Source Irrawaddy news, 14 Aug 2012
A distraught Rohingya man is comforted by a Bangladeshi border guard. (Photo: Reuters)
WASHINGTON DC—Prominent Muslim American groups have come together to launch Burma Task Force USA with the objective of raising the profile of the Rohingya issue while speaking out against alleged atrocities and human rights violations which have forced thousands to flee and seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh.
“We demand that those responsible for the mass rapes and mass murder of thousands of Rohingyas be charged with crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Court of Justice,” Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairperson of Burma Task Force USA, demanded on Monday.
The Burma Task Force is based on a previous successful effort of American Muslims, the Bosnia Task Force, where its members worked with the interfaith leadership and women’s rights organizations against the genocide of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia.
Mujahid said the objective of the group is to stop perceived ethnic cleansing in Burma. “We will be working with leaders of other faith groups, interfaith groups, women’s rights organizations and peace movements to put pressure on the US government and the American business community to warn the Burmese government to stop the ethnic cleansing,” he said.
American Muslims are taking their cue from the previous efforts of Coalition Against Genocide, wherein Muslims of Indian origin living in the US worked with other communities to revoke the diplomatic visa of Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the western Indian State of Gujarat, for his alleged role in communal riots there some 10 years ago.
Many of the founding members of Burma Task Force USA have been actively working to stop this new violence in western Burma ever since it first flared in June, said Mujahid.
Dr. Shaik Ubaid, who has been advocating the cause of Rohingyas since 1992, was instrumental in getting the Indian Muslims to rally India’s interfaith community to put similar pressure on the government of India. Other leaders have been active in putting pressure on Bangladesh’s government to open its borders, he said.
“Rohingya Muslims were shorn of their citizenship and have suffered sustained and horrific persecution for decades. The campaign by Suu Kyi to obtain the help of the West for the democracy movement in Burma gives us an opportunity to use the American and the world community’s influence to stop the waves of ethnic cleansing,” said Dr. Ubaid, a board member of the task force.
“Aung San Suu Kyi had promised to support the citizenship rights of the Rohingya Muslims in 2005; she gave [a] statement in response to my query on a BBC program. We will hold Suu Kyi accountable,” he said.
The Burma Task Force said its New York chapter is currently planning a rally in front of the Burmese mission there. The communal violence in western Burma has claimed at least 77 lives and left more than 90,000 displaced, according to official figures.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered US $50 million in aid be sent to Rohingyas in Burma. A report on the Saudi state news agency said the Muslim community had been “exposed to many violations of human rights including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement.”
Furthermore, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation announced on Saturday that it received the green light from Burmese President Thein Sein to visit Arakan State and assist Rohingya Muslims displaced by sectarian violence.