Is Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of Islamophobia?
Founder of the Free Burma Coalition presents his case
Picture: Al Jazeera/AFP
Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the contemporary world's most celebrated icons of human rights, non-violence and reconciliation, crossed the line into Myanmar's world of "Buddhist" Islamophobia. Disturbingly, on BBC Radio Four's flagship programme, "Today", she characterised the waves of organised violence and Nazi-like hate campaigns currently being committed by her fellow Buddhists - the lay public and clergy alike - as violence of two equal sides, claiming that Burmese Buddhists live in the perceived fear of the rise of great Muslim power worldwide.
As a revered dissident, Aung San Suu Kyi's idea of 'freedom from fear' inspired millions both in Myanmar and world-wide. I think she herself has succumbed to a different type of fear, namely Islamophobia.
Far from recent waves of violence being horizontal communal violence, the truth is that the country's Rohingya Muslims - numbering 1.3 million out of the country's 60 million people - have been the subject of a slowly unfolding genocide. This is the conclusion I have drawn from a three-year study that I have just completed with a researcher colleague at the London-based Equal Rights Trust.
In February 1978, the military-controlled state launched its first large-scale operation in Arakan State (now known as Rakhine) in western Myanmar. This first exodus of an estimated 240,000 into neighbouring Bangladesh, took place long before the West's "war on terror" against "radical Islam." The Oxford-educated Nobel Peace Prize laureate whom the majority of Burmese, including Muslims, call "Mother Suu" can only be using what she calls the "great rise of Muslim power" as a convenient excuse.
Maung Zarni is founder of the Free Burma Coalition and a fellow of the London School of Economics
Source: Al Jazeera
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