Edited version of my post as MAHA BAN DOOLA (One of my Pseudonyms) in Burma Digest
Daw Aung San Su Kyi once comment regarding the political extremists, religious fanatics and ultra nationalists,
“Well, there are people who think that it’s right to do anything in the name of their religion, their race, their family, or any organization to which they may belong.”
During my schooling days, my one English teacher was a Jew and another was a Christian. My Mathematics teacher was an Indian Hindu, Chemistry teacher was a Muslim. Our football coach and PT teacher was also a Muslim. He was like “COACH CARTER” to us. (Coach Carter was a real story of a very famous basketball coach.) Because of his discipline and intelligent handling of our team, our school team was the best in the whole district and all our team members got good marks and enter the professional universities. I, a Burmese Buddhist, was the team captain playing at midfield. My partner was a Muslim and because of the two of us’ team work and support three Burmese and one Rakhine shooters could score a lot. Our goal keeper was a Brahman and if he was in front of the goal posts we felt secured as if the goal post was sealed with cement. One tough Chin and another stout Karin backer also saved us from many goals. Our two best Chinese friends never played football but never missed a match to encourage us and they successfully forced their rich fathers to support our team with more than enough financial supports. Although now we were all married and most of us migrated to different countries, we all are still in touch and we missed each other. I even dreams about them not less than once a month.
The world is so wide and there are a lot of twist and turns. It would be much better if we look at the facts that trigger the Inter-religious conflicts and riots to stop them or prevent them from happening again. For me no excuse is right, conflicts should be avoided at all costs from both sides. I am not going to search who is right or wrong, but the basic causes or events that trigger the conflicts only. I believe that if anyone fight or try to use force, both sides are wrong. I am searching the ways to avoid the repeat of those conflicts.
We all must unite, if not we will fall. I will now try to search the triggering sparks of racial and religious riots in Burma/Myanmar.
I search the views of third parties in the libraries. I don’t want to consider the views, excuses and blaming games from the interested parties. I found four reliable persons and sources seem to be middle men and free of bias:
1. Morris Caulis, British, was the Judge during the first Indian Burmese conflict. He wrote the eye witness accounts and was amongst the British Ruling Class at the time. He wrote details account of that conflict in his book, “Trials in Burma.”
2. Moshe Yegar was the Jew, Diplomat at Israel Embassy in Rangoon in 1960. He did his M.A. at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem; with the thesis about “The Muslims of Burma, A Study of a Minority Group.”
3. Bertil Litner married a Shan Lady and he is the Burmese Expert among the European journalists. He had even successfully predicted about 2 1/2 months in advance in the Bangkok Post that Ne Win Government would create an anti-Muslim riots but at last both races would unite and the snowball effect would cause the downfall of Ne Win’s Government.
4. US States department’s Human Right Reports about Religious Problems in Burma/Myanmar. I do not wish to write any details but just read this web page http://www.state.gov/j/drl/ or http://drkokogyi.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/religious-freedom-report-of-myanmar-burma/ to see what the Myanmar Government is doing on Buddhists, Christian, Muslim citizens and the Ethnic Minorities of Burma/Myanmar.
Actually you all will find out that I am just searching the ways to avoid the split of the democracy forces inside and outside Burma. We all know that Myanmar Military is a well trained expert on Propaganda Warfare. We all could see that Myanmar Generals and their Intelligent Mechanism would try to split the forces of people and at the same time divert the attention of all the Burmese people and the world’s spectators by creating racial or religious conflict. United we stand, divided we fall!
The following facts are the gist of what I get from the above third party sources: I hereby wish to advice all of you that many real actually correct facts would hurt both sides. I am opening the old wounds or doing the Post Mortem to search the triggering factors. Mutual understanding, mutual respects and the granting of basic Human Rights irrespective of Race, creed, colour, religion or ethnicity would defuse most of the ill feelings amongst us.
The problem started in Yangon port, because of the irresponsible action of the British firm of Stevedores. It had employed hundreds of cheap Indian labourers. While those Indians were on strike, that firm had employed the Burmese workers just to break the strike. So the Indians had to give in and ended the strike. Next morning when the Burmese workers came and report for work they were told by the British firm that their service was no more needed. Some of the Indian workers who were angry because they had to end the strike at failure because of these Burmese workers made fun at them as revenge.
Naturally Burmese workers were angry and started the fight and Indians retaliate. It grew rapidly into anti-Indian riots. Even within the first half-hour at least two hundred Indians were massacred and flung into the river. Authorities ordered the police to fire upon any assembly of five or more who refuse to lay down the arms, under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. That was a black day of 26 May. Within two days it spread to the whole country and no one knew the exact causality.
There was another anti Indian/Muslim riots in 1938, while still under British rule.
The real basic hidden agenda was aimed at British Government but the Burmese dare not show this openly. The growing Nationalistic sentiments fanned by the local media disguised as anti Indian/Muslim to avoid the full blown force of mighty British Government machinery.
The Burmese Nationalists fanned the anti–Indian AND ANTI-Muslim sentiments by using the following facts.
1. Problems in mixed marriages such as issue of conversion of the Burmese girls and the religious and legal matters that follows, e.g. non-conversion, divorce, death and inheritance.
2. Economically the Indians/ Muslims were better and some amount of jealousy set in.
3. Buddhists could not accept Myanmar Muslims as fellow citizens but look down on them as Kalas or foreigners who are dirty, poor and of low standard.
4. Burmese Newspapers started the hate campaign against the Indians/Muslims since 1935. They use the words such as “Indians/Muslims had taken their wealth and girls”, to incite hatreds. They called to expel the Indians/Muslims from the government service and to ‘deport’ them.
5. There was a religious argument between a Moulvi Hassan Shah and a Buddhist, Maung Pan Nyo. A book came out in 1931 about that and Buddhists published pamphlets again to attack Islam. Burmese Muslim Abdulla Maung Sin wrote the rebuttal claiming that Maung Pan Nyo’s book offended Islam and the Prophet. Then Maung Shwe Hpi, a Myanmar Muslim published a book and included all of the above-mentioned books and articles. Hasan Shah published the new edition of his book.
6. In June 1938 a Buddhist journalist published the most offending extracts against Buddhists from those books. Newspapers, organizations and Buddhist monks demanded action against the author. They called to stop intermarriages to prevent the spread of Islam.
7. The monks called for the boy court of all Indian/Muslim business and even guarded with whips in the markets to prevent the Buddhists from purchasing at Indian/Muslim shops.
8. On 26.7.1938. anti Muslim rally was held at Shwe Dagon pagoda. They started the Burma for Burmese Campaign.
9. They marched to the Muslim (Surti) Bazar. While the Indian Police broke the violent demonstration, three monks were hurt.
10. Burmese Newspapers use the pictures of Indian police attacking the Buddhist monks to further incite the spread of riots.
11. Indian properties: shops, houses and mosques were looted, destroyed and burnt to ashes. They assaulted and even massacred the Hindu Indians. It spreads to all over Burma and recorded that 113 mosques were damaged.
On 22.9.38. British Governor set up the Inquiry Committee.
They found out that the real cause was the discontent in the government regarding the deterioration in sociopolitical and economic conditions of Burmans.
The book was used as an inciting factor by the irresponsible Burmese newspapers. They use the anti Muslim propaganda as a disguise to cover up for the political struggle to gain independence.
The Simon Commission, (The Royal Statutory Commission, appointed according to the Law of the Government of India1919, The Montague-Chelmsford Law) to inquire the effects of Diarchy system of ruling Burma. But the British Government refused to accept all those recommended except the separation, at the round table committee on India held in London in 1930.
THE remarks of UN Secretary General Koffi Annan are the best comment and advise for both Burmese and Indian/Muslim journalists of 1930’s.
“We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable,”
“He believes that the freedom of the press should always be exercised in a way that fully respects the religious beliefs and tenets of all religions.”
UN spokesman continues the UN Secretary General’s view,
“the importance of overcoming misunderstandings and animosities between the people of different beliefs and cultural traditions is through peaceful dialogue and mutual respect”.
Anti-foreign sentiment and Nationalism.
The pride and good feelings of nationalism: the love for the country, race and religion is frequently exploited and used by many politicians, ultra-nationalists, religious fanatics, racial extremists and present (Military) Government of Myanmar.
Adolf Hitlar of Nazi Germany and Slobodan Milosivic, were the most prominent and indisputable example. But it is shameful to admit that many governments and politicians around the world are guilty of this crime one time or another to get or accomplish their own agenda or to cover up their faults and failures.
They use to threaten their own people with the foreign powers and enemies, western colonists, imperialists, religious (Islamic) terrorists, Communists, and possible outbreak of racial riots, danger of losing independence of their beloved country.
It is sad to note that, that propaganda warfare is usually successful with the help of the local government controlled media and because of the use or exploitation of the nationalistic spirit. People against this would be labeled as unpatriotic or traitor.
Once intoxicated with the patriotism and nationality fever, people were blinded. They are ready to do anything for that patriotism. They are even willing to kill or dare to be killed. They are willing to sacrifice themselves, their family, their property and everything on earth. Patriotism could mobilize the whole nation.
I have to remind my Muslim friends that In Islam, there is a widespread misuse of the word called jihad and breed terrorism around the world that back fired on us in the whole world and in Myanma.
With the Globalization, the whole world is becoming a Global Village. So we, “SHWE” MyanmarS are also spreading like wildfire around the whole world.
It is sad to note that the hatred to foreigners is rooted to fear of losing, insecurity, low self-esteem and jealousy of the respective locals. Then now we all Shwe Myanmars are in the same position as the Indian, Chinese foreigners in our own country, Burma now called Myanmar.
We, Myanmars are now migrating, working legally and illegally in many different countries. Now many of those host citizens are hostile to us, Myanmar Citizens, claiming that we are taking their jobs, replacing them. They claim that because of our cheap labour they could not demand for pay rise. We are poor, dirty; we bring in diseases into their country etc.
Bamas are accused by our own brothers, Ethnic Nationalities that Bamas are acting like big brother, arrogant, want to assimilate or destroy them, raping them etc. The curative portion of medicine is already in the UN Charter.
The purposes of the United Nations are… to achieve International cooperation… in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language and religion…”
“Equality, justice, dignity” is the emblem that represents the goals of the Human Rights Committee. The comprehensive implementation of actions against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances is a very important topic because these forms of intolerance have been global issues since biblical times.
For decades, thousands of people have been victims of discrimination, preferences and exclusions in view of their race, skin color, sex, religion, language, national or ethnic origin and form of expression, causing extreme suffering and even loss of life.
Racial discrimination is the ability or power to make distinctions among people based on race, color, decent, national or ethnic origin rather than individual merit. Xenophobia is a fear of the foreign, of what is strange. Religious intolerance occurs when someone’s opinions and beliefs are not respected by others due to their religion or way of thinking. (Wikipedia free Encyclopedia)
In extremely religious or less developed countries, sexism is practiced, and racial discrimination is not considered wrong. In addition, the methods of solving racism could not appeal to all countries. Lots of people believe that they have the right to segregate others and feel superior to them, just because they are different to what they are used to. The following are only some of the many examples in which discrimination has been highly presented:
During World War II, the Holocaust genocide by the Nazis exterminated over 15 million people. In the course of the 11th- 13th centuries, the Crusades took place, in which European Christians fought the Muslims and a lot of casualties on both sides.
There is no country in the world exempt of discrimination. No matter how severe or how mild the ratio of discrimination is, no nation is free from it. Either for one circumstance or another, not all countries are capable of giving the importance and dedication this issue needs. Even though we are all consciously aware of this topic, there is still a long road to cross.
The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan stated:
“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda… Our mission therefore is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will and must be defeated. Almost every country in the world suffers prejudice among its own people, either racial discrimination, xenophobia or religious intolerance.”
After the 27 years in prison of the Racial discriminatory Apartheid Whites, the noble response of Nelson Mandela, when he became the South African Leader should be the example to all of us. He used his nonviolence strategy and fought to eradicate the object of racial division and turn it into the open democracy that today exists and the country prospers.
So back to my personal experiences: If not for my best teachers; those Christians, Jew, Muslim, Hindus and of course many fellow Burmese teachers and lecturers I would not be in this position. If not for my Ethnic Minority footballers, other race co-players and my football coach “Carter” we could not win any tournaments.
Lord Buddha teach us to detach from “ATTA”, I, my, me, mine. I realized that it could extend to my family, my relatives, my race, my religion, my home, my town, my country. And Buddha even advised to love and pity all humans and animals including our enemies.
Our common enemy dictators who wish to stay on in power would definitely create endless racial riot in a near future to divert the discontented people and smoke shield the world opinion.
We all are like the married couple. In Burmese, married couple is compared with the tongue and the teeth. We could unintentionally bite the tongue. If we could understand that the teeth is helping the tongue by chewing the food into smaller pieces to get better taste and forgive all will be OK.
In Burmese there is a saying. If we are near we always frequently fight amongst each other. Once we are away only, we missed each other too much as if going to die if we cannot see each other.
Now I missed all my friends of different races and religion. We must unite against our common enemy whether we are in Myanmar proper or abroad.
UNITED WE STAND divided we FALL.