Friday, 14 August 2020

By A R Arakani ,USA


The article by Khin Maung Saw appeared in Narinja News Media, the mouth piece of Maghs redubbed as Rakhines is time and again full of repeated racism because Rohingyas are denied their rights of existence, ethnicity and religion. Racism has destroyed many nations in the past and its presence will continue to do so in the future.
Rohingya is a term branded as illegal and considered as punishable in Burma. Rohingya is a word that interprets dreadful and indigestible for Rakhines community. Rohingya is a denotation which is allergic and itching for ultranationalists and fascists among Burmese communities. But it is historical and cherishable for Rohingya people and factual for international communities.

The paper presented by aforesaid scholar or historian is somehow deceitful and disputable from various dimensions. He has deliberately omitted relevant information while some are selectively and prejudicially referred that suit his bias presentation. The expansion of Islam into southeast is completely tainted although Islam has been widely accepted in most parts of the world long before 12th century.

Noticeably he himself stated “the military abuses against the Rohingyas, was more or less true” on page 12, but he at the same time cites that the Rohingyas should not be considered as political victims rather economical immigrants although there have been many credible reports surfaced over numerous news and medias that have clearly identified the plight of Rohingyas.

Besides, the presenter has repetitively misrepresented the existence, historical heritage, cultural identity, language inefficiency, political movement and physical evidences of Rohingya. He subsequently misplaced the settlement of Rohingya prior to Bodaw Paya and British era.  Additionally he has inventively labeled the entire Rohingya nation as Bengali trademark who happened to be mostly illegal immigrants after Burma’s independence. This is clean sweep with historical deception and distortion.

There is a saying: “Smart people are able to distinguish between a cow and an ox by looking its face; absurd can only differentiate by lifting tail; a blind can realize by touching the genital”. Thus the differences between Rohingya and Bengali are easily identifiable for sensible people including unadulterated Rakhines who are non-hostile and neutral in their judgment.

Advance of Islam in Southeast Asia and Arakan

Islam was in fact spread throughout the region long before 1203 A.D. The first Islamic Sultanate of the entire southern hemisphere was in Peurelak, Aceh around the year 173 AH (800 AD) where the Arab, Gujarati and Chinese Muslim traders frequented in the trade of mainly spices. Islam first came to Aceh, after which it spread to Malaysia, West Sumatra and Makkasar. Eventually, the island of Java synchronized Islam into their existing Hindu culture around 100 years ago1.

Subsequently, the recognition of Islam in this part of the world has been a fact since C.E. 674 (forty-two years after the death of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) when the Umayyad ruler Muawiyah was in power at Damascus. Two hundred years later in C.E. 878 Islam was embraced by people along the coast of Peninsular Malaysia including the port of Kelang which was a well-known trading centre.2

Likewise, Islam landed in Bangladesh as follows: Arab merchants had links with Chittagong port since pre-Islamic period. It has been proven in recent studies that a group of Sahabis including Abu Oakkas Malik, Quyes Ibn Sairadi, Tameem Ansary, Urrah Ibn Assasa, Abu Quyes Ibn Harisa came to Chittagong in 618 during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (PUB). They preached Islam there for few years and then went to China.

The following Sahabis came to Bangladesh through Chittagong seaport after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (PUB):

- Abdullah Ibn Utban
- Assem Ibn Amr Tameemi
- Sahel Ibn Abdi
- Suhael Ibn Adi
- Hakim Ibn Abeel Assaqafi

Later five delegations of the Tabeyees including a group of Muhammad Mamun and Muhammad Mohaimen came here to preach Islam.

In 712 Muhammad Bin Kasem conquered Sindh. It paved the way for Muslims to come to Bengal.

In 778 a group of Muslims fell into a storm in the Bay of Bengal. They were taken to the King of Arakan Ma-ba-toing. The king became very pleased with them due to their behaviour and intellects.  He gave them several villages to settle. As a result, an Islamic society was developed in the course of time.

During 866 to 874, the famous saint of Iran Baezid Bostami preached Islam in Chittagong. Although most of the historians say that he returned to his homeland, many people believe that he died and was buried in Chittagong. His shrine is still in Chittagong.
In 954, the Muslims of Arakan became so powerful that they established Muslim rule in a part of Chittagong. King San-da-ya could not tolerate the Muslim rule and defeated them3.

Consequently Islam reached in Arakan during that period as well. In the Arakanese traditional history, stated that in the reign of Mahatoing Tsandaya (788–810 A.D) several Arab ship wrecked off coast of Rambri Islam, the Muslim sailors somehow escaped and swam into shore. When they were brought before king, they were allotted a piece of land and allowed to settle there4.

Furthermore, R.B Smart writes about the Muslim settlement in Arakan in the British Burma Gazzetter as follows: “The local authorities relate that in the ninth century several ships were wrecked on Ramree Island and the Mussalman crews were sent to Arakan and placed in villages there….5
The settlement of Muslims was being further described by renowned historian Siddiq Khan as: “To the maritime Arabs and Persians the various ports of the land Burma, and more especially the coastal regions of Arakan…were well known. Naturally therefore, when from 8th century onwards, Muslim traders and navigators were spreading over the eastern seas from Egypt and Madagascar to China, and forming commercial settlements at points of vantage, the coastal regions of Burma were not over looked. Originally, the intention of these traders and sailors had not been to establish permanent colonies, but owing to peculiar circumstances these acquired the nature of permanent settlements.6

Muslim inflows, their influences and evaluation in Arakan

The Muslims entered into Arakan in a big way on different occasions. Foremost, Arabs in course of their trading and missionary activities including ship-wrecked ones and the arrival of Mohammad Hanif son of Hazarat Ali (RA)7; Muslims army in course of restoring the king Min Saw Mun to the Arakanese throne; the captive muslims carried by pirates and the influx of Shah Shuja with his family and retinue.  As such, there is no doubt to say that the Muslim arrival had started since late 7th century or early 8th century in Arakan unlike the scholar mentioned the first Muslim settlement was in 15th century.

Arakanese Kings adopting Muslim names plainly defined that there were great Muslim influences and they were integral part of the administration and society for more than two hundred years after restoration of deposed king to throne in Arakan. “Muslim influence in Arakan, they may be said to date from 1430, the year of Narameikla’s return. As a result of the close land and sea ties between two countries which continued to exist for a long time thereafter, the Muslims played a decisive role in the history of Arakan Kingdom.8

The Muslims have been high ranking officials in ministry and administrative offices. Not only that, the ruler was compelled to inscribe coins and medallions with Islamic titles. A.P. Phayre writes: “The restored king, however, was forced to submit to the degradation of being tributary to the king of Thu-Ra-Tan, from this time the coins of the Arakan kings bore on the verse, their names and titles in Persian Character.9

The term Rohingya is reasonably derived from Arabic word per Muslim historians. It can be corruption of Rakhine word per Rakhine historians. It is not wrong to correlate both because the Rohingyas have been heterogeneous people with mainly cross-blood of Arabs-Rakhines-Bengalis since late 7th century. If the word “Rohingya” is corrupted from Mro Haung, there is nothing wrong because the city was built with the blood and sweat of Muslims after restoration of Maruk U Dynasty. They are seeking their due share being part of it. These Muslims had absolute right of calling themselves as Rwa-Haung Tha which is now Rohingya. Upon thorough study of the history written by many authors, ROHINGYA can be interpreted as Rakhines Offered Help to Islamic Nautical Geographers while Yelling in Arakan water.

Rohingya outflows in Arakan

The exodus of Rohingya utterly began with the occupation of Arakan in 1784, but the fierce ongoing wave of persecution and oppression particularly started late 1930s when Arakan was separated from Bristish India. Since then, the land of Arakan has been frequently drenched with Rohingya blood in the wake of innumerable operations launched against Rohingyas including 1942’s pogrom, 1978’s Dragon King Operation and 1991’s Pye Tha Ya operation which were the most horrific among many.

During the pogrom 1942 alone over 200, 000 innocent Rohingya men, women, elders and children were massacred and religious school, villages and mosques were almost completely demolished in Mrohaung, the ancient capitol of Arakan. The survivors of the mass killing dreadfully elaborated that the Kaladan River was with full of decomposed bodies and human blood as such the fishes of the river can’t be eaten up for several years.

Subsequently, The Dragon Operation of 1978 was launched with deliberation of ethnic cleansing and systematic elimination policy against mass Rohingyas. As a result, thousands and thousands of Rohingyas were compelled to take shelter in neighboring country Bangladesh. The influx of refugees has substantially drawn international attention and half of the refugees were eventually repatriated on the bilateral agreement under international pressure and the remaining escaped in host country or third countries.

Again, Pye Tha Ya operation of 1991 was conducted against the innocent Rohingyas to completely drive them out from their ancestral land whereas about 250,000 Rohingyas fled to neighboring country. Till today there were about 22,000 refugees lingering in southern cities of Bangladesh refugees’ camp who have been resisting their repatriation because of dreadful atrocities largely committed by Burmese military regime in Arakan. Those who returned have been internally displaced and living as domestic refugees.

Points to rebut

01. The above historical data are concrete evidences of when and how the universal religion “Islam” spread throughout this continent whereby our respected historian has twisted it first hand in his research. Arakan is undoubtedly a land whereby Islam was received during that time as well.

02. Mr. Khin further elaborated that there is no single evidence of Arabic culture and Islamic faith in Arakan. I doubt his brain was functioning well while he was writing his ultra-motive article because Rohingyas are still strict followers of Islam which was taught by early settlers from Islamic countries. Rohingyas’ culture as marriage, religious rites and practices, segregation between men and women, circumcision, wearing head and whole body cover by women, early marriage, permissible polygamy which is up to four wives, restriction of women activities, permissible and forbidden food and many more. Those are influenced by the Arab Muslim settlers not by Hindus and Buddhists.

03. Arakan is presently comprised of seventeen cities from Maungdaw to Taungaup and Goa. There are many towns where no single Muslim living now. It does not mean that Muslim never reached there but the Muslims had been slowly driven out and their historical evidences had been completely razed down since annexation of Bodaw Payar. To name a few that are till standing tall in different cities such as Badr Moqam Mosque10 of Akyab built in 7th century, Stone plates11 with Arabic inscriptions inside the Theingyitaung pagoda and engraved in a wall at Nanragone of Mrohaung, Musa Mosque 12 of Mrohaung in 14th century and Sandhi Khan Mosque12 of Mrohaung in 15th century, The Grand Jam-e-Mosque Mosque13 (Akyab) in 17th century. Needless to say, many more were deserted during sporadic communal upheaval among Buddhist Maghs and Muslim Rohingyas. These centuries-old religious sites conclusively testified that the Muslims have been inhabitants of Arakan who are today known as Rohingyas for thousands years. It is bizarre to totally obliterate the existence of Rohingyas through calculated concoction.

04. The last of Mr. Khin first response is childish as Rohingya must be able to speak Burmese/Arakanese. Technically they can speak Arakanese which is generally comprised of Rohingya language as officially recognized language by democratic government of Burma. It is true that many Rohingyas are unable to speak either Burmese or Rakhine for many reasons and barriers which are intentionally imposed by the ruling government. A person can learn second language when the language is made available thorough program of teaching, schooling, tutoring and interacting with the second language speakers.

Mentionably, A Rohingya can speak Burmese if he lives in Rangoon, Malay if he is in Malaysia, Java in Indonesia, Thai in Thailand, Bangla in Bangladesh, Arabi in KSA, English in UK or US, Urdu in Pakistan and so on then why Rohingya is unable to communicate in Burmese/Rakhine. The reasons are obvious as Rohingyas are systematically deprived of education whereas they are the highest illiterate in Burma. The education quality is significantly low and rarely accessible in Rohingya Muslim area. Inadequate teachers, facilities and materials result majority of Rohingyas unlettered mother-tongue only.

From this regard, we are very clear that why en mass Rohingyas are unable to communicate through Burmese and Rakhine language. However, a person does not require language test certificate to prove his ethnicity and citizenship when he is by birth citizen being descendent of centuries old settler.

Majority of hill people in Arakan as Kamis, Mros, Chaungthas, Saaks, Chaws Khaungtsos, Ahnus and Kons are not able to speak either Burmese or Rakhine but still full-fledge citizen of Burma. In India, there are over three hundred dialects most of whom are unable to speak Hindi but they are still called Hindustani. In retrospect, there are many Rohingyas who can speak other language fluently in the host countries but they are not recognized as its citizens.

Apparently, interaction is out of question because Rohingya Muslims are eye-sour of Rakhine community. Under this circumstances, how Rohingya can learn either Burmese or Rakhine language. Thus, the oppressor Burmese and suppressor Rakhines are to be hold responsible for systematic marginalization of Rohingyas educationally.

05. Arakan was either Muslim State or Buddhists not a topic of concern.  Rohingyas are simply demanding their birth rights which are very legitimate being inhabitants of Arakan for many generations14. Rohingya is one of the ethnic groups recognized by democratically elected governments during the period of 1948–1962 after gaining independence. Rohingya had elected representatives, legislative representatives and assembly representatives till military coup led by U Ne Win. Therefore, striping off their citizenship, denying their right of existence as an indigenous people of Arakan is unacceptable and Rohingyas continue to retain all lost history and heritage and restore their inalienable rights in their native land.

06. The Rakhine scholar Mr. Khin has acknowledged that there were Muslims but again ignored the reasons behind it rightly and comprehensively. I herewith argue that the usage of alias bears reason(s). The US president has Muslim middle name Hussein although he is a Christian. But he hide why he has a Muslim name not only Hussein but also Barak which is an Arabic name meaning “Increase” for your information. He carries Muslim name because he was born to Muslim father. Similarly, the adoption of Muslim names by Arakanese Kings were out of gratitude and influence in building new imperial glory.

07. The Rakhine scholar has completely unnoticed the arrival of Muslims before and after Maruk U Dynasty. Historically, there are strong evidences that Muslims migration had started since the birth of Islam and continued till late 17th century. This influx has largely increased the Muslim Rohingya community through marrying local girls. The Arabs by culture polygamous so that multiple marriages helped number of Rohingyas grew. Subsequently, the large number of soldiers who contributed in restoring the kingship settled with local girls and overtime produced more and more Rohingyas.

Moreover, the kidnapped people from Bengal by pirates Portuguese and Maghs renamed as Rakhines also enhanced Rohingya community in Arakan. G.E Harvey writes, in 17th century the Maghs and Portuguese pirates brought Bengalee captives, both Muslims and Hindus, and sold at the ports of Arakan and India15. The captives were somehow employed the in tilling the soil and developing agriculture. So these captives also contributed the growth of Muslim population of Arakan. From this assessment, it is fair to say that the large number of Muslims had settled in Arakan and mixed with locals whereas today’s Rohingyas are increased over the long span of period.

Where have those Muslims gone while insignificant numbers of Kaman and Maydu Muslims still exist? Were those brave Rohingya great-forefathers massacred?

08. It is well documented that Rohingyas were expelled through the mechanism of tyranny and atrocity in 1942, 1960s, 1978 & 1990 while Mr. Khin claimed that the Chittagonians illegally entered during that times due to natural and man-made calamities. To my surprise, he could never produce any credible report of such events. The statement is nothing but bogus and unfounded conspiracy.

09. The Rohingya Language Program relayed from Burma Broadcasting Services, Rangoon from 15-5-1961 till its abolition on 1-10-1965 under minority broadcasting service. He has knowingly lied it as under foreign language program while Rohingyas were recognized as indigenous ethnic race of Burma by parliamentary government of U NU on 25th September 1954 16.

10.  The Rakhines have similarities with their Burmese counterparts in terms of religion, culture, physical appearance, language, behavior and attitude then why you are not considered as Burmese although there was huge number of Burmese assimilation during Bodaw Phaya rule in Arakan besides bulks of immigrants from upper Burma periodically during the time of war. If contaminated Rakhines can identify themselves as pure Rakhine why Rohingyas are deprived of that privilege, just because we are not Buddhists and we are not assimilated like other small number of Muslims. 


Mr. Khin has somehow brought his ugly picture into limelight. As the shortest distance between two points in a circle is straight-line, in his intolerant view “TOTAL EXTERMINATION OF ROHINGYA” is the only solution to be Arakan as Rohingya-less land either at gunpoint by tyrants or at pen-point by contemporary scholars. It is well coordinated and parallel policy of Junta regime against Rohingya. The Rakhine scholar presentation is crystal clear that the entire Rakhine community has a fear of Rohingyas’ comeback as a strong community.

Rohingyas have been diametrically facing all measure of abuses and hostilities both inside and outside their ancestral homeland Arakan. Rohingyas are called foreigners when they outcry for their citizenship and ethnicity in their homeland. Rohingyas are named dacoits when they are found collecting bamboos in jungle. Rohingyas are said insurgents when they are found cutting woods and trees in mountains. Rohingyas are called smugglers when they are found fishing in the river and sea. Rohingyas are called tax-averter when they are found in trading. Rohingyas are called terrorists when they are found resisting brutalities and injustices. Rohingyas are call Kala (Alien) when they are sons of the soil.

However, if Rakhine can claim Arakan as their motherland, likewise Rohingya can claim Arakan as their fatherland because the forefathers of Rohingya settled with foremothers of Rakhines. The struggle of Rohingya is for liberation from the oppressed and enslaved life. The charge as domestic and international terrorism against them is an offshoot of the Rakhine prejudice and conspiracy.



4.    Dr. Abdul Karim: The Rohingyas, A short Account of Their History and Culture,  P.13 
5.    British Burma Gazetteers: Akyab District, Vol. A, 1917, P.90
6.    Mr.Siddiq Khan, Muslim Intercourse with Burma, Islamic Culture, Vol.X,  Hyderabd, July 1936, P.418
7.    M.A Taher Ba Tha, The Rohingyas and Kamans (in Burmese), Published by United Rohingya National League, Myitkyina (Burma), 1963, PP. 6-7 & N.M. Habib Ullah, Rohingya Jatir Itihas (History of Rohingyas), Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1995, PP. 32-33
8.    Moshe Yager, The Muslim of Burma, 1972, op.cit, Page.18-19, S.N.S Rizvi (Edited), Bangladesh District Gazetteers: Chittagong, Dacca, 1970, PP.62-63
9.    A.P. Phayre writes: History of Burma, London, 1884, P.78
10.    Journal of the Asiatic Society of Pakistan (JASP), Vol. VII, 1962,  Analytical Study of Badar Muqum by  Siddiq Khan
11.    History of Arakan: Past & Present by Dr. Mohammed Yunus. Plate No.5 & 6, P.171 & 172
12.    Ibid P.290
13.    The Rohingyas: A Short Account of Their History and Culture by Dr. Abdul           Karim,P.21
14.    BO Hla Tint : Rohingya Crisis Can Only Be Solved in A Free Society,    Published in Bangkokpost, 12/02/2009
15.    G.E. Harvey, The History of Burma, o.p. cit., P.142-144
16.    Mr. A F K Jilan: The Rohingyas of Arakan: Their Quest for Justice, P.177

Opinions expressed here are those of the authors. Kaladan News is only published for reader.