The timeless Commandment for mankind to “Love Thy Neighbor” is, by the hand of the Myanmar government, withheld from the minority Muslims living in the district of Rohingya who continue to be subjected to systematic social constructivism used to alter the minds of their fellow countrymen against their way of life. As part of what can be deemed apartheid-type tactics, the government of Myanmar refuses to recognize the Rohingya Muslims as citizens even though their history in the country spans hundreds of years. To this end, the authorities use repetitive negative hate propaganda, suppress the Muslim minorities freedom of religion and human dignity, and the building of unfounded fear -pitting neighbor against neighbor. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor released the annual 2012 International Religious Freedom Report underscoring the infringements stating, “In Burma, the government maintained restrictions on certain religious activities, limited freedom of religion, and actively promoted Theravada Buddhism over other religions…” As a result, thousands of Muslims are dying, hungry and displaced from their homes in this flagrant example of unchecked ethnic cleansing.
In April, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein released a highly controversial 186-page report from the Arakan Investigation Commission that has been criticized for its reference to Myanmar’s Muslims of the Rohingya sector as illegal immigrants, identifying the small population as a “sub-nation”, and laying no responsibility on the government for hostilities. A Joint Statement by the Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO) condemns the report stating it “distorted the number of deaths and extent of destruction” and failed to tell the whole truth about “genocidal onslaughts mass destruction” by armed cadres of the Arakan Liberation Party/Army. The joint statement also indicates that the fallacious report “describes the Rohingyas as low-class…who produce more children and want to seize the arable lands of the lazy Rakhines.” Since the release of the disputed report, the authorities have placed a two-child limit on the Muslim townships of Buthidaung and Maundaw. No such limit is placed on the Buddhist population.
Reporter Dave Hopkins from The Nation newspaper responded to the release of the Arakan Investigation Commissions report:
“One of the most strikingly prejudiced aspects of the report is its overt disavowal of Rohingya identity. The report refers to the Rohingya only as "Bengali", reinforcing the widespread belief in Myanmar that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh…. symbolically undermining their claim to Myanmar citizenship. … the report echoes the xenophobic lexicon of the Myanmar government and the mobs who have led anti-Muslim violence.”
Hopkins provides a context for the government’s involvement in oppression of the Muslim people of Myanmar: “The military-dominated Union Solidarity and Development Party may seek to take advantage of the so-called threat to argue that it is best-placed to safeguard security and stability in the country ahead of 2015 elections.”
Hopkins' analysis also aptly described the results of a widespread campaign to ‘hate thy neighbor’:
“The demonization of Muslims, particularly the Rohingya, creates the conditions for violence, encouraging the rage of anti-Muslim mobs who envisage threats to their livelihood, culture, and religion. The belief that Muslims constitute a threat appears nonsensical, not least for the fact that Muslims make up only around 4% of Myanmar's population…”
According to the aforementioned U.S. State Department report, Myanmar authorities have indeed placed “restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly, and continued to monitor the meetings and activities of religious organizations” – a startling irony to the activities taking place in the U.S. at the hand of law enforcement agencies caught inappropriately spying on America’s minority Muslim communities.
Human dignity and freedom of religion are ideals that hold true in every corner of the globe. President Obama articulates a foundation for which all countries and human rights agencies can urgently address the tragedy in Myanmar, “…religious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected… This freedom is an essential part of human dignity, and without it our world cannot know lasting peace.”