Wednesday, September 6, 2017


By Lily Hikam*)

Yesterday (September 2, 2017) for Eid Al-Adha, I was fortunate to have a chance to do prayer with fellow Muslims also residing in Orange County, CA. The prayer was held at the Angels Stadium in Anaheim, CA. (look at the picture) Yes, that's right we held Eid prayer in a baseball field to accommodate the large number of jamaah (congregation). Muslims are indeed resourceful people. It was quite an experience, seeing as it's probably the closest I'll ever get to being to the pitcher's mound. It was very heartwarming to see so many people coming together to commemorate the sacrifice that Ibrahim (Peace be Upon Him) made in the name of Allah SWT.

In this occasion, I was also fortunate to make an acquaintance with the lady who sat beside me while we waited for prayers to start. It turned out we both lived in the same city and hailed from the same region of the globe: Southeast Asia. She was from Myanmar, and had moved to the United States 20 years prior. As we sat and waited for the prayer to start, we talked a little about the situation of the Rohingya people and how disheartening it is that the Burmese government seem to be instigating it and how the International community seem to be turning a blind eye to it.

There is no sugar coating what is happening right now in Myanmar: it is genocide. The Rohingya people who happened to be the minority ethnic group and also happen to practice Islam, a minority religion in a nation where Buddhism is practiced widely. The fact that this has been happening for a long time and there doesn’t seem to be any solution in sight is a major cause for concern.

As someone who is not an International Relations or Political Science major, I can only see this conflict from the perspective of a concerned human being. Why is there not enough outrage from the International Community? I have only read the headlines but it seems as if even neighboring countries are reluctant to take the Rohingya people as political asylum. And they have a legitimate argument to claim asylum. Has the International community, i.e. the United Nations done anything to pressure Myanmar, either politically or economically, to get them to stop their military from committing this atrocity? Also, where is the most famous Burmese of all, Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, during all of this? Her silence has been the loudest sound through this whole ordeal.

One cannot help but compare this genocide to the ones that happened in Germany and Bosnia. The similarities are uncanny: a militant government under the guise of nationalism used its country’s ethnic minority as a scapegoat for systemic problems in society and stoked a fervor of populism resulting in the extermination of the minorities. While the Jews of Germany had a network of allies in many Allied nations and their diaspora, the Rohingyas are not afforded that luxury. Their diaspora do not have the sway and influence that the Jewish people of the 20th century had.

Hence, I believe it is Indonesia’s, as the country with the largest Muslim population, moral duty and  responsibility to defend and advocate on behalf of the Rohingyas of Myanmar. We need to be their ally, as the Jewish diaspora was to the Jews of Germany. Unfortunately, our involvement in ASEAN may, in a way, limits our capability in taking action in the domestic affairs of other ASEAN member countries. What limited power we have can be done to influence and persuade other countries to pressure Myanmar to stop this genocide.

Dante once said that, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis”. Surely our conscience would not let us remain indifferent in the face of such tragedy. Let us not set aside the fate and livelihood of the Rohingya people due to real politics. Humanity should not be the price to pay for pragmatism.

*) Graduate Student, Zaragoza Lab
UCI Cardiogenomics Clinical and Research Program
Department of Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine
The University of California
Irvine,CA, USA


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