Do they really care about the Rohingya?

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”

- Noam Chomsky, ‘Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World’

What I really want to know from Sekretariat Umat chairperson Aminuddin Yahaya, who had urged Buddhist monks in Malaysia to state their stand on a demonstration held by their counterparts in Myanmar against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s alleged interference in the Rohingya issue, is whether “killings of innocent people” also go against the teachings of Islam. After all, to some Muslims, only violence against Muslims is worthy of condemnation.

Furthermore, and this is an important point, those monks in Myanmar were protesting against the interference by the Najib regime in the internal politics of their country, so the more appropriate question for Aminuddin would have been, do Buddhist monks in Malaysia support Buddhists protesting against foreign interference in their domestic policies?

This, of course, brings up another important question. If Malaysia is so gung-ho about interfering in the domestic polices of a foreign country, what happens when a foreign country interferes in our domestic policies?

Well, another important question is how PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang would respond to this - that Islam compels “Muslims to protect the rights of anyone who is oppressed”.

Two points need to be considered:

1) Does this include the Orang Asli rights and the right to their ancestral lands currently encroached by loggers that the state government in Kelantan does not recognise? Does this also include the rights of minorities when it comes to Islam in this country?

2) If this was a Muslim solidarity gathering, why is it that no Muslim members of the opposition were invited to the big show? Does this demonstration mean that only Muslims are outraged by the plight of the Rohingya?

Now some may argue that these are not important questions and the real victims are the Rohingya, but I would argue that if you are going to carry out a demonstration about the plight of minorities in another country, it is incumbent upon you to demonstrate that the rights of minorities are also protected in your country.

Please be very clear, I am not equating domestic minorities' inequalities to the plight of the Rohingya. However, I do think that if you are going to hold a demonstration on the plight of a minority group, you should have at least a history of supporting minority rights but more importantly, have a history of supporting the very people you claim are in need of help.

And if this is indeed about minorities rights, then why hasn’t there been a large-scale demonstration by establishment Muslim powerbrokers on the plight of the Orang Asli? Are they not worthy of large-scale Muslim support?

For example, where was the large-scale demonstration when the bodies of five Orang Asli children were discovered in the jungle when they ran away from school fearing abuse? Where was the large-scale Muslim outrage to this tragedy?

As reported in the BBC, “But Colin Nicholas argues that the government has little interest in protecting their identity and says indigenous people are being increasingly sucked into a Malay-centric nation state.

"You pluck young children - seven-year-olds, eight-year-olds - from the village," he says. "Then put them in a school hostel for three months at a time without seeing their parents, give them a new education, give them a new culture, give them a new language and sometimes a new religion, and in one generation you have people who are no longer Orang Asli...

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