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Rohingyas and Pakistan

August 11, 2012

THIS is apropos the articles, ‘The Rohingya and Pakistan’ by Huma Yusuf, ‘Karma and killings’ by Irfan Husain and the letter, ‘Persecution of Muslims in Myanmar’ by Naseem Ahmed.

Ms Huma’s stance is that the debate about how Pakistanis should react to the killings of the Rohingya has pitted liberals against conservatives. She alleged that the quick appropriation of an ‘us versus them’ narrative of (Rohingya) Muslim victimisation betrays the political opportunism of Pakistan’s right-wing parties and the easy use of religion as a way to claim moral high ground.

One would point out that defending the Muslims’ causes all over the world is not a new phenomenon for the local adherents of Islam or limited to religious parties. Remember the Khilafat Movement of the pre - partition era when the subcontinental Muslims had wholeheartedly espoused the cause of their Turkish brethren? The Turkish leaders and citizens to this day recall fondly how even the women over here had participated by donating their jewelry.

Then there’s been the Palestinian issue, followed by Bosnian and Chechen crises and the Kosovo problem. The Pakistanis have been helping morally, diplomatically and, where necessary, materially, the oppressed Muslims in these places. Most Pakistani Muslims and I myself have always sympathised with or helped such causes. However, I am advocating diplomatic effort, not jihad, for the Rohingya issue.

Regarding the criticism that why are the domestic or non - Muslims’ problems not receiving the same amount of attention as the external ones, a simple example would clarify. If there’s a large family with many siblings living in one home and there is a quarrel between two of them, some of the siblings might try to help resolve it while others may remain aloof. But if a group of outsiders attacks the duo, then all or most of them are likely to come to their rescue.

Irfan Husain has also observed that it’s very human to be selective in our sympathy: with all the suffering globally, it would take a saint to grieve equally for all.

Ms Yusuf then cited Dr Ayesha Siddiqa as saying no one is willing to remember that tensions between the Rohingya and the Myanmar state aren’t related to religion but to questions of statehood and territory.

If the Rohingya had been Buddhists, would they still be restricted to having no more than two children or require state permission to marry? Or, would they have been subjected to widespread killings, torture and rape, forcing 200,000 to flee to Bangaldesh in 1978 and 250,000 in 1991 - 92, as noted in Mr. Ahmed’s letter?

Pakistan, despite poverty and many other difficulties, is still hosting 2.5 million Afghans, besides nearly three million Bangladeshi and other economic migrants. The Myanmar people must have a heart and treat the Rohingya fairly.

ABDUL RASHID Karachi