FROM MAULANA’S DESK
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, born in 1925, in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, is an Islamic spiritual scholar who is well-versed in both classical Islamic learning and modern disciplines. The mission of his life has been the establishment of worldwide peace. He has received the Padma Bhushan, the Demiurgus Peace International Award and Sayyidina Imam Al Hassan Peace award for promoting peace in Muslim societies. He has been called ’Islam’s spiritual ambassador to the world’ and is recognized as one of its most influential Muslims1 . His books have been translated into sixteen languages and are part of university curricula in six countries. He is the founder of the Centre for Peace and Spirituality based in New Delhi.
THE ROHINGYA MUSLIMS—ISSUE OR NON-ISSUE
FROM the ninth century onwards, Arab traders have visited the Rakhine state, formerly known as Arakan, on the western coast of Myanmar. In the 9th century, a group of them even settled there. As a result of interaction between these traders and the local population, Islam gradually spread until a large part of the Rakhine state became Muslim.
For centuries, the Muslims of Arakan lived peacefully with the rest of Burma and had no separatist tendencies. However, in 1947, certain emotional Muslim leaders tried to make a separate Muslim state out of the region where the Rohingya people lived. They described their efforts as ‘self-determination’. This movement picked up in pace and many extremist Muslims took an active part in it. For the central government of Myanmar, their actions were looked upon as a revolt. In essence, it was a movement for separation from Myanmar.
Prior to the insurgency, the Rohingya Muslims had lived peacefully alongside the other citizens of Myanmar. But the emotional speeches made by the separatist leaders initiated a tendency towards separatism in the Rohingya. To curb their activities, the Myanmar government took tough action and stern measures against them. According to the leaders of Rohingya, these steps by the central government were an act of “oppression”, but in the eyes of the government, this was merely retaliation. Their response was designed to bring discipline to their country.
In 1971 when Bangladesh was formed, it gave a kind of political boost to the Rohingya leaders who further intensified their separatist activities, due to which the Myanmar government also reacted more stringently than before.
The present exodus of the Muslims from Burma began after 25 August 2017 attacks by members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). They struck 30 police posts and an army base and then maintained several days of ambushes, as Myanmar security forces hit back. The army began its counter-offensive in response to this violence perpetrated by militant Rohingya.
This is the story of the Rohingya Muslims in brief.
The solution to the problem of the Rohingya Muslims is only one—that is, acceptance of reality. The Rohingya Muslims must disavow their insurgency and militant activities. They should make it known that they are a larger part of the Myanmar nation.
It was in 1966 when I was in Lucknow. I remember that one day a Muslim scholar came to me and said he was going to Burma and would I accompany him? When I asked why, he replied that a movement for the formation of a Muslim state was going on in Burma and that we too should lend our full support to it. I strongly disagreed with his suggestion. I explained to him that people who thought like him might be trying to form a state in the name of Islam but that such an act would only lead to strife. I told him that I disapproved of their method of proceeding, as a movement that took shape in such a manner was not truly Islamic, and could only lead to conflict and dispute. I told him that I could not endorse such a cause. He became angry and left.
Since 1966, my opinion on the Rohingyas is that Rohingya Muslims are not oppressed but their case is the outcome of ill-judged political activities instigated by unwise leaders. If the whole picture were to be seen, one would arrive at the conclusion that the Rohingya Muslims are not victims of oppression, but are rather paying the price of their own unrealistic actions carried out under the influence of misguided leaders.
Moreover, I would like to say that such a separatist movement would be unacceptable to any country, even if it were given the euphemistic name of ‘self-determinism’. For example, the Muhajir leaders of Karachi once tried to make it an independent state, but the Pakistan government strongly objected to this and took very stern measures against these leaders, who had to flee the country and now live in exile.
The solution to the problem of the Rohingya Muslims is only one— that is, acceptance of reality. The Rohingya Muslims must disavow their insurgency and militant activities. They should make it known that they are a larger part of the Myanmar nation. They should rid their hearts of separatist tendencies. I am sure that the Myanmar government would then accept them, and the whole issue would be peacefully resolved.
The separatist movement has only caused a deterioration of the condition of the Rohingyas to the point of ruination, although prior to this they were living prosperously in Myanmar. Indeed, the best interests of the Rohingya Muslims lie not in wanting a separate land, but rather in living as part of the state of Myanmar. This is true both in the religious and secular sense.
The Rohingya Muslims should know that, in this world, friendship and enmity are both relative terms. If you offer friendship to another person, he too will definitely accept you as a friend.
In 1934 I took admission in the Madrasah al- Islah, an Arabic seminary in Azamgarh, for my religious education. I had only one friend in this seminary, one Abdul Rashid Rangooni (i.e. he was from Burma). He was a very decent person and had a very good opinion about Burma of his time. Judging by the impressions I received from him about the Burmese people, I would say that the blame for the later actions which were taken against the Rohingya Muslims lies not with the Burmese administration, but with the unwise Rohingya leaders who fuelled violent activities in the region. In the course of this militancy, outside leaders also participated, further worsening the situation.
But I personally know that the Burmese are very good people and will certainly re-accept the Rohingya Muslims wholeheartedly, provided the Rohingyas acknowledge their previous wrong actions and remain faithful citizens of Burma.
The Rohingyas Muslims should know that, in this world, friendship and enmity are both relative terms. If you offer friendship to another person, he too will definitely accept you as a friend. This natural law has been stated thus in the Quran: “Do good deeds in return for bad deeds and you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.” (41: 34)
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Follow Maulana at speakingtree.in