American Muslims Urge Protection for Rohingyas

By Lalit K Jha 3 August 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization called on the governments of Burma and Bangladesh on Thursday to seek protection for Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in a letter urged Burmese President Thein Sein to urgently take steps to end human rights violations against the Rohingya in the wake of a fresh wave of communal strife that began in early June.

“Your government must take urgent steps to end human rights violations by its security forces and to allow unimpeded access for relief organizations and international monitors seeking to enter affected areas,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a letter to the Burmese president.

“Once calm is restored, Myanmar must revise its 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively denies citizenship to Rohingya Muslims,” Awad said, urging the president to cooperate with the international community to take immediate measures to address the ongoing abuses.

In another letter to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Awad sought protection for those fleeing Burma and seeking refuge in her country.

“The government of Bangladesh, with the support of the international community, must offer full humanitarian assistance to those forced to flee Myanmar. Denial of this assistance will inevitably result in even greater suffering, which we should all seek to prevent,” he wrote.

In its statement, CAIR also urged the international community to address the suffering of the almost one million Rohingya in Burma, as well as those who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

The CAIR letter came a day after Human Rights Watch released a report detailing alleged human rights abuses by the Burmese authorities.

“Burmese security forces committed killings, rape, and mass arrests against Rohingya Muslims after failing to protect both them and Arakan Buddhists during deadly sectarian violence in western Burma in June 2012,” it said.

“Government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community have left many of the over 100,000 people displaced and in dire need of food, shelter, and medical care,” the group said.

Meanwhile the State Department said the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Farah Pandith, concluded a trip to Burma on Wednesday.

“While there, she met with civil society leaders, members of religious and ethnic groups, including the Rohingya, youth leaders, national and international non-profit organizations, as well as with the Minister of Religious Affairs,” the State Department said.

“She discussed areas for cooperation with Muslim communities in Burma, including education, rule of law, and economic opportunity, with a particular focus on young people,” the statement said, adding that she also participated in Ramadan activities, including the US Embassy Iftar held on July 30.