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The Rohingya crisis and the role of the OIC The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is not doing eno

The OIC needs to lead the initiative to protect the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, writes Ahsan [Fazry Ismail/EPA]


Abdullah al-Ahsan

Abdullah al-Ahsan is professor of comparative civilizations at the International Islamic University Malaysia.

The latest United Nations report on the Rohingya minority shocked the world yet again with descriptions of the kind of atrocities that the Myanmar security forces are perpetrating.

From children cut to death, to women raped and whole villages burned, these brutal acts have been justifiably characterised as most likely amounting to crimes against humanity.

Despite having ample evidence of the extent of ethnic cleansing pursued by the Myanmar authorities, the world is yet to take serious action against the government in Naypyidaw.

Among the many organisations that should be striving to protect the Rohingya, there is one that should clearly lead this initiative: the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Of all the international entities, the OIC is best positioned to undertake the cause of the Rohingya community.

Not only does it officially represent Muslim-majority nations, but it also has welcomed powerful nations with Muslim minorities such as the United States, China, and Russia to have their own representatives in the organisation.

It has the leverage to lead international action to protect the Rohingya and in the past has stood up for persecuted Muslims in Palestine and Kashmir among other places.

An old issue with a new twist

WATCH - Bangladesh: Rohingya refugees fear relocation (1:38)

The Rohingya problem is several decades old. A 1982 Myanmar law stripped the Rohingya of access to full citizenship. Since then members of the Rohingya community have been driven out of Myanmar. Many have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh and from there to other countries.

It is very difficult to determine how many Rohingya have migrated but currently there are about 400,000 of them in Saudi Arabia and about 200,000 in Pakistan and most are supposed to have fled via Bangladesh.

The Myanmar government has sought to erase decades of violence and oppression against the Rohingya by citing security concerns to justify its brutal campaign.

More recently concerns about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group spreading its influence in Southeast Asia have presented the government with a welcome distraction from the atrocities it is committing.

After the OIC criticised Myanmar at its January 19 extraordinary meeting on the Rohingya issue, its foreign ministry responded by saying: "It is disturbing to note that the OIC meeting held in Kuala Lumpur on January 19, 2017, failed to acknowledge that the situation was a direct result of the well-planned and coordinated attacks on police outposts in the northern Rakhine State on October 9, 2016, by extremist elements both funded and inspired from abroad."

The fear of the rise of extremism is genuine and should be examined candidly. Western media have extensively reported on suspicions that ISIL might be recruiting among the Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar.

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