My Rohingya woman

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
As Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism and a continuation of Anti-Arab racism (may be like Judeophobia, Polonophobia etc.), the story describes a growing love relation with Rohingya Muslim woman and its dramatic end.

Submitted: March 20, 2017

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Submitted: March 20, 2017

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My Rohingya woman

 

What is feeling? I know it is a vague emotional state but can you see a feeling, smell it, hear it or touch it? The answer is no, so what was the feeling of Islamophobia that I suffered from? And the prejudice against Islam or Muslims? Why I had such unfounded dread, exclusion, discrimination  and dislike of Muslims? Was it because of the media anxiety about Islam and Muslims? However, when I realized that Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism and a continuation of Anti-Arab  and anti-Asian racism (not even far from Judeophobia, Polonophobia etc), it was only because of this woman named Hajima, the beauty symbol of Burmese women. 

 My first name  Sami is of Scandinavian origin although it is prevalent in the middle east and the Arab world. I live near the Hyde Park in London and love walking around its rose gardens, enjoy a relaxing morning or early afternoon. As Hyde Park was created for hunting by Henry Vlll in the 1500s, I like to go the Speakers Corner near Marble Arch to hunt new ideas by listening to the conversations between speakers. I enjoy such public learning events. I always believed that different impressions can awaken new emotions. One day, I awoke to new realities when I passed through the northeast corner of Hyde Park.  There was what it looked as an international Forum dominating the corner. The  discussion was about the persecuted minorities in the world. As I was discussed from my Islamophobia feeling and wanted a way out, I decided to examine my sanity about the subject and stood still in the crowd listening and trying to educate myself.

I stood within small gathering of men and women including  the beautiful Hajima. The  Forum was driven to discuss the situation of Muslim minorities in the West and in some South East Asian countries. It soon run under the title of persecution of Muslims and the Islamophobia, exactly what I needed to hear. An American participant said the Muslims are victimized by few radical Muslim groups just like the Christians were victims to the Christian Kuklux Clan in America. He said the media created an illusion called threat of Muslims then it was exaggerated by wicked politicians and wicked public media turning Muslims from being helpless and passive in the face of  ill-treatment into culprits.  He presented statistics which shows that more than eleven thousand people were killed by being shot by a fellow American compared to just two killed by Islamic  immigrants. He used popular graphic on big  paper poster showing the number of Americans killed each year by various means.

Attacks on Muslims on the other hand  in the United States shot up 67 percent in 2015 to their highest levels since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to new FBI statistics. The other American speaker also said that there  were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias in 2015, compared with 154 the previous year.  He said that VOA News agency reported that the recent cold-blooded killing of a New York imam and his assistant has heightened Muslim American fears of rising violence against them. The murders illustrate the increasingly violent face of Islamophobia in the United States. The report quoted that the surge in Islamophobia seen in recent years has been driven to a large extent by anti-Muslim political rhetoric and violent extremism. The American speaker concluded that the threats, harassment, vandalism at Mosques also reached high record but such actions are conducted by brain washed very few stray illiterates. When he said that the vast majority of  American people are peaceful just like you in this gathering, he received  warm  round of applause.

A Canadian speaker referred to the attack on the Quebec City mosque where in  January 2017 Six people were killed and eight wounded when gunmen opened fire in the mosque during night prayers, in what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a "terrorist attack on Muslims".  In Germany, he said, officials recorded more than 70 attacks against mosques from 2012 to 2014 while in  Sweden, almost 370 hate crimes against Muslims recorded during 2015. He also said that 54 anti-Muslim incidents were reported in France in one year. Unfortunately, this is not new as we  remember the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 that included the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims as well as the mass expulsion of thousands others. Not to forget about half a million Muslims were killed by communists in Cambodia during the 1970s, he added.

The British coordinator of the Forum said that Muslims suffered serious purges through wars too. Hundreds of thousands were killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan during and after the invasion of the two countries by America and its allies. The persecution politics have led to these wars and now they switched to a kind of  mindless state of nativism claiming that they are protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of  Muslim immigrants. They are using refugees as a means of demonizing Muslims and elevating unfounded fear of refugees.

I was deeply touched by these horrible incidences even before listening to the beautiful Hajima, the last speaker. Hajima, is from the Rohingya people. She is Muslim Indo-Aryan from Myanmar which considers her family as an illegal immigrants who migrated following Burmese independence in 1948. She said "this is not true, my ancestors have settled in what is called Myanmar today since the 15th century".

In her remarks, Hajima blamed the British for the current wide scale persecution of her people saying that Buddhist persecution of Muslims arose from religious reasons. She said with the wave of nationalism in 1960s the status of Muslims changed for the worse. Earlier, during the WWII, the British recruited Muslims in a paramilitary force against the Japanese supported by Buddhist and both were engaged in small scale  campaign against each other. The region became  ethnically polarized.  After Burmese independence in 1948, Muslims were discriminated by Buddhist dominated administration then were denied citizenship, rendering a majority of Rohingya population stateless living in camps as displaced. Hajima said that the security forces have been conducting "summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and ill-treatment and forced labor" against her community. Human rights organizations have often described Rohingyas as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. According to the United Nations, the human rights violations against Rohingyas could be termed as "crimes against humanity", "Forget about Islamophobia, pay attention to the persecution of Muslims, Muslim Genocides and listen to our tragedy, we are the victims in time and geography",  Hajima concluded with long bit of audience applause and me tearfully clapping much longer than anyone else.

So what is feeling? How did I transformed from  being Islamophobic into Islamophophilic within one hour? It became clear to me that our Islamophophia feeling was baseless and tasteless  feeling among us whom used to be  Islamophobic. This realization, this revelation, this sympathy with Muslims being victims of discrimination and shameful atrocities have opened the gates to educate my illiteracy about the Islamic values and learn about the history of Islamic civilization. Eventually,  I became closer to God through his holy book, the Quran. Thanks to Hajima who agreed to meet and explain more on the issue of the Burmese Rohingyas  and the unexpected-for me at least- hostile Buddhist stand against Muslims.  

I asked Hajima " I know that Burma's name was changed to Myanmar and it  is a Southeast Asian nation of many ethnic groups, but when did this name change take place and why was it done?".

She said "It happened in 1989 when the  military took over. The majority ethnic group in the country are called Burmese whereas Myanmar represents the desire of the military government to erase the colonial past, probably to divert world's attention away from its wide scale violation of human rights".

 I asked Hajima "how it is coming in fits that Buddhists massacring Muslims, I thought Buddhists are peaceful people?"

"Not really" she said. "Their legends, tell that even Buddha’s life witnessed several attempts of assassination by his own cousin Devadatta who started break away order when he failed". She said.

"You mean people change and  what underneath their personalities is  nothing like their orange  clothing?" I asked.

"Yes, but not all of them of course, I am not saying that all Buddist are fanatics but just like other ethnic groups, there are fanatics among them and those, supported by the security forces are the responsible for the massacres against us" Hajima explained.

"So it is politics?" I said

"Yes, remember the politics of persecution". She replied.

Hajima and I started to see each other more frequently. Our meetings became regular. She led me through Islam teachings and for the first time I knew that the Arabic world Islam means "peace and surrender to God". How could I not falling in love with her? She became part of my life until that day when she admitted that she was also falling in love with me. We started to think about our future together. I imagined myself marrying to this beautifulRohingya Muslim woman, so I proposed.

Hajima was so happy but "there may be one or  two issues need to be discussed", she said.

"You may realize by now that my name, Sami, was not meant to be coincidence, it is prevalent in the Arab and Islamic world but you may be surprised to know that with God blessing I am Muslim now, so what is the  other issue" I asked her.

Her happiness was more than great saying" then I only need to get the approval of my parents, this is the Islamic tradition".

"Of course we need to do that" I said.

"But they are in Burma" She said

"So let us travel to Burma" I said.

When we arrived in Burma, we travelled to the Rohingya Muslim quarter of Sittwe city. The situation was tense because of the spread of anti-Rohingya Buddhist violence with the  indirect involvement of the military authorities. However, we were officially engaged in the presence of Hajima's parents and close relatives. In the next morning, the family gathered at the front door to farewell us. All of a sudden an armed squad appeared and started shooting everywhere then disappeared in less than a minute. Hajima, her parents and the rest of the Rohingya Muslim family were instantly killed. The horrid scene indicated that each of them had been shot execution style, at close range. I was saved from the massacre  because I was getting our luggage from inside the house. I was spared to "feel" the physical extermination of joy for the rest of my life.  


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