Muslims Rallying Against Burma Ethnic Cleansing not deterred by twin tornadoes
New York city was hit by a severe storm system on September 8, 2012, and by noon, two tornados had touched down. More tornados were expected to threaten in the late afternoon. The semi-finals of US open tennis tournament was postponed. Tornados are a rare phenomenon in the New York area, but the severe weather could not dent the resolve of the Muslim New Yorkers. Hundreds of dedicated Muslims and even more Muslimahs and youth refused to be intimidated by the fury of the elements, taking to the subway (underground), boarding chartered buses at various mosques, and even driving long distances to support the cause of Justice.
It was as if God was testing the resolve and dedication of His creations, and as if having seen them pass with flying colors, He unleashed His mercy– the rain held, the winds calmed down, and the Muslims of the tri-state area had the best weather between 4 and 6PM, the time allotted to them.
The rally started with the recitation of the Quran, and then two young Muslim women in hijab recited theirrap poetry in support of the persecuted Muslims of the world. This set just the right the tone for the speeches that followed.
Professor Wakar Uddin had represented the Rohingya at the recently concluded Organization of Islamic Cooperation Summit in Makkah called by King Abdullah. He informed the audience about the support that Muslim governments had pledged to the Rohingyaâ€™s cause. He stated that many Muslim leaders were moved to tears when he described to them the heinous atrocities that were committed during the current pogrom. He detailed how whole villages were burnt to the ground, their inhabitants massacred, raped, and displaced. He reminded the audience that only America has the capability to force the Burmese government to stop the ethnic cleansing. He said that for years, the Rohingya were trying to lobby the American government, all without success. The formation of Burma Task Force, which has mobilized all the major Muslim-American organizations, has now given hope to Rohingya for the first time. He thanked the task force and asked the Muslims to sustain this movement till the demands of Rohingya are met.
Imam Talib Abdur Rasheed, the Amir of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York Metropolitan, an umbrella group of 55 mosques, gave a stirring speech exhorting the Muslims to unite and work towards political empowerment in the US.
Mohyuddin Yousof, leader of Rohingya Concern International, spoke passionately about the many waves of ethnic cleansing that have been unleashed on Rohingya Muslims for the last many decades. He demanded that Burmese citizenship be restored to the Rohingya and appealed to the Bangladesh government not to prevent the refugees from entering Bangladesh. He too thanked the Burma Task Force.
Dr.Shaik Ubaid, one of the founding member of Burma Task Force USA, was leading the rally. He promised the Rohingya leadership that the American Muslims will not rest until the Burmese citizenship of the Rohingya is restored, the victims rehabilitated fully, the perpetrators brought to justice, and racism made politically unacceptable. He reminded the audience that Arakan in Burma is the only place in the world where the twin evils of racism and religious bigotry are being unleashed together on the darker skinned Rohingya Muslims by the lighter skinned Burmese Buddhists. He damanded that Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese democracy movement, condemn the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya and pledge to restore their God-given fundamental right of citizenship. He reminded Ms. Suu Kyi that in 2005, on BBC, in response to his query, she had admitted that Rohingyas had lived in Burma for centuries. Dr. Ubaid announced that in less than two weeks, Aung San Suu Kyi would be arriving in the US and that the Burma Task Force would launch rallies in 100 American cities to put pressure on her and the US government.
AbuSamihah Sirajul-Islam of Muslim Ummah of North America, a Bangladeshi-American group that had mobilized a large number of protesters, spoke eloquently about the anti-Bengali feelings that are behind the massacres and ethnic cleansing in Burma and neighboring Assam state of India. In both places, populations that have lived on the land for centuries are being targeted because of their Islamic faith and Bengali culture, he explained.
Mubashir Ahmed, a prominent Hyderabadi-American New Yorker, speaking on behalf of the Islamic Circle of North America, reiterated the demands of Bosnia Task Force.
Other leaders who spoke include:
Mazeeda Uddin of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor; Khaja Mizan of Jamaica Muslim Center; Mahtab Uddin of Human Rights and Development for Burma; Nay Saan Oo of Free Rohingya Campaign; Maryam Tanzeela of the youth wing of MUNA; Imam Aiyub Baqi of Majlis Ash Shura; Naji- Al Montasir, an Arab American leader who asked the people to register to vote and who had set up a registration booth at the rally; Shaukat Jeelan, a Rohingya leader from Milwaukee; and Reshma Saujani, the first Indian-American women to run for Congress in 2010.
As the rally ended with prayers of peace for Rohingya, dark clouds appeared from behind the skyscrapers and soon the storm resumed battering the great metropolis.
Burma Task Force New York is an alliance of mosques and Muslim organizations of greater New York area launched to stop the ethnic cleansing in Burma. A similar alliance- Burma Task Force-USA operates at the national level.