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Panel Session on Rohingya at 51st ISNA Convention in Detroit, Michigan, USA; “Rohingya Muslim and Islam in Myanmar: A Population and a Faith Under Threat of Extermination”

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Detroit, Michigan, USA -- An Exhibition and a panel session on the plight of Rohingya ethnic minority in Burma/Myanmar were some of highlights at the 51st Annual Convention of the Islamic Society of America (ISNA), held at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The panel session was titled “Rohingya Muslim and Islam in Myanmar: A Population and a Faith Under Threat of Extermination”. Dr. Sayyid Syeed, National Director of ISNA, presided the session with opening remarks, followed by speeches by Dr. Wakar Uddin, Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union, His Excellency Ufuk Gokcen, the Ambassador of Permanent Mission of OIC to UN, Honorable Tom Andrews, former United States Congressman and President & CEO of United to End Genocide in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Malik Mujahid, Chairman of Burma Task Force-USA in Chicago, addressed the audience on ethnic cleansing, violence, and atrocities against Rohingya, Kamen, and Pathi/Myanmar Muslim in Burma.

Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen of the OIC Permanent Mission at the United Nations in NY addresses at the Rohingya session at 51st ISNA Convention
Dr. Wakar Uddin provided background information on Rohingya ethnic minority in Arakan, how the modern history of Rohingya has entered the dark period during the past half-a-century, deprivation of the rights of Rohingya by the military regime in Myanmar, ethnic cleansing and major human right violations, pre-planned events of violence against Rohingya beginning from June 2012, and dire situations in IDP camps emerged after expulsion of NGOs by the Government of Myanmar. Dr. Uddin has further explained the current situation on the ground, particularly the controversial “verification” campaign that the Government officials had reportedly conducting using data collection sheets with the title “Household Membership in Illegal Bengali Immigrants”, and the officials turning violent against the Rohingya families for non-cooperation because of their opposition to the mislabeling Rohigya as “Illegal Bengali Immigrants”. Dr. Uddin has warned that the situation in Arakan is grim as the Government of Myanmar is poised to conduct “verification” under the pretext of national census and the campaign by the Government of Myanmar for denial and destruction of the ethnic identity and the name “Rohingya”. Dr. Uddin has appealed the Muslim Umma and the international community for assistance, and detailed the strategies for how they can help the cause in a concerted effort.

Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen spoke on humanitarian and political issues in Arakan, OIC’s dedication to Rohingya cause, stressing that Rohingya issue was the first topic in the recent meeting of OIC Secretary General HE Iyad Madani with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in Bali. Ambassador Ufuk further spoke about OIC’s engagement with the Government of Myanmar, the citizenship issue, importance of OIC member states’ common strategy with common voice and sustained efforts through OIC Ministerial Contact Group, and the important roles of ASEAN member states of OIC that maintain strong bilateral relations with the Government of Myanmar. Ambassador Ufuk also stated the importance of inter-communal relationship and interfaith dialogue among the communities in Arakan and the intricacies in the local, state and central government. He has also explained the importance of the US House Resolution 418 as a landmark in Rohingya issue on a global scale. The major emphasis of Ambassador Ufuk’s speech was finding a long-lasting diplomatic solution to the issues faced by Rohingya and the need for dialogue and ethnic reconciliation to bring a permanent peace and stability in Arakan state.

Honorable Tom Andrews presented the situation of living reality of Rohingya ethnic minority in Arakan state in Myanmar. Hon. Tom Andrews gave the details of his personal trip to Arakan and Central Myanmar and witnessing the horrendous conditions in Rohingya IDP camps, which he calls “concentration camps” in Arakan. Hon. Tom Andrews provided an account of the Rohingya IDPs asking the Government of United States to bomb and finish the camps, so that they will no longer have to go through such humanly unthinkable conditions in IDP camps. Hon. Tom Andrews also provided the detail accounts of precursors of genocide and desperate situation faced by Rohingya families. He stated the importance of the U.S. Congress understanding the serious situation in Arakan; thus passing the House Resolution 418 with bipartisan support unanimously. He also explained his confidence in US Senate about passing a resolution on Rohingya. Hon. Tom Andrews expressed outrage on recent murder of the Muslim community leader, Soe Min Htway, in Mandalay. He urged the global community to sign the petition for Rohingya at He urged President Obama to provide protection to Rohingya as he is protecting minorities in Northern Iraq and Eastern Syria. “We know the truth in Arakan, and we will save the Rohingya” Hon. Tom Andrews declared during his concluding remark.

Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid spoke about the involvement of Burma Task Force-USA in Rohingya issues. In his speech, Dr. Mujahid provided a number of historic evidences of the recognition of Rohingya as an indigenous people of Arakan and ethnic minority of Myanmar by the Government of Myanmar in 1950s and 60s. Dr. Mujahid stressed that the mounting violence against Rohingya and other Muslim population in Myanmar is being driven by the Islamophobia that is now a public policy in Myanmar. He has also reminded the audience that President Thein Sein is the only leader in the modern world calling for removal and transfer of an indigenous ethnic minority (Rohingya) to another country. He provided the satellite images by Human Rights Watch as the graphic evidence of total removal of Rohingya villages, as a tool of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Dr. Mujahid has also provided evidence of the connection between the leadership of the radical monks in Sri Lanka and the mastermind of violence in Myanmar, monk Wirathu. However, Dr. Mujahid also stated that historically there was no hostility between Islam and Buddhism, and reminded the international community that the radical Buddhist monks in Myanmar and Sri Lanka do not represent the great peaceful religion of Dalai Lama – the Buddhism.

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