Let OIC Not Remain A Toothless Tiger: The Plight Of The Rohingya (Muslims) In Myanmar
28 September 2015
The plight of
the Rohingya in Myanmar should be enough reason to galvanise an organisation
comprising 57 member states to spring into action
By Tariq A. Al Maeena
Some global organisations have come under increasing fire for the inability
to solve problems that their charter was supposed to address. The United
Nations is one of them with its failure to get Israel to adhere to its many
resolutions, some submitted by the UN Security Council.
For the Muslim world, an organisation was created way back in 1969 with a
membership of 57 states and was called the Organisation of Islamic
Cooperation (OIC). It is the second largest global organisation after the UN
and its members span four continents. The majority of member states come from
Africa, closely followed by countries in Asia.
According to its charter, OIC is ‘the collective voice of the Muslim world to
safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of
promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world'.
The organisation's headquarters are based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, headed by
a secretary general.
In recent times, however, the OIC has come under fire for its lack of firm
and resolute actions on the fate of Muslims everywhere. The dispossessed
people around the world, among them the Kashmiris and the Rohingya Muslims,
find no comfort under the umbrella of this bureaucratic institution.
A week ago, an appeal was raised to the OIC by the Myanmarese Rohingya Union,
asking for its intervention and assistance against the misery faced by the
Rohingya people of Myanmar. In their letter, they claimed that the present
government has stepped up hate-filled rhetoric against the Rohingya in
various townships across Myanmar. The state has also been reshuffling
sympathetic officials and drafting more anti-Muslim legislation, including
the religious conversion law that denies a Myanmarese national the right to
convert to Islam and denies any Muslim the right to marry a Buddhist.
In their appeal to the OIC, the Rohingya Union has also complained that the
government of Myanmar has disenfranchised Myanmarese Muslims from the
national election that is scheduled for November 8, 2015. This is the first
time in the history of Myanmar that the Rohingya and Kamen Muslims have been
denied voting rights in a national election. Further, the registration
applications by Muslim candidates to contest in the national election have
been rejected. A total of 42 candidates who had initially submitted their
names for the voting process were denied on the grounds that ‘they are not
citizens of Myanmar'.
Beginning in the mid 1960s and gathering pace in recent times, the military
junta that has ruled Myanmar has been revoking the nationality certificate of
Muslims and branding them as Bengalis despite their status of as an ethnic
minority group with full citizenship.
Along with the rejection of their voting rights, the Muslims in Myanmar are
subjected to rising racial and ethnic terrorism by the hardline Buddhist
majority, whose mobs have descended and slaughtered countless defenceless
Rohingya people. The letter to OIC highlights this alarming indication of
''pre-planning of violence against Rohingya by Buddhist Rakhine, following the
same pattern of violence against Rohingya and other Muslims in 2012 and
The alarming signs are all there. Buddhist Rakhine communities have
intensified hate speech, there is extensive movement of Buddhist Rakhine
armed groups along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, increased harassment of
Rohingya by Rakhine mobs and Rakhine police, the elected officials of Rakhine
state have also been making provocative statements.
In an incendiary rhetoric against the hapless Rohingya, U Mra Aumg, the new
Chief Minister of Rakhine stated that ''The ‘Bengali' Muslims [implying
Rohingya] in Northern Rakhine state are planning to commit violence against
Rakhine because they are barred from the upcoming election and the Bengali
Muslim terrorist groups have also infiltrated Arakan; therefore, you [the
Buddhist Rakhine community] must be prepared to defend yourselves as you did
in the past''. The Rohingya have a reason to be concerned. The chief minister
has been travelling to various townships in Arakan state and making similar
statements. There are major concerns in the Rohingya community in Arakan over
the inflammatory speeches of government officials and Buddhist Rakhine
leaders that are likely to set off new waves of violence against Rohingya by
the Buddhist Rakhine mobs on the pretext of barring Rohingya from the
In their letter to the OIC, the Rohingya Union has urged that pressure be
applied on the government of Myanmar to allow all the Rohingya previously
holding nationality documentations to vote in the national election. They
also want Rohingya, Kamen and Myanmar Muslim political parties to contest in
the November 8 election. Other demands include an investigation into the hate
speech by the chief minister of Rakhine state and monks and appropriate
actions to prevent a volatile situation leading to further violence. They
want to abolish the religious conversion and marriage laws and other
legislations targeting Muslims and Christian minorities and to reinstate all
their basic rights, including the right to travel, right to marry, right to
education, freedom to worship and other rights.
If indeed the OIC is more than a toothless tiger, then the critical situation
in Myanmar is a good ground for it to prove its mettle. A body made up of 57
nations is no joke. It is time for the organisation's bureaucrats to sit up
and take note. This recent appeal must be addressed more solidly than with a
press release of little or no consequence.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena