Myanmar Muslim Organizations Condemn ARSA, Pledge Collaboration

By Moe Myint 10 September 2017

YANGON — The All Myanmar Islamic Religious Organization on Saturday strongly condemned the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for its terrorist acts in northern Rakhine State, and pledged collaboration with the government, interfaith groups and the public to prevent such acts.

Northern Rakhine State is reeling from the Muslim militant group’s attacks on 30 police outposts on Aug. 25 and subsequent violence against civilians. The Myanmar government declared the group a terrorist organization shortly after the attacks began and has since begun clearance operations in the area, causing ethnic Rakhine, self-identified Rohingya and other Rakhine sub-ethnicities to flee their homes. The UN said that as of Friday, some 270,000 Muslim refugees had fled to Bangladesh.

The announcement from the national Islamic organization made up of five local Muslim organizations — including Jamiat Ulama-al Islam (H.Q), The Islamic Religious Affairs Council, All Myanmar Muslim Youth (Religious Affairs) and Myanmar Muslim Nation Affairs Organization — came a few days after anonymous warnings against possible Muslim and Buddhist attacks on Monday circulated via Facebook messenger and SMS to both Buddhist and Muslim communities across the country. Both the Myanmar government and the military issued a public alert that the ARSA was preparing for terrorist acts in the country’s major cities, including Yangon and Naypyitaw.

The statement released by the Islamic umbrella organization said they “have never accepted terrorism and are totally against it.”

“We are very much concerned about the attacks given the government’s alert. The government needs to strictly prevent the online instigations calling for racial and religious conflict at the moment,” it read.

It also added that the organization felt sorry along with the bereaved families of innocent civilians killed by terrorists in Rakhine State as well as for displaced people.

U Nyunt Maung Shein, the chairman of The Islamic Religious Affairs Council, one of the signatories, told The Irrawaddy on Sunday that the statement was the result of a meeting between members from all of the organizations on Saturday.

He added that the statement had been delayed after the attacks as some members were on religious trips and they were waiting for their return.

In a separate statement released on the same day, the Islamic organization urged all Muslims in Myanmar to condemn terrorism and collaborate with others for stability.

“Please don’t share, believe nor react emotionally to those online instigations. If you find out any suspicious activity in your neighborhood, please report it to the authorities,” it said.

On Saturday, the government also requested the public not spread the “online and SMS attack warnings,” and announced that it would take legal action against those instigating public panic.