Rohingya Muslims and injustice: a security issue?


Rohingya children studying the Quran at the Madrassa
Rohingya children studying the Qu'ran at the Madrassa

Today another 200 Rohingya refugees have been rescued while drifting away in a wooden boat near the coast of Indonesia. It is pretty clear that the Rohingya are becoming the ‘Roma gypsy‘ of Southeast Asia, and similar to the case of Roma in Europe, the discussion is not about them, as human beings or to address their issues, but rather about how to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Degrading camps, expulsions and even ridiculous statements that these refugees, who bear the physical scars of their oppression, are actually economic migrants seem at this stage to be the only solutions offered. Islamic parties and even extremist groups are not interested in the destiny of the Rohingya people – or as we shall see below, at least not from a humanitarian and ‘political’ viewpoint. For instance, 193  Rohingya Muslims tried to find refuge on Sabang Island in Aceh Province, but are today facing deportation and possibly torture or death in Burma. Yet Irfan Awwas, chairman of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council, or MMI, said,  ‘our attention has been focused and our energy has been exhausted on the Palestinian issue.’ In other words, this hard line Indonesian group tells us that it has screamed so much for Hamas and the Palestinians that it suffers from a hoarse ‘political’ voice.

Although this shows the real faces and intentions  of many Islamist movements around the world, particularly the most extremist, the Rohingya Muslims may surely be better off with the silence of such movements. This also means that there is space for a real voice that can help to resolve their issues. The US , with the UN, has to take the issue of the Rohingya people seriously and call for a forum to resolve the historical denial of an entire ethnic group. Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic group and have a traceable history in Burma which dates back to the early 7th century!  

However, I know very well that the world of international politics is cynical and Machiavellian, and no action will be taken until the countries in South Asia (and the West) fully understand the consequences of this ‘no-action’ policy. I have not very much time to go into detail here, but I wish to offer a brief  rationale for which not only Rohingya Muslims are suffering from their situation, but also how we can end badly in terms of international security; the only thing, unfortunately, which seems to matter to politicians today. 

Let me only address the situation in Bangladesh where there are possibly more than  26,000  Rohingya refugees. The camps there are in a shocking condition and host to some of the most appalling, unhygienic and poor situations that can be found in refugee camps. Many women have lost their husbands, mothers their sons, and children are often without proper education. Depression is palpable everywhere; but so too is anger, resentment and a readiness to face even death if this means to escape such a miserable and unjust life.  

In my most recent book I have discussed how emotions and what I have called an ‘ethos of justice’, which can turn into an ideology of justice, may increase the risk of, if not produce, what scholars have defined ‘fundamentalism’. Camps such as this one, in which so many Rohingya Muslims live and suffer as refugees, can only increase the resentment towards other states, people, and situations. 

Certainly it is not a surprise that some Rohingya Muslims may end in prison for petty crimes and that, as in the case of the Gypsies in Europe, people may show very little empathy towards them and their lives. Yet Rohingya have very few choices and possibilities. This is also true in the case of education, which is mainly religious and in Bangladeshi madrasas. The religious teaching in these madrasas is at the best very traditional and at worst dangerous for the education and formation of frustrated and poor new generations of displaced Rohingya Muslims. 

Should we be surprised that violent radical groups may target or exploit the desperate reality of these people?  I am not. I expect that if the situation of Rohingya Muslims is not addressed quickly, with an emphasis on justice and their rights, their refugee camps can easily become a security issue for the world and a prolific breeding ground for future extremists and possibly even cheap terrorists (yes, indeed, terrorism is often a paid job!).

There is enough desperation among the Rohingya Muslims, who fear terribly for their lives and the lives of their loved ones in Burma, that exploitation of their emotions and needs would perhaps be an easy vulnerability for a radical organization. 

If anyone can gain from the desperation of the Rohingya Muslims as people and individuals, it is certainly neither the Southeast Asian countries, nor the Western ones, but rather those extremist, violent, “jihadi” groups that today have more and more difficulties to recruit people for their bloody plots.  Now we may ask ourselves: are the silent, hoarse voices of radical violent Islamic groups so innocent?

15 thoughts on “Rohingya Muslims and injustice: a security issue?

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  1. I am Maya from Indonesia. I wonder if this happen to European Americans to be sent away to their encesteral countries Like the UK, Spain, French, Russia. Hhhhhhhhhhhhh, cant imagine !

  2. I am a arkani. It really painfull to leave country at only 1yrs of live other country by camoflage is so boring, unrespectable.i want to meet to all arkani brothers.


    Brother,I feel deeply for the muslims in rohingya,I pray to Allah(swt)to send them some type of aid,especially from the countries close by.I don’t really know the politics behind their situation,but I know that in Islam the the prophet(saw)says…want for your brother what you want for yourself.So how can these neighboring countries not have the hearts to reach out to their brothers and sisters in Islam and give them a helping hand as other religions do for themselves?maybe if we were to have more love and compassion towards one another this world would be a better place to live in,instead of us being all geogrphical.Remember that the prophet(saw)came with the massage to all mankind,so it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”Let’s help one another and make a diffrence.

  4. salam,

    i used to teach the rohingyas for almost 2 years. i’ve never seen a group of children so interested and excited in their studies other than the rohingyas.. i had an experience teaching the local orphans(malaysians) but these children arent as hardworking and determined as the rohingyas. perhaps due to the better treatments and facilities provided for them. these children arent bother to work hard to improve themselves. Unlike the locals, the rohingyas are always ready for every classes. they always asked for extra homework and are very ambitious. Some want to become pilot, soldier, astronaut etc. it really hurts when you know that is not going to happen unless the government is willing to change the policy. These kids need proper education but they are not allowed to attend schools due to various reasons.

    It’s been almost a year since i last saw them. i really miss my students but i cannot go and visit them anymore. the madrasah is closed.. the students revealed that one of the ustazs had been sodomising them for quite sometime.. i reported this case to the police and as usual when it involves the refugees not many is interested to friends and i manage to get one of the victims to a better madrasah but as for the rest… only God knows their conditions.

    i really hope that one day we (muslims) can work hand in hand to help these kids irregardless of nationalities, gender and religion.

    1. Dear New Scandals,

      thanks for your comment. I think that you are a bit confused and misinformed. Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic group which is historically native of Myanmar not less than the so called American Indians are in North America. As far as shariah is concerned, I am sure that you know that not all Muslims agree on what shariah is, how should be implemented, what kind is the correct one and if should be part of state policies or not. So your above comment sound extremely simplistic.

      thank you

  5. Bangladesh shares about 300 Km border with Myanmar. Since 1947, the successive Pakistani and Bangladeshi governments have been sponsoring the Bengali Muslims to infiltrate into Rakhaing state of Myanmar to alter the demographic profile if favour of the Muslims. So called Rohingya Muslims are nothing but illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh, they have no ancestral and historical root in Myanmar.

    The infiltration is part of the Islamic expansionism. In the Muslim viewpoint, the world is divided into two regions- those areas controlled by Islam, called Dar al-Islam (meaning the House of Islam) and those called Dar al-Harb (the House of War). Islam commands Muslims to infiltrate into the non-Muslim countries, outbreed and fight non-Muslims until they exterminate all non-Muslims, leaving Islam as the one and only religion of the land (Sura 8:39). Muhammad is quoted in the Hadith as saying, I have been ordered to fight with the people until they say, none has the right to be worshiped but Allah. (Hadith 4:196).

    The Rohingya Muslims are twisting the history. With the help of Bangladeshi intelligence and middle eastern finance, they formed an armed group called ARNO (Arakan Rohingya National Organisation) to “liberate” Rakhaing state from Myanmar and establish an Islamic state.

    This group is armed, trained and harboured by the Bangladesh army and intelligence. The Rohingya Muslims are a classic example of trans-national terrorism. The international Jihadis fight alongside Rohingyas against Myanmar military, the Rohingya fighters in turn help their co-religionists in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kosovo etc.

    The Rohingya Muslims are involved in human rights violations against the indigenous Rakhaing population of Myanmar. They abduct and rape Rakhine girls, murder men and disposses the Rakhaings of their land. I urge the Amnesty International and UNHCR to see the Rohingya Muslim problem objectively and not fall into the baseless Rohingya Muslim propaganda.

  6. Assalamu Alay Kum….

    My name is Arkan starte of Rakine counrty of burma because my goverment not be accept me his re public so what can do,hope you also now the story of arkan.. are arkan have live alot lot of islam (muslim) thay are also same like me with out nationolty .. are have not any nationalty care are have not ant location so what can we do.. also peoples want a stay place a national country because the gover none be accept we why the gover ment none accept me and people you know .. we are also islam (muslim) just that.. so we need help of also leaders…..

    If you seen any wrong word with me so please forgive me i am a bad boy. Please for give us me..


    Allah Hafiz

    Mohamed Dawood Arkani

  7. Just dropping by.Btw, you website have great content!

    Why this one-minute therapy is being suppressed in the U.S. while more than 15,000 European doctors have been using it to heal millions of patients

  8. I agree with Shaq 100%.

    Gabrielle, I get the feeling that you have quite a rosy view of Western culture. You seem to forget that historically Western culture has been the cruellest in humanity. Historians have shown, for example, that China and India in pre-colonial times did a much better job of protecting people from famines than when they were under colonial rule. In fact, the way Western ruling elites treated their own people was far worse than was the norm around the world. It was only really from the late 18th century that ruling elites began to give us people in the West some rights, and the main reason for that is that they feared there would be a communist revolution that would throw them out of power. In order to avoid that we were given some basic rights to appease us. And as long as the Soviet bloc existed, elites had an incentive to give us rights so they could argue we were “free”, unlike those living under “communism”. But since the fall of the Soviet empire, elites feel there is no need to protect our freedom, and these are slowly being eroded away. We may still be freer than in Algeria or Saudi Arabia, but perhaps not for long. And we are under more surveillance in Western countries than most people are under “repressive” foreign regimes.

    Now, this is how the Western elites have been treating their own citizens. Do you really think these elites have ever had any concern for their fellow human beings in obscure parts of the world? Even though they talk freedom, democracy and human rights what they really mean is “give us the freedom to take your natural resources or exploit your cheap labour, have a democracy that chooses governments who do what we want, and try and do this without killing and torturing people openly because it makes us look bad in front of our own people.”

    There are a lot of idealistic people in the West who think that there is a civil society in our countries, but they’re remembering a brief golden age that may have started with the 68 movements and finally died (after many years of being terminally ill) on 9/11. Now is time to get back to reality and realise that our elites would like to go back to a situation where we work like slaves, are willing consumers and never question the status quo.

    I will now provide examples for each of these:
    1. UK governments have consistently fought against legislation that would protect workers from being overworked. (
    2. We have all heard the mantra that the way out of the economic is for people to spend money. That’s what a willing consumer is.
    3. You may have heard of Israeli Lieberman’s idea for an Israeliness oath/test. In the UK they are pitching something similar, where anyone [Muslim] who considers homosexuality sinful or supports resistance groups will be considered anti-British and will suffer dire consequences. (

    Because of the increasingly dire stat of human rights and individual freedoms in the West, I think it is naive to think that it is the West that holds the moral compass. The US government’s primary concern is to make sure it doesn’t upset big business and the UN became ineffective the day the Security Council came into existence. Don’t worry, if the Rohingya Muslims become terrorists there’ll always be American troops to attack them with or without the consent of the UN.

  9. One of the sad reality of the Muslim Uma these days is that, with a very few exceptions, mainly at individual levels, the presumed Mulsim countries “Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain etc” offer no resettlement assistance in these events. Thanks to the west. Hundreds of refugees fleeing persecution are resettled each year, mainly from Muslim countries, in countries like Australia, Europe and the United States. Where is the Muslim world in all of this? Our leaders have let us down. In the beacon of Islam, we were the light bearers of humanitarian assistance. Now, it is all spent on a pina coladas by a corrupt leadership and yet, we blame the west all the time for not coming to the aide of our brethren. This is tragic.

  10. Like you gabriele, i do really care about other people sufferings. But as we all know, it is a sad thing that nothing being done from those who have power and authorities to rectify this problem. when will people realise that the world is big enough for everyone to share…….

  11. Their are enough muslim states, why not settle them their. KSA is the right place they will live under shariah.. what a blessing for them

    Do not even think of non islamic states they’ll get corrupted & we are not interested either & our rules & regulation are contrary to their belief system..

    remember cartoons

    1. Dear Mr dsjpr,
      I think that you have not read the text of the post. They have a country, it is a region of Burma, it is their country and they lived there since the 7th century. They want to live where they should live, in their homes without the fear of persecution.

      Best wishes

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