Myanmar Muslim population is estimated to be 4% of total population. That translates into more than 4 million out of 60 Million estimated total population. Most of them scattered all over the country, and assimilate well to the local culture.
Today’s story is about a Locomotive assistant driver, who jumped from the train to save the lives of a granny and a child who were trapped in between double tracks over a bridge. The news reported that the brave man jumped from the train and pushed both of them from the bridge into the river to avoid being hit and crushed by the train, coming from the opposite direction.
When the local news portals reported about his bravery in an interview, he introduced himself as a Myanmar Muslim. That is the point where people started insulting for using Islam and Muslim before his name. His bravery and outstanding heroic act became secondary, and issue of religion became primary issue for the discussions over Internet.
Myanmar is a huge country with diverse ethnic and religious groups. While Buddhism is the major religion of Myanmar, Government and constitution acknowledge the existence of other religions and the rights of freedom of worship to its people.
In reality, some of those educated, in other words, fortunate enough to use Internet became more and more racists. They don’t want to hear any outstanding performance of Muslim in Myanmar.
The current Global political dynamic is against Muslims, though no one will admit this true fact since September 11 tragedy in the US. Myanmar people follow the global trend that is hatred towards Muslims for no reason.
Most of the Muslims of Myanmar are poor and uneducated. They suffered together with fellow countrymen under the Military Dictatorship for several decades. During that period there were many politically motivated anti Muslim riots which were not known by outside world due to media restriction. I could understand that the same law had applied to other atrocities suffered by all people under the Military ruled Myanmar.
Now, Myanmar is on the road to democracy. The Government of Myanmar relaxes the rules of censorship of local media, and even invited exile Medias to report from Myanmar directly.
However, both local and exile media badly failed to highlight the plight of ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar. In other words they failed to exercise the very fundamental rules of media ethics. There is no fair reporting for Muslims of Myanmar.
Instead, some media even sow the hatred against Muslims by deliberately allowing anti Muslim propaganda over their WebPages. For instance, two Myanmar Muslim leaders, Win Mya Mya of NLD, and Mya Aye, a 1988 student leader were placed in low profile, probably because they are Muslims, like the Locomotive assistant driver who saved the lives of his fellow citizens.
As a Myanmar Muslim, I know from my heart that majority of ordinary Buddhists of Myanmar do not hate Muslims. We were born on the same land, speak the same language, and accept the same culture. Only difference is our faiths.
But I do worry for seeing more and more ultra nationalists over the internet that sow the hatred against Muslims. They are well-educated, middle class, who will eventually lead our country in future.
Current leaders should not try to ignore or keep the religious issues under the carpet. I do understand that they need to have very delicate balance in this very early stage on the way to democracy. However, religious issues, if not rightly handled in the earlier stage, turned into very ugly conflicts and tragedy when look back to the history of the nations which came out of totalitarian to plural society.
I hope all different faiths of Myanmar, form the bridges of understanding among each other. The leaders also should not tolerate the religious injustice, so that anyone with the right mind will understand that there is no place of religious hatred as well as extremism.
Islam is the religion of “Peace”, and all the Muslims of Myanmar should be example in showing other that we are peace loving citizens of Myanmar.
Kyaw Kyaw Oo