I have noticed on- going debate of whether Myanmar nationals whose faith is Islam should be called as Kalar or not. This topic is still a hot discussion in Internet forums. Kalar is considered a derogatory term for Myanmar Muslims, as it was originally used for migrant Indians without any affiliation to Islam.
However, my friends who are not Muslims told me that there are many U ( Mr) Kalars among Buddhist Myanmar. One of the well-known famous Burmese historian name is U Kalar. There are many U( Mr) Kalars , or Maung Kalars who are of not Indian descendants, in Myanmar society. They are Buddhists and, do not change their names out of embarrassment.
Even, non Muslim donors who contributed for Buddhists Monasteries and Pagodas were proudly embalmed their name as U Kalar, over the wall, or put as inscriptions over marbles and stones for new generation to remember them as U Kalars.
So, what is the big deal about Myanmar Muslims, being called as Kalars?
In my opinion, the main problem that hurts Myanmar Muslims is the way they have been addressed. The sensitivity lies behind the real intention in usage during conversation and intonation behind the words.
For the Muslims in Myanmar, they consider themselves as Myanmar. Because they have been living there for hundreds of years, their ancestors were Myanmar, and the only language and culture they understand is Myanmar Culture. However they have some limitation beyond the culture when comes to lawful eating, marriages, drinking, ect. As a Muslim one must follow the command of the Creator.
During my childhood days, I did not have problems at all, as our neighbors who are Buddhists reminded us what they were serving was Halal food or not. I still remember on those days the invitations comes with “ The food provided is for all religions” .
Well, I am still in touch with most of my friends who are non-Muslims. They never hurt me or discriminate me because I am a Muslim.
But, unfortunately when Politicians use religion for divide and rule, normal people became ultranationalist. The intention behind calling a person “ Kalar” became to defame or derogate a person.
For Instance there are Chinese Muslims in Myanmar known as Panthay people. They have been living there for Centuries . I personally knew an incidence when Panthay lady was called Kalar Ma. ( Laday Kalar).
To fit into definition of Kalar, a person must be of Indian decent, must have dark skin, follow Indian culture, and speak Myanmar Language with Indian accent.A person with this attributes are considered inferior by some of the
racists in Burma,same as racists elsewhere from other countries discriminate other byrace, skin color, language and faiths.
She does not fit any of these criteria. Only reason that she was addressed as Kalar Ma was because of her faith which is Islam. These are the occasions when Myanmar Muslims, Karen Muslims, Shan Muslims, Chinese Muslims got hurt, and felt discriminated because of the faith they believe.
Unfortunately, the current trend is not only in the domestic front but also seen in the people among International Myanmar Community. Some Myanmar nationals, who are living in the West, follow their respective country’s way of never-ending religious profiling against Muslims as terrorists. When well-educated, middle class Myanmar nationals started discriminating fellow Muslims from Myanmar, while their role model of governance is Democracy., to me is uncalled for. They should not profess democracy at the same time practicing double standard.
The recent World Cup is good hope for those who love humanity. The players always put the banner “Say no to racism” before a game.. If they can put the banner “Say no to religious discrimination, the banner will be much more complete.
Even our democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was officially criticized as wife of a Kalar ( Married to an English man known as white Kalar), Myanmar Muslims should focus on mutual understanding in between fellow Myanmar people and be patient until the time, when all races and religions of Myanmar are going to live together with genuine love, respect and unity and of course with happiness.
Kyaw Kyaw Oo