Press Release

MCB: Act Now for Burmese Muslims!

23 August 2012
The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK's largest Muslim umbrella body with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.

• MCB condemns terrible abuses against Rohingya Muslims
• Calls on UK and other governments to act

The Muslim Council (MCB) is calling for urgent action to halt killings, rapes and expulsions being carried out in western Burma against ethnic Rohingya (Muslim) Burmese citizens.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have been affected, following a flare up of tensions with the majority Buddhist population, after the rape of a Buddhist woman by an alleged Rohingya gang and reprisal killings.

"We strongly condemn these attacks against the Rohingya in Burma and call on the British government, as well as other regional partners, to bring the matter to the United Nations’ urgent attention," said MCB secretary general, Farooq Murad.

Shocking attacks

The outburst against the Rohingya, often described as one of the world's most oppressed groups, comes after weeks of ethnic violence in the Rakhine state in the west of Burma that has left more than 80 dead and up to 100,000 people living in a situation described as "desperate" by humanitarian organisations.

As state-sanctioned abuses against the Muslim community continue, Burma's president Thein Sein – credited by the international community for ushering in a series of democratic reforms in the country and releasing political prisoners such as Aung San Suu Kyi – has urged neighbouring Bangladesh to take in the Rohingya.

Human Rights group Amnesty International has accused security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists of carrying out a series of targeted attacks against the Rohingya.

Violence in the last six weeks has been "primarily one-sided, with Muslims generally and Rohingya specifically the targets and victims,'' Benjamin Zawacki, a Bangkok-based researcher for Amnesty, said recently.

In a new shocking development, some Burmese Buddhist monks have also been accused of encouraging the expulsion of Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh, with accusations they are ethnic Bangladeshis and not “true” Burmese.

So far, Burma’s main democracy leader and Nobel peace prize-winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has remained silent on the issue.

Stripped citizenship

The Rohingya have lived in Burma for centuries, but in 1982, then-military ruler Ne Win stripped them of their citizenship. Thousands fled to Bangladesh where they live in pitiful camps. Foreign media are still denied access to the conflict region, where a state of emergency was declared last month, and ten aid workers were arrested without explanation.

“Burma has shown commendable progress in steps to democracy recently. In light of that progress, we urge the Government of Burma to make changes in its citizenship law so that the Rohingya can return to their homeland,” said Farooq Murad.

“They should be allowed to build mosques, schools and businesses [currently banned] and the punitive marriage and travel bans placed upon them should be lifted. Previously confiscated places of worship and other lands should be returned and humanitarian agencies allowed access to the affected populations.”

“Burma cannot be opened for business whilst these grave human rights violations continue."

Murad called upon the UN, UK governments and the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) to act now, before the situation becomes more grave. He also said that the governments of Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand should reconsider their expulsions of Rohingya refugees – the situation is particularly bad in Bangladesh, where many Rohingya languish in unofficial refugee camps.

Take Action

Write to your MP, send a letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague and urge them that Britain must draw international attention to the current crisis by strongly condemning the blocking of humanitarian aid, the human rights abuses committed by police, army and security forces, and by rejecting proposals for all Rohingya to be expelled from the country.