system shows that the power of the group is much more than the sum of its members. The group benefits from the best of individual resources, talents and ideas. The process of consultation also brings its members closer together, cementing the group. A hadith promises Allāh’s succor to those practicing shūrā.

Sometimes people mention Islamic Shūrā as another name for democracy. This is a dangerous oversimplification and ignores the gulf of difference between their philosophical underpinnings. Democracy is not a system of mutual consultation, but a system of negotiation between divergent interests. Each constituency on this negotiating table seeks to gain at the expense of others and will do whatever it can get away with—from vote rigging and gerrymandering to manufacturing consent through slick propaganda campaigns. The division of the community into political factions is part of the blueprint of democracy, as is the permanent division between the ruling and opposition groups.

All of these are the exact opposite of the spirit and purpose of shūrā, where everyone is working towards the same goals and seeks the greatest benefit for the entire group.

The centrifugal tendencies of democracy require some organizing principle to keep the group together. This was provided by territorial nationalism and the nation-state, which has done much harm to humanity. It is no accident that the rise of democracy and the nation-sate has been simultaneous. Needless to say that Islam stands in total opposition to territorial nationalism.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Why Myanmar is urging foreigners to avoid using the historical term 'Rohingya'?

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim has written a  good article to answer the question of the header.
The government in Myanmar, trying to rewrite history in defining its identity, is engaging in ethnic cleansing. The target are the Rohingya, a people the United Nations and Amnesty International call “the most persecuted refugees in the world”.
Myanmar is home to a large and diverse number of ethnic and religious groups: 135 ethnic groups officially recognized by the current constitution of Myanmar plus the Rohingya, the only Muslims, who are excluded. For nationalist extremists, the Rohingya are not an independent ethnic group with ties to the land in the state of Arakan where they live. Instead, the nationalists insist the Rohingya migrated to Arakan after Burma was progressively absorbed into British India from 1824 onwards. The nationalists view Rohingya as an illegitimate colonial import, not in keeping with the Buddhist Tibeto-Burman character, and refer to them as “Bengalis.
The US Embassy in Myanmar refuses to go along. On April 19, a boat carrying a number of Rohingya capsized and 40 people drowned. The group was trying to reach a nearby town with a hospital, a market and access to other services severely restricted inside the camps for internally displaced persons, where some 140,000 Rohingya live after four years of sporadic inter-communal violence.
In issuing a statement of condolences to the families of the victims, the US embassy referred to the dead as “Rohingya.” The nationalists find that name more threatening than direct criticism of the “apartheid-like” conditions which these people endure. To a Western reader, this may seem odd. Surely an accusation that a state and many of its people engage in ethnic cleansing bordering on genocide should be vehemently denied. But this is how far the situation has gone in Myanmar: The perpetrators of the oppression against the Rohingya – extremist nationalists and Buddhist monks aided and abated by many elements of the police, military and border agency – fully acknowledge the violence and indeed, think it is justified.
The humanitarian crisis in Myanmar bubbles to the surface a few times every year and then tends to be forgotten once the 24-hour news cycle moves on to the next calamity. What lingers is “direct state complicity in ethnic cleansing and severe human rights abuses, blocking of humanitarian aid and incitement of anti-Muslim violence, constituting ominous warning signs of genocide,” as described by United to End Genocide, a non-profit in Washington headed by former US Congressman Tom Andrews.
A humanitarian crisis emerged from the way Myanmar has defined its national identity.At the core is the way in which the country has sought to define its national identity after gaining independence from Britain in 1948. Upon independence, Myanmar became a multi-party parliamentary democracy. But that did not last. The borders of the state were defined by convention on the borders of the pre-colonial Burmese empire of King Bodawpaya, prior to the first Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). The conflicts between some of these groups and the central government led to the military takeover of the government from 1962 effectively until last year. Even now, the military establishment retains veto powers over the new civilian government.
Throughout this period of military administration, the central government has worked at building a nation out of the many ethnic groups in terms of religion, Theravada Buddhism, and race, fair-skinned Tibeto-Burman. The Rohingya are dark-skinned, South Asian Muslims. And so, they have been regarded as the definitive enemy within and “threat to the national purity” of the country for all these decades.
Nationalists defy international law with support for removing the Rohingya from Myanmar.The nationalists support removing the aliens from Myanmar for deportation to Bangladesh. Never mind universal human rights and international law that prohibits denial of citizenship – rendering those born in a nation’s territory stateless – or any suggestion that after two centuries a people might claim a right to land.
The United States and the international community recognize that “communities anywhere have the ability to decide what they should be called,” insists US Ambassador Scot Marciel. “And normally when that happens we would call them what they want to be called. It’s not a political decision; it’s just a normal practice.” Myanmar’s new de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, rebuked the US ambassador for such high-mindedness and sides with the nationalists.
What's in a name?
The word “Rohingya” wields power because it carries the torch of historical truth that dissolves the impossibly contrived case for ethnic cleansing, linking the Rohingya with the British Raj. This is why those who would carry out ethnic cleansing in Myanmar fear it.
The nationalists’ narrative is historically baseless. The state of Arakan has not traditionally been part of the Burmese political and cultural space. The emperor King Bodawpaya annexed Arakan in 1785, just 39 years before the nationalists’ 1824 cut-off point for their “legitimate history.” Arakan had been annexed by precursor Burmese empires, but was not held for extensive periods over the previous thousand years.
Between the state of Arakan and the Burmese heartlands in the basin of the Irrawaddy River there is a difficult-to-traverse mountain range whereas the Arakan coast is neatly on the Bay of Bengal. The area is a natural geographic extension of the Bengali political and cultural space, not the Burmese one. Ethnic and cultural affinities with the people of the Bengal are not surprising. And it is historically documented that the Burmese Rakhine ethnic group, from which most of the extremist elements are drawn, only arrived in the area around 1000 AD.
But the most important reason for giving no ground to the extremists’ revisionist history is that the word “Rohingya” is historically documented in the region prior to the British Raj. Muslims have lived in the region from the 7th century, alongside Hindus and Buddhists, according to an assessment by U.K. Min. Before 1824, the British referred to the region as Rohang and those who lived there as Rohingyas. Later reports from the 19th century, including the 1852 Account of the Burman Empire, Compiled from the Works of Colonel Symes, Major Canning, Captain Cox, Dr Leyden, Dr Buchanan, Calcutta, D'Rozario and Co, refer to how the local Muslims called themselves “Rovingaw” or “Rooinga.” Likewise, a 1799 study of languages spoken in the Burmese area divides the natives of Arakan state between Yakain and Rooinga.
The Classical Journal of 1811 has a comparative list of numbers in many East and Central Asian languages, identifying three spoken in the “Burmah Empire,” and distinguishes between the Rohingya and the Rakhine as the main ethnic groups in the region. Likewise, Rooinga is structurally different to Bengali. A German compendium of languages of the wider region once again mentions the existence of the Rohingya as an ethnic group and separate language in 1815.
This is the history that the ethnic cleansers and their apologists are trying to obscure. They claim that the “Bengalis” invented the term “Rohingya” to hide an illegitimate Bengali background. And this is why the term “Rohingya” posits a threat for them. The word is in the history books – the same books showing that the area has been multi-ethnic and multi-confessional for well over a millennium.
The history books also show that Burma has been most successful as an open, inclusive and outward-looking country – a lesson that should be welcomed by the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. And this is why the war over the word “Rohingya” must be fought, and won: The word looks to history but also charts a path for Myanmar with a future that’s every bit the glorious, peaceful, creative and open country that it once was.

Assam Election Results 2016 - an analysis by Prof. Ram Puniyani

Assam Election Results 2016 – Challenges to Pluralist Ethos: Ram Puniyani
June 30, 2016


This time around (2016 Elections) BJP has managed to come to power in Assam, though as a coalition with its allies. Its vote share this time came down to 29.5% from the earlier 36.5% (2014); still because of the strategically stitched alliances it beat the Congress in the number of seats won. BJP election appeal was centered on the divisive issue of Bangaldeshi immigrants. It took care to regard 3% native Muslims on the ground of ‘Native Assamese identity’ while the Bengali Muslims (32%) were singled out as immigrants; outsiders. The Bengali immigrant Hindus were projected as refugees. BJP’s propaganda was on the lines of Hindus versus Muslims. Cleverly it was presented as natives versus outsiders.
Elections 2016
Taking recourse to communal historiography the election was presented as the second battle of Saraighat, where Lachit Burfukan had defeated the Mughal army in 1671. As such the many commanders and soldiers of Lachit were Muslims also like Bagh Hazarika. Mughal army had many Hindu generals and soldiers. By spinning the tale directed against Mughals projected in the form of Badruddin Ajmal, who was the main target as he was presented as a symbol of Bengali Muslims. At electoral level the Muslims votes got split between Congress and Ajmal’s party. Now the new Government is planning to identify the Bangaldeshi immigrants and throw them out. As such Assam has been witnessing the harassment of Muslims and many of them have been denied voting right putting them in D Votercategory (D for doubtful).
The immigration has been presented in the communal colors in Assam. Essentially the problem is due to pressures related to jobs and other livelihood issues. In the decade of 1980s parochial forces gave the slogan ‘Assam for Assamese’ quite on the line of Maharashtra for Marathis by the sectarian Shiv Sena in Mumbai. The first major catastrophe in this occurred in the 1980s, when the All Assam Students Union (AASU) demanded exclusion of Bangladeshi immigrants from the electoral rolls. In 1983, over 3,000 people were killed in Nellie, near Guwahati. Those killed were Muslims, dubbed as illegal migrants and occupants of land that belonged to Lalung tribe. Tribhuban Das Tiwary Commission was constituted into the Nellie massacre, but the AASU, now Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), after coming to power dropped all the criminal cases against the culprits and the report of the Commission was never made public. A decade later there were another series of violence, the victims of which are still living in relief camps.
At another level agitation of Bodo’s led to creation of Bodo Territorial Council (BTC), giving most powers to Bodos in the four districts, Khokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalgiri; three of which have undergone the massive violence in July 2012. This violence was preceded by a rumor that people from Bangladesh have brought in a huge cache of armaments. This rumor soon triggered into violence that left lakhs people displaced and some killings.
The claim that Bodos are majority and need to preserve their ethnic identity and interests in the area, does not hold any water since the estimate of percentage of Bodos in this area varies from 22 to 29% only. With full powers given to them under this council they have marginalized other sections of society very badly. The other point of view is that despite the formation of Bodo Territorial Council, the Bodos did not surrender their arms, which was one of the conditions for accepting the demand of this regional council.
Bengali Immigration: History
The study of population statistics will make it clear that the beginning of coming of Bengalis speaking Muslims in Assam was due to the policy of British in early part of 20th Century. There is a long history of Bengali speaking Muslims in Assam. For example there were close to five lakh Muslims in Assam in 1931. In the beginning Bengal was the very populous and politically most aware area. Assam at that time was sparsely populated. British undertook a ‘Human Plantation policy’ in the beginning of twentieth century. The basic idea of British policy was three fold. One was to ensure the shifting of people from the overpopulated Bengal to Assam. Two, it aimed to reduce the incidence of famine and unrest in Bengal, and three British wanted to habitat Assam and collect revenue from that area.
Irrespective of the propaganda about Bangla Deshi infiltrators, research based on population statistics of last century shows that Muslims in the region are settlers from pre partition Bengal to begin with. Later there was some migration at the time of partition in 1947 and still later in the after math of 1971 war with Pakistan, leading to formation of Bangla Desh. Nilim Duttain ‘Myth of Bangla Deshi and Violence in Assam’ shows that the migration has taken place over a period of time and the increase of population stops after 1971.
The Assam accord of 1985 granted citizenship rights to all these who had settled in Assam till 1971. This accord recognizes all those living in this area as the legal settlers and so most of the Muslims fall in that category. Not to deny that that some small number of illegal immigrants, the ones’ forced to migrate for economic reasons may also be there.
Despite these facts, the issue has become a big fodder for communal politics, which keeps harping on ‘Bangal Deshi infiltrators’. They go on with the propaganda that ‘Hindu migrants from Bangla Desh are refugees while the Muslims are infiltrators’. Even the 2012 violence was labeled by communal forces as strife between Bodos (Nationalists) and Muslims (foreigners!). The plight of the Muslims who speak Bengali is pathetic as not only that they are marginalized and looked down upon, many of them do not even have the voting rights and some of them are put in the category of D voters. There is an active hate industry blaming that the ruling party is encouraging infiltration for the sake of votes while in reality the economic migrations which are associated with the regional disparities has also come down heavily with Bangla Desh economy looking up in last few decades.
The political Challenges
During last Lok Sabha elections (2014) BJP won   seven (out of 14) MP seats from Assam. Though the present victory of BJP is not due to its vote share, still it has brought the BJP government in power and giving it further opportunity to strengthen the work of RSS combine in the state. RSS has been very active in the state and has started Ekal schools (nearly four thousand); Sarswati Shishu Mandirs (590), nearly 100 students Hostels, there are nearly 12000 RSS shakhas in Assam. It is these thousands of volunteers who campaign during elections for the victory of BJP. Through Seva Bharati it is running health services in villages.
All in all the challenge for democratic forces will increase tremendously as these RSS run organizations now will have more influence due to the direct state patronage. The RSS indoctrinated teachers and volunteers will be spreading their sectarian ideology in a stronger way. Already there is plan to open RSS run schools in most of the areas.
Tasks ahead
The Bihar experiment of Mahagathbandhan (Grand alliance) did tell us that it is possible to halt the march of communal forces if the political elements believing in pluralism and democracy come together. At another level the social and cultural work to promote the values of pluralism and amity are the need of the hour. The major acts of violence have been precipitated on the issue of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants. As these Muslims have a long lineage in India they need to be given due justice as citizens of India. The process of identification and exiling them lead to great harassment to many Bengali speaking Muslims. The plan of RSS-BJP to identify and exile them needs to be opposed. The role of BJP has been putting pressure to target them to create social divides. Social groups have to take the challenge of communal politics at multiple levels, not just on electoral grounds.

The choice of Walid Phares as Trump's national security adviser unmasks Trump's worldview

While surfing the net today, I came across a small news about Trump and his position on the Muslims. It read: "Donald Trump will draw back his proposed ban on Muslims entering the country once he’s elected president and focus instead on more precise policies meant to identify potential terrorists, his national security adviser told The Hill on Tuesday.

In recent days, conflicting reports have emerged over whether Trump intends to stand by his controversial proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. That “suggestion,” as Trump has described it, has been condemned as bigoted by liberals and dismissed by critics as impossible to implement.In an email exchange with The Hill, Trump’s national security adviser, Walid Phares, sought to clarify Trump’s position."

I have said earlier that I see fascistic leanings with Trump's positions on many issues, and am, therefore, not a fan of him, nor do I trust or believe him. But I was curious about the identity of his national security adviser. When I read through the news and found out that it is Walid Phares, I was not too surprised. Hitler needed folks like Eichmann and Himmler to carry out his last solution for the Jews. So what's so new about Trump choosing Walid Phares?

I knew the name from my own research a decade ago into the activities of right-wing neocon Islamophobes, who were conspiring with Daniel Pipes to change the world through a series of summits or conferences of pro-Israeli and anti-Muslim/Islam hawks, which went by the name Jerusalem Summit. Since 2005 baroness Carolina Cox has been a co-president of the Jerusalem Summit, a hardline pro-Israel advocacy outfit. [Interested readers can google for my articles on the summit; see links here, here and here.] Walid Phares was part of that group.

I quote Wikepedia: "Their conference was sponsored by the Michael Cherney Foundation, which also funds the Intelligence Summit in the US, both of which are gatherings of neoconservatives such as Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, Daniel Pipes, Harold Rhode, Walid Phares, R. James Woolsey and others.[2] In 2009 she [Carolina Fox] was one of two UK peers to invite Dutch anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders to the UK."

See the link here for a proof. Ishaan Tharoor of The Washington Post has done a wonderful job in unmasking Walid's dark past (see the link here, and read below where I quote him):

As a 2011 Mother Jones investigation pointed out, Phares was once a leading ideologue in an armed Christian faction during Lebanon's grim, bloody sectarian civil conflict of the 1980s. The entire story, written by Adam Serwer (now an editor at Buzzfeed), is worth reading. Here are some excerpts:

During the 1980s, Phares, a Maronite Christian, trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon's Muslim and Druze factions, according to former colleagues. Phares, they say, advocated the hard-line view that Lebanon's Christians should work toward creating a separate, independent Christian enclave. A photo obtained by Mother Jones shows him conducting a press conference in 1986 for the Lebanese Forces, an umbrella group of Christian militias that has been accused of committing atrocities. He was also a close adviser to Samir Geagea, a Lebanese warlord who rose from leading hit squads to running the Lebanese Forces...

In 1978, the Lebanese Forces emerged as the umbrella group of the assorted Christian militias. According to former colleagues, Phares became one of the group's chief ideologists, working closely with the Lebanese Forces' Fifth Bureau, a unit that specialized in psychological warfare...

[In subsequent years,] Phares continued to play a prominent role in the ideological training of Lebanese Forces fighters. Geagea wanted to professionalize the militia, so he established a special school where officers would receive training not only in military tactics, but also in ideology. The various Lebanese factions were already sectarian in character, but Geagea... wanted religion to become an even more prominent part of the Lebanese Forces. For that he turned to Phares.

"[Samir Geagea] wanted to change them from a normal militia to a Christian army," says [Toni] Nissi, Phares' former associate. "Walid Phares was responsible for training the lead officers in the ideology of the Lebanese Forces."

Ishan writes, "While Phares is not implicated with any direct role in acts of violence and criminality, he was a key thinker and actor in an environment of tremendous atrocity. The most gruesome incident came in 1982, when Phalangist, or right-wing Christian, militia carried out the slaughter of hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Phares moved to the United States by 1990, when a Syrian intervention stabilized Lebanon but made his own personal place in society unsafe. From there, he reinvented himself as an academic and positioned himself as a speaker on issues related to terrorism.

His ideological baggage occasionally seems rather close to the surface, such asan appearance on Fox News last November where he cast President Obama as a supplicant to the Iranian-Syrian axis Phares himself so bitterly opposed during the years of Lebanon's civil war.

To be sure, says Mohamad Bazzi, a Lebanese-American journalist and an associate professor at New York University, none of Lebanon's warring factions -- no matter their creed -- were innocent. "But [Phares] was in that world of the Phalangists and the Lebanese Forces when these were violent militias that were killing other Lebanese, that were killing other Palestinians," he observes.

"The key is to not let someone like him detach from the history," says Bazzi. "People do change and their thinking changes, but [Phares] has never had to account for this past."

Well, with advisers like Walid, we need not look around for another war-mongering neocon, advising a fascist world leader to rekindle our world with perennial wars!!!

An Endless Cycle of Indecisive Wars

"Here’s an unavoidable fact: we are now in a Brexit world. We are seeing the first signs of a major fragmentation of this planet that, until recently, the cognoscenti were convinced was globalizing rapidly and headed for unifications of all sorts. If you want a single figure that catches the grim spirit of our moment, it’s 65 million. That’s the record-setting number of people that the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates were displaced in 2015 by “conflict and persecution,” one of every 113 inhabitants of the planet. That’s more than were generated in the wake of World War II at a time when significant parts of the globe had been devastated. Of the 21 million refugees among them, 51% were children (often separated from their parents and lacking any access to education). Most of the displaced of 2015 were, in fact, internal refugees, still in their own often splintered states. Almost half of those who fled across borders have come from three countries: Syria (4.9 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and Somalia (1.1 million)," writes Patrick Cockburn and Tom Engelhardt in TomDispatch. 
You can read their article by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Unmade in their own country - the sad saga of Muslim minorities in Assam

During the British Rule of India, Assam was part of Bengal where people of all religions lived side by side in harmony. After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Muslims living there are considered illegal immigrants from nearby East Pakistan (and later Bangladesh). The Hindutvadi fascist politics have made their lives difficult in the so-called secular India. In the recently held election BJP has won the state election worsening the situation of the minority Muslims living there.
Here below is the story of a Muslim family in Assam.

It was drizzling on the evening of May 18, the day before the counting for the assembly polls, held over a month ago. An anxious Zarina Khatun was busy luring her children, Zariful, 11, and Sania, 8, indoors with the promise of hot rotis and fried fish when the pol­ice arrived. A neighbour called up her husband Shamsul Haque, a van-ricks­haw puller; before he could rush back, the pol­ice had taken her away. The 37-year-old found herself in judicial custody on suspicion of being an “illegal immigrant”.
You can read the full story by clicking here.

Genocide of Muslims in Burma

The Economist wrote last year that the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority living primarily in Myanmar, were perhaps the most persecuted people in the world.
Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in Washington Monthly magazine last week that the persecution endured by the Rohingya in Myanmar since 2012, when local Buddhists began relegating them to refugee camps, has become classifiable as a genocide.
Since neighborhoods, butchering the populace with knives, sticks, and machetes. They beat Rohingya children to death with rifle butts and, quite possibly, their bare hands. Since then, half the population of Myanmar’s Rohingya has been displaced. Some have tried to escape to other Southeast Asian nations on rickety boats often operated by human traffickers. If the migrants do not die of dehydration or heatstroke, they are frequently picked up by pirates or the Thai navy—which may not be much better than2012, when the latest wave of anti-Rohingya violence broke out, attackers have burned entire Rohingya n getting nabbed by pirates.
[…] Even if the Rohingya make it out of Myanmar, past the pirates, modern-day slavers, and Thai navy ships, there are few places for them to go. In nearby nations like Malaysia or Indonesia there is some sympathy for their co-religionists, but they are not willing to give the Rohingya permanent refuge. The Rohingya living in Malaysia operate in the shadows, working in the informal economy, unable to send their children to public schools, with no prospects of resettlement anywhere else.
Moreover, Kurlantzick notes that, despite harrowing reports from human rights groups of violence and devastation, democracies like the U.S. and the world at large have been largely silent.
When Obama himself visited Myanmar in 2014, he called on the country to face “the danger of continued [inter-communal] violence” but did not slow down rapprochement. The Obama administration has not come so far in boosting diplomatic and economic engagement with Myanmar’s government to do more than rhetorically tut-tut at it, even as many of Myanmar’s leaders continue to insist that all Rohingya are in the country illegally.
Many leading democracies, including Japan, have larger stakes in Myanmar than the United States and are even less likely to take up the Rohingyas’ cause.
You can read the complete report here.

Genocide in Burma

The Rohingya may well be the most persecuted people on the planet, and nobody, including the United States, is lifting a finger to help.

Of all the ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in the world, wrote the Economist last year, the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group, may well be the most persecuted people on the planet. Today nearly two million Rohingya live in western Myanmar and in Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar they have no formal status, and they face the constant threat of violence from paramilitary groups egged on by nationalist Buddhist monks while security forces look the other way. Since 2012, when the latest wave of anti-Rohingya violence broke out, attackers have burned entire Rohingya neighborhoods, butchering the populace with knives, sticks, and machetes. They beat Rohingya children to death with rifle butts and, quite possibly, their bare hands. Since then, half the population of Myanmar’s Rohingya has been displaced. Some have tried to escape to other Southeast Asian nations on rickety boats often operated by human traffickers. If the migrants do not die of dehydration or heatstroke, they are frequently picked up by pirates or the Thai navy—which may not be much better than getting nabbed by pirates. Exhaustive reporting by Reuters seems to suggest that Thailand’s navy is closely involved in shuttling Rohingya refugees into slave labor in Thailand’s seafood, fishing, and other industries. Rohingya women who do not have enough to pay traffickers are forced into marriages or prostitution.
Even if the Rohingya make it out of Myanmar, past the pirates, modern-day slavers, and Thai navy ships, there are few places for them to go. In nearby nations like Malaysia or Indonesia there is some sympathy for their co-religionists, but they are not willing to give the Rohingya permanent refuge. The Rohingya living in Malaysia operate in the shadows, working in the informal economy, unable to send their children to public schools, with no prospects of resettlement anywhere else.
The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar's Hidden GenocideThe Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide
by Azeem Ibrahim
Hurst, 224 pp.
No prominent nation outside of Southeast Asia is willing to do much for the minority group either. The Rohingya have no close ethnic or linguistic ties with a regional or global power: the Uighurs, a persecuted Muslim minority in western China, for instance, have ethnic and linguistic ties to Turkey. Bangladesh, from which some Rohingya originally migrated, is itself desperately poor and not interested in having the Rohingya settle there. Indeed, Bangladeshi security forces have often forcibly repatriated Rohingya, or kept them in squalid camps along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. No Western nations have opened their doors for the Rohingya the way they have, for instance, for the Tibetans who make it out of China.
 those Rohingya living in Myanmar the future is horrifically grim. They are packed into camps that are little more than internment centers, with residents given minimal food and shelter. Aid organizations face significant hurdles operating in Rakhine State, where most Rohingya live. Myanmar has expelled aid groups from parts of the state, and journalists have been repeatedly turned back from traveling there. (Reporting on an alleged massacre in western Myanmar in 2014, two New York Times reporters were detained.)Abuses against the Rohingya have received some attention from the international media, but Myanmar’s western region is remote, making it harder for the best-financed media organizations to report on many abuses against the ethnic group. In part because Myanmar media is dominated by Buddhist, ethnic Burmese editors and writers, the Rohingya issue is routinely ignored or minimized as a minor problem.
Many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, having migrated there during the British Raj. In his new book, The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide—one of the few accessible primers on this battered group—the Oxford and U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute fellow Azeem Ibrahim tells of how the Rohingya have never had an easy time in Myanmar. Beginning in 1962, when a junta seized power, up until the transition to civilian rule in the early 2010s, the Burmese government effectively stripped most Rohingya of their rights. In 1982, the military government removed the Rohingya from the list of 135 officially recognized ethnic groups in Myanmar. The Buddhist Rakhine people generally held a deep distrust of the Rohingya as interlopers, a distrust heightened during World War II, when many Rohingya fought with the British and many Rakhine fought alongside Japan.
In the weeks before last November’s election, Suu Kyi herself told reporters not to “overexaggerate” the threat facing the Rohingya, and other prominent longtime democrats openly inveighed against the Rohingya, using racist taunts.Rakhine nationalists had always chafed at the junta’s rule (the Rakhines once had their own, powerful kingdom separate from the ethnic Burmans), but in 1978, according to Human Rights Watch, many Rakhines made common cause with the Myanmar army. They forced roughly 200,000 Rohingya to flee, mostly into camps in Bangladesh. Again, in 1991, units of the Myanmar army attacked the Rohingya, driving some 250,000 out of their homes, with many fleeing into Bangladesh once more.
Then, in the early 2010s, the junta gave way to civilian rule, for myriad reasons (see “How Big a Success Is the Democratic Revolution in Burma?,” March/April/May 2016). From the beginning of the transition, it was clear that if the army loosened its grip, violent, nationalist groups would step into the political vacuum. Myanmar’s primary democratic party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), would do little to stop these forces. From interviewing many NLD members, I found that the party and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, were primarily concerned with building up their own power, reducing the role of the military, and winning over Buddhist voters in the first free national elections in twenty-five years.
In the weeks before last November’s election, Suu Kyi herself told reporters not to “overexaggerate” the threat facing the Rohingya, and other prominent longtime democrats openly inveighed against the Rohingya, using racist taunts. When the highly anticipated national elections were finally held, there were no Rohingya—indeed, no Muslim candidates from any ethnic group—on the NLD slate.
Ibrahim offers one of the fullest descriptions available of the current Rohingya crisis, retelling the narrative of the emerging genocide with force (if not always the clearest prose). He may not be arguing that the Rohingya are the most persecuted people on earth, but his research substantiates recent claims (including a detailed report by Yale Law School’s clinic on international human rights) that the Rohingya are targets of genocide.
A genocide, according to the internationally accepted definition, is a campaign of violence conducted against one defined group, with the intention of eradicating them in whole or in part. Ibrahim shows that, starting in 2011 and 2012, the Rohingya in western Myanmar were not simply attacked by gangs or roving bands of thugs infuriated by reports (many untrue) of Rohingya raping Buddhist women or of fistfights between Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine shopkeepers. Instead, the Rohingya faced what appears to be an organized campaign to target their homes, property, and lives. There may have been an additional incentive; as Myanmar began to open up to foreign investment in the 1990s, it became clear that Rakhine State was quite rich in minerals.
The exact genesis of the violence in western Myanmar in 2012 remains unclear. It may have started with Rohingya men raping and murdering a Rakhine girl, and then Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes murdering Rohingya bus travelers. Local police and army units stood around while the vigilantes pulled people off the bus and killed them, according to accounts of the attack by survivors.
After the rape and then the unrest in four townships in western Myanmar, Rakhine politicians and monks spent months vilifying the Rohingya and calling for violence against the minority group. In October 2012, four months after the bus incident, violence erupted throughout Rakhine State, with a clear pattern of attacks. Groups of Buddhists were armed with swords, machetes, guns, Molotov cocktails, and even earth-moving equipment to raze Rohingyas’ homes and businesses; they had stockpiled weapons for months. The attacks appeared strikingly similar across Rakhine State, clearly designed to change the ethnic composition of the region.
Some of the attackers had clear links to paramilitary organizations that had been affiliated with the former junta. The anti-Muslim violence spread to other parts of the country: Muslims of all ethnic groups were bombed, beaten, and shot in Yangon and Mandalay, the two biggest cities.
Ibrahim’s reporting also corroborates the work of numerous human rights groups who have worked in western Myanmar. The transitional civilian government, led by the former general Thein Sein, did little to stop the burning, looting, and killing. The government did not bother to acknowledge the possibility that the attacks on Rohingya, preceded by open calls for ethnic cleansing, were part of a coordinated wave of violence. President Thein Sein’s office merely said that the violence was “riots [that had broken out] unexpectedly,” and then later declared that the only way to resolve unrest in Rakhine State was to deport all the “illegal” Rohingya living there—basically, most of the Rohingya population.
The most damning reports on the pogroms came from a Human Rights Watch report:
In the deadliest incident, on October 23, 2012, at least 70 Rohingya were killed in a massacre in Yan Thai village in Mrauk-U Township. Despite advance warning of the attack, only a small number of riot police, local police, and army soldiers were on duty to provide security. Instead of preventing the attack . . . or escorting the villagers to safety, they assisted the killings by disarming the Rohingya of their sticks and other rudimentary weapons they carried to defend themselves.
As Rohingya fled their homes, the military and police maintained cordons around the camps in western Myanmar that were created, and quickly turned the camps into “open-air prisons,” in the words of Human Rights Watch. The security forces also created an armed ring around a de facto ghetto into which Rohingya were pushed. Once Rohingya men and women had fled into these ghettos, their land was often seized. The government sometimes refused to allow UN representatives to visit trapped Rohingya, and security forces routinely confiscate food and other aid provided by international groups for Rohingya in camps.
In some ways, Myanmar’s increasing economic and political openness actually has made the situation worse for the Rohingya. Not only the United States but also most leading democracies, including regional powers like Japan and Australia, have opted for close relations with a freer Myanmar. As I discussed in an essay in the Washington Monthly earlier this year, the Obama administration has cited rapprochement with Myanmar as one of its greatest foreign policy successes, and now touts U.S.-Myanmar relations as a model for rapprochement with Cuba.
The rich democracies, now invested diplomatically and economically in a Myanmar success story, are unwilling to spend too much time seriously investigating crimes being committed in Myanmar’s isolated west. They said little when, eight months before last November’s election, Thein Sein and the interim government essentially stripped the franchise from any Rohingya who still had voting rights. (The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has repeatedly raised the issue of Rohingya disenfranchisement, but gotten nowhere.)
To be fair, some rights advocates in Congress have tried to raise the profile of abuses against Rohingya, holding hearings on the plight of the ethnic minority. When Obama himself visited Myanmar in 2014, he called on the country to face “the danger of continued [inter-communal] violence” but did not slow down rapprochement. The Obama administration has not come so far in boosting diplomatic and economic engagement with Myanmar’s government to do more than rhetorically tut-tut at it, even as many of Myanmar’s leaders continue to insist that all Rohingya are in the country illegally.
Many leading democracies, including Japan, have larger stakes in Myanmar than the United States and are even less likely to take up the Rohingyas’ cause. Japan’s government, for instance, sees Myanmar as a strategic bulwark against China’s rising power in Asia. The region’s main multinational organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, operates by consensus, and has a weak, small secretariat in Jakarta that is ill-prepared to handle crises. Bangladesh continues to struggle with its own population challenges and chaotic politics.
Other foreign countries that, at a different time in history, might have helped the Rohingya will also do nothing. Wealthy Persian Gulf states, whose leaders see themselves as custodians of the rights of Muslims worldwide, are preoccupied with the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. India, which at times in its history has positioned itself as a champion of rights in Asia, is enjoying warm relations with Bangladesh, and is unlikely to take any steps that would alienate the Bangladeshi government.
The NLD’s sweeping victory in the November 2015 elections, hailed around the world—and by many in Myanmar—as a major gain for democracy, will not help the Rohingya either. Not only before the elections but also after the vote, Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders have shown as little interest in the situation of the Rohingya as Thein Sein’s government did. (Suu Kyi has expressed a deep desire to promote peace with Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, but she has focused on relations with the ethnic groups that have their own armed insurgencies.) What’s worse, in last year’s November elections, the provincial party known for its anti-Muslim rhetoric won control of Rakhine State’s legislature.
The NLD’s victory further reduces the possibility that foreign governments will pressure Myanmar’s leaders, and the new president selected by the NLD, the Suu Kyi loyalist Htin Kyaw, has demonstrated total fealty to the democracy icon but evinced little interest in the conflict in Myanmar’s west.
Most chillingly, the new government of Myanmar has asked that the United States “not call the Rohingya people by that name because it does not recognize them as citizens,” said Suu Kyi’s spokesman, U Kyaw Zay Ya, reported the New York Times. He hastened to add that “Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi had not ordered the Americans to stop using the word or threatened consequences if they did.”
Even if foreign countries, and Myanmar’s own leaders, suddenly decided to protect the Rohingya, it might be too late. The ethnic composition of western Myanmar has already been radically changed, many Rohingya families have been destroyed, and many Rohingya are too scared and economically devastated to ever return to their home villages. Next spring, when the dry season comes in Southeast Asia again, large numbers of Rohingya probably will head to ports in western Myanmar and try their luck again with makeshift boats, pirates, and the prospect of being enslaved in Thailand. As Time magazine reported in an extensive study of western Myanmar last fall, the Rohingya face the “point where complete extermination is a possibility. . . . [T]he final stages of genocide.”

Joshua Kurlantzick

Joshua Kurlantzick is a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

George Soros on Brexit

Reflecting on the UK's decision to leave the European Union in an essay for the Project Syndicate, George Soros urges those who continue to believe in the EU to join together to "thoroughly reconstruct it". 

The politics of Ram Temple in India

Here is a must-see video on the nasty Hindutvadi politics with the Ram Temple, which they want to erect on the site of the demolished Babri mosque.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Buddhist mob ransacks a mosque

YANGON, June 24 (Reuters) - A group of men from a village in central Myanmar destroyed a mosque in the first serious outburst of inter-religious violence in months, coinciding with a rise in tensions over how to refer to the Rohingya, the country's persecuted Muslim minority.

Villagers from Thayethamin, a remote settlement a two-hours' drive northeast of Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, destroyed the mosque on Thursday after a dispute over its construction, and beat up at least one Muslim man, media and a police spokesman said.

Religious tensions simmered in Myanmar for almost half a century of military rule, before boiling over in 2012, just a year after a semi-civilian government took power.

Hundreds died in clashes in northwestern Rakhine State between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, leading to the organized expulsion of Rohingya by Rakhine mobs. More violence between Muslims and Buddhists in other parts of the country followed in 2013.

Photographs that circulated on social media on Friday, purportedly from the village, showed a seriously damaged building, furniture scattered along the streets and a large group of men roaming around, some armed with sticks.

Further details of the incident were unclear. Reuters was unable to verify the photographs.
"Things are well under control now and action hasn't been taken against anyone yet," said colonel Zaw Khin Aung, spokesman of the Police Headquarters based in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw.
The violence coincides with a rise in tensions over how to refer to the Rohingya, a 1.1-million group of Muslims living in apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine since the 2012 violence.

Country leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won in a landslide in historic November elections, faces a daunting task of resolving ethnic and religious tensions and ending human rights abuses in the state.

On Monday, she told the U.N. Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, that the government would not use the term "Rohingya" because it viewed it as inflammatory.
The Rohingya identify themselves by that name. Many have lived in Myanmar for generations, but many Myanmar Buddhists call them "Bengali" - a term implying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi has appealed to people not to use either term, and instead refer to the "Muslim community in Rakhine State".

The U.N. on Monday called on the Nobel peace prize winner to make putting an end to the abuses the government's "top priority". It said that the violations, which include executions and torture, may amount to crimes against humanity. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Where Is Bangladesh Headed? A Conversation With the Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh

Md. Shahidul Haque
Foreign Secretary, Government of Bangladesh
Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

Thursday, June 23, 2016
2:00 p.m.–2:15 p.m.: Registration
2:15 p.m.–3:30 p.m.: Discussion

Council on Foreign Relations
1777 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

Rohingyas in Buthidaung Township of Arakan State threatened by the police for praying

Even after a change of the old guards in Myanmar, the deplorable condition of the Rohingyas continues. It is a shameful record of bigotry in Suu Kyi's Burma.

Rohingyas in Buthidaung Township of Arakan State were threatened by the police while they were praying.

Since violence erupted in Arakan State in June 2012, praying at mosques is prohibited and a curfew was imposed. Up to date the curfew is still in place and Rohingyas can’t gather in groups of more than five persons although the Buddhists, Hindu and Christians can gather hundreds at their respective monasteries, temples and churches. The curfew is in place just to restrict the Rohingya Muslims.

Today, June 18, 2016 in the afternoon at about 1:00 pm a few dozen Rohingya Muslims in Ward No. (4) gathered to pray at a mosque, called Tha Byay Gone Mosque, and the police from Myoma police station came and filmed them while discouraging them from gathering.

“The police came and shot the video. Then the police said, 'who allowed you guys to pray here. Next time you guys will be sued if pray again.'” a Rohingya told RB News.

It is currently Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, and Muslims want to pray at mosque daily five times, but unfortunately Rohingyas are restricted in many ways to prevent them from doing so. The Rohingyas in Myanmar have been facing seriously restrictions on movement, business, education, marriage, birth etc. Experts have said that the Rohingyas are facing genocide.

With the new government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi ruling the country since April 1st, 2016, people thought the persecution on Rohingyas would be eased, but nothing has changed. The policy on Rohingyas is same and the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to allow Rohingya to self-identify as such, which denies them even a basic universal human right. Recently the Myanmar government delegation at the 32nd UN Human Rights Council summit in Geneva urged the UN to use the term 'Muslims from Rakhine State' instead of saying 'Rohingyas.'

- See more at:

We Buried the Disgraceful Truth by Steve Coll

To read this article click here.

Indian court jails 11 for life over Gujarat massacre of Muslims

An Indian court jailed 11 Hindus for life on Friday for the murder of dozens of Muslims during riots in Gujarat in 2002 that shook India at a time Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state's chief minister.

The court called the massacre the "darkest day" but rejected prosecutors' demand to sentence the defendants to death, after ruling that the attack was not planned.

A Hindu mob scaled the boundary wall of a housing complex in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city, in February 2002 before torching the homes in which Muslim families were trapped.

Among the victims were children and women who were burned to death.

The riots, among the worst since India's independence from Britain in 1947, have dogged Modi's political career for years after he was accused of not doing enough to stop the violence.

Zakia Jafri, whose husband Ehsan, a former Congress party legislator, died in the blaze at the housing complex, said the sentences on Friday were too lenient.

"I am not satisfied with this verdict. I have to start all over again. This is wrong," she told media.

The trial began in 2009 and four of the defendants died during the lengthy proceedings.

Jafri, who is fighting what may be the last legal battle to pin blame on Modi, says she saw her husband making repeated desperate calls to police for help but none came.

He was dragged out of his home by sword-wielding men and within minutes was stripped and killed, according to Jafri.

"This was a massacre. So many people came together to do this, so what happened was clearly the result of a conspiracy. The 24 people should have been sentenced to life in prison. We will appeal," S.M. Vohra, a lawyer for some of the victims, told Reuters.

The court had dropped charges of criminal conspiracy against the accused, and acquitted 36 other defendants earlier this month.

Click here to read the news.

Rape, abuse stalk migrant children in French slums, UN warns

Migrant children stuck in slums on France's northern coast face a "permanent danger" of sexual abuse or exploitation, the UN Children's Fund has warned, urging the creation of protected areas for minors.
"They fear going out at night, after dark, for fear of rape," UNICEF said in a hard-hitting report on unaccompanied children titled "Neither Safe nor Sound".
Click here to read the news.

Barak flogs Netanyahu, laments ‘budding fascism’ in Israel

Israel former PM Ehud Barak laments budding fascism in Israel. “Only a blind person or a sheep, an ignoramus or someone jaded, can’t see the erosion of democracy and the ‘budding fascism,'” Barak said, to considerable applause from the audience in Herzliya on June 16.

He summarized Netanyahu's agenda: “One, Israel plans to continue controlling the area that was conquered, liberated in 1967 forever. Two, Israel is not interested in two states, and doesn’t want a Palestinian state right next door. Three, Israel is waiting for the world to adapt to and accept this reality, and is hoping that tough incidents — like terror attacks in Europe, the situation in Syria, and so on — will divert its attention [from the situation here],” Barak said.

“Four, Israel will agree to autonomy with limited rights for Palestinians, but not a state. Five, Israel will continue carefully building in the settlements and beyond them in order to gradually create irreversible facts on the ground,” he added.

Israel, Barak said, was rapidly approaching a fork in the road, one way leading to all-out war with the Palestinians, and the other leading to an apartheid state.

“We are at the start of the path, whose inevitable end is similar to Belfast and Bosnia or old Johannesburg, and even all three together,” he said.

That situation would lead to a break between Israel and other countries around the world, as well as a deterioration in the relationship between Israel and Jewish communities in America.

“They will only accept a single state if — and only if — it’s a Jewish-Arab nation of all its citizens, operating on the condition of ‘one person, one vote’ — and who among us wants that?” he asked.

You can read the news by clicking here.

Dan Sanchez on Orlando shooting

Dan Sanchez is the Digital Content Manager at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Here he analyzes the Orlando shooting.

Netanyahu's corruption

Here is an article by Uri Avnery on Netanyahu's corruption.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A message from Tom Andrews


We are writing with important and exciting news – United to End Genocide and Fortify Rights are joining forces to protect and defend those whose lives are in peril in Burma. We will soon be doing our work – along with you and thousands of other activists and supporters – under the banner of Fortify Rights.

Your voice is now even more important than ever!

United to End Genocide and Fortify Rights have worked together closely to shine a light on the continued brutality against the Rohingya and the Burma Army’s ongoing attacks and abuses against the Kachin and other ethnic minorities. In our latest collaboration, we produced a report based on more than 40 interviews we conducted with eyewitnesses and survivors of human rights violations as well as U.N. officials and others.

We released our report in Washington, exposing how the Burmese authorities continue to confine more than 140,000 Rohingya to squalid internment camps, while imposing severe restrictions, particularly on freedom of movement, against more than a million other Muslims in Rakhine State.

You and thousands of other advocates joined our plea for President Obama to maintain sanctions on Burma (also known as Myanmar) until all Rohingya are free from prosecution. And he did! While President Obama lifted some sanctions against certain banks and companies, because of your voice, the administration maintained the “blacklist” preventing human rights abusers from doing business with the United States. It's also still illegal for U.S. companies to do business with Burma's military.

We won this campaign by combining our two organizations’ unique strengths. Fortify Rights works on the ground in Burma to investigate human rights violations. They also provide tools to human rights defenders on the front lines of these violations, so that they can document abuse and advocate for change. United to End Genocide, with its base of advocates like you and supporters in Congress and the media, translates this documented evidence and analysis into broad-based action.

We believe that now is the time to team up and marshal our resources. We’re making our partnership permanent so that your financial and advocacy support can go even further to keep the plight of the Rohingya – and the actions of Burma’s government and military – in the spotlight.

The need is great. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is heading up a chorus of business leaders intent on normalizing U.S. relations with Burma. They didn’t succeed in getting all sanctions removed, but we know they won’t let up.

As we move forward, you will continue to be briefed on breaking events from Burma and other parts of Southeast Asia – and will be asked to join and support advocacy campaigns – from Fortify Rights. We hope you will continue your engagement because your voice is needed more than ever.

But for now, we want to share our news and encourage you to continue your strong support. The fact is, we don’t take your support – in the past or in the future – for granted. Your voice and the voices of thousands like you have been so incredibly important for Rohingya men, women and children suffering needlessly in Burma. Under the banner of Fortify Rights, we will continue to strive to earn your support and engagement.

Many thanks for all that you do!

In solidarity,