Minority problem is a recurrent issue in almost all parts of the world, including the more inclusive USA. On Thursday (Dec. 4) evening a 15-year-old Muslim boy of Somali descent – Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein – was struck by a SUV intentionally as he was leaving the Somali Center of Kansas City after leading a prayer service there. He was a Hafiz (one who memorized the entire Qur’an by heart). The impact of collision pinned him down and killed him. Another Muslim teenager also sustained severe but not life-threatening injuries.
Somali Center officials have said that a man has threatened the local Muslim community for months. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the driver threatened the teen's family and other area Somali Muslims for months, even writing the anti-Islamic message "the Quran is worse than Ebola" on his own Chevrolet SUV. The driver was seen wielding a machete as he tried to flee the crash scene threatening other Somali-Americans.
As to the motive behind the crash, Sgt. Bill Mahoney of the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) said, "There's a considerable amount of evidence that leads us to believe this was an intentional act." The FBI is working jointly with KCPD on the case and is investigating it as a potential hate crime. Interestingly, as usual, the popular media failed to mention that the victim was a Muslim and that he had come out of a mosque.
Two days earlier, on December 2, in nearby St. Louis (Missouri) 32-year-old Zemir Begic, a Bosnian-American Muslim was attacked in front of his wife and killed by youths wielding hammers. His wife Mujkanovic said, "The last thing he did before he actually died was pull me out of the way and put himself in front of me, basically giving up his life for me."
St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population in the United States. They came to the Bevo Mill neighborhood in the 1990s, escaping the Bosnian war. The St. Louis area has been the center of protests since late August over the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. These turned violent in August, and again in late November after a grand jury decided not to press charges against the police officer.
The minority problem is simply much worse in many parts of South Asia and Myanmar (formerly Burma), which at one time belonged to the British Raj. To solidify its hold on the colonial territories, the Raj played its Divide and Rule policy very tactfully tearing apart indigenous societies that had not hitherto witnessed such tensions along religious and ethnic lines. In its conquered territories, while the former dominant (and hence defeated) religious and ethnic groups were shunned other local groups were preferentially treated in all aspects creating tensions between various groups.
To fatten its coffers the Raj encouraged internal migration of cheap labor creating tensions along the ethnic lines. Similarly, to facilitate its administrative hold on its colonies, the Raj also induced migration of mammoth populations of English-educated Hindus who were more adept in the colonial system than others. Such relocations of cheap and educated labors for the economic and administrative purposes, respectively, extended all the way to the external migrations from one part of its domain to another. For instance, Indians were brought into South Africa, the Malay Peninsula and the West Indies for assisting mostly in the administrative jobs, while the Chinese were brought into Malaysia to work in its rubber plantations.
As some of those migrants settled down in their adopted homes and were later abandoned once the Raj vacated its conquered territories they were mostly treated as remnants of the colonial past and faced discrimination under the hands of the new rulers, which came from the majority religious groups, in the post-colonial era. In South Asia and Burma, the minority problem was further exacerbated by the tit-for-tat religious riots which took place at some irregular frequency since independence of the multiple states from the belly of the so-called British India. Hindus became a majority in India and Nepal, while Muslims became a majority in Pakistan (and what is now Bangladesh) and Buddhists became a majority in Burma, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
The post-colonial experience of the minorities in South Asia and Burma has mostly been a sad story with little progress made in securing their human rights in the last sixty plus years. Nothing fares worse than the fate of the Muslim minorities in the Buddhist-majority Burma or Myanmar. Rightly so, this country has been depicted as the den of intolerance and hatred.
Truly, in today’s Myanmar, Muslims have no rights. Most Hindus have left this den of hatred long time ago. Her indigenous Rohingya people, rightly called by the UN the most persecuted people in our planet, who mostly live in the Arakan (now called Rakhine) state are treated as stateless or unwanted people as if they are a British era implantation from the nearby Chittagong (in today’s Bangladesh). When it comes to the human rights of this unfortunate people not a single of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is honored by the Myanmar government. They are forced to a life of exodus. The incessant genocidal campaigns against them since the early 1940s have already ensured less than half the Rohingya population living in this country; the vast majority now live as unwanted refugees elsewhere. Sadly, the government of neighboring Bangladesh is also unkind to them and treats them very harshly. Even the visit of foreign NGOs to Rohingya refugee camps living in southern Cox’s Bazar is not tolerated by the Bangladesh government. On November 21, 2014, three volunteers of the Netherland-based Global Rohingya Center (GRC), a humanitarian assistance branch of the Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU), an organization which is sponsored by the OIC, were detained by the government agencies for unknown reasons. They were on a fact-finding mission to assess the plight of the refugees. They have not been released yet.
In so-called secular India, considered the largest illiberal democracy in the world, the share in government jobs for the minority Muslims who comprise roughly one-seventh of the population is only around 2 percent. They face unfathomable discrimination at every sector. In recent months, since the election win of Narendra Modi of the BJP, a Hindutvadi fundamentalist and fascist group, in the central government, the lives of minority Christians and Muslims have worsened. Many mosques and churches have been attacked and set on fire.
On November 24, 2014 the Centre for Society and Secularism (CSSS), Mumbaiorganized a session on the ‘Rights of Minorities’ in South Asia during the Peoples’ SAARC Regional Convergence. The primarily objectives of this session were to understand the nature of violation of rights of minorities in South Asia and create a strong network of organizations across South Asia to consolidate existing or establish new mechanisms to address such violations. While I was not able to participate, I had the privilege of reading a report, published by the Center.