Ulama, State, and Politics in Myanmar

Naw Lily Kadoe,1* Fatimah Husein2

1 ICRS (Indonesian Consortium of Religious Studies) Yogyakarta, Indonesia
2 Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN) Yogyakarta, Indonesia
* Corresponding Author

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14421/ajis.2015.531.131-158


Issues related to Islam and Myanmar have become world’s attention, especially in relation to the Rohingya refugees who fled the country in the past few months. The 2010 government census stated that Muslim constitutes 3.9% of  the total 53 million population, who are mainly Theravada Buddhists; but some Muslim leaders interviewed in September 2014 argued that the followers of Prophet Muhammad constituted 17%. This paper finds that violent conflicts involving Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine State were caused by complex issues including the historical background of  the coming and development of  Islam in Myanmar and the authoritarian military regime, which did not open paths for dialogue. It is surprising to witness how the concept of  “peace” that is at the heart of  the Buddhist teaching seems to be disappeared in the whole issue of  the conflicts. This paper, however, will not focus on the conflicts themselves but on the role of  ulama during the Myanmar conflict.
[Isu terkait Islam dan Myanmar telah menyita perhatian dunia, khususnya setelah adanya para pengungsi Rohingya yang keluar dari negeri ini beberapa bulan yang lalu. Sensus tahun 2010 yang dilakukan pemerintah menunjukkan bahwa penhanut Islam berjumlah 3,9% dari total 53 juta penduduk yang mayoritas penganut Budha Theravada; namun menurut beberapa tokoh Islam yang diwawancarai pada  September 2014, penganut Islam mencapai 17%. Tulisan ini melihat bahwa konflik kekerasan antara Muslim dan Budha di Provinsi Rakhine dilatarbelakangi persoalan yang cukup komplek, termasuk latar sejarah masuk dan berkembangnya Islam di Myanmar serta rezim militer yang otoriter yang tidak pernah membuka ruang dialog. Satu hal yang cukup mengejutkan adalah konsep “damai” yang menjadi jantung ajaran Budha tampaknya hilang di telan pusaran konflik.Hanya saja, tulisan ini tidak berfokus pada isu konflik itu sendiri, namun lebih menelisik peran ulama dalam konflik Myanmar.]


Myanmar; Rohingya; Islam-Budhism conflict

Full Text:



Affan, Heyder, “Masalah pengungsi Rohingya ‘sulit diselesaikan’ dalam setahun”, BBC Indonesia, 23 Nov 2015, http://www.bbc.com/indonesia/berita_indonesia/2015/06/150605_indonesia_nasib_rohingya, accessed 23 Nov 2015.

“Analysis: Violence in Myanmar”, GulfNews, 13 Jul 2014, http://gulfnews.com/news/europe/analysis-violence-in-myanmar-1.1356311, accessed 7 Aug 2014.

Aung, San Yamin, “Muslim Organization Makes Offerings to Mandalay Buddhist Monks”, irrawaddy.com/, 8 Apr 2014, http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/muslim-organization-makes-offerings-mandalay-buddhist-monks.html, accessed 8 Apr 2014.

Aye, Chan Nyein, “Myanmar Islamic Religious Organization sends a formal demand letter to the President for proceedings against the Aung Jeyatu Journal that has committed Religious Offense”, M-Media English, 22 Oct 2014, http://www.m-mediagroup.com/en/archives/8460, accessed 23 Oct 2014.

Fair, C. Christine, “The Foreign Policy Essay: Al Qaeda’s Re-launch in South Asia”, Lawfare, 21 Sep 2014, https://www.lawfareblog.com/foreign-policy-essay-al-qaedas-re-launch-south-asia, accessed 21 Sep 2014.

al-Fazl, Ezati Abu, The Spread of Islam, the Contributing Factors, 4th edition, London: Islamic College forAdvanced Studies Press, 2002.

Gazetteer, Burma, Akyab District, vol. A, Rangoon: Government Printing, 1917.

“Global Conflict Tracker Sectarian Violence in Myanmar: Intensification od Sectarian Violence Between Buddhist and Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar”, cfr.org, http://www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/, accessed 22 Oct 2015.

“Gov’t will not recognise Rohingya: Thein Sein”, DVB Multimedia Group, 12 Jul 2012, http://www.dvb.no/news/gov%e2%80%99t-will-not-recognise-rohingya-thein-sein/22875, accessed 13 Nov 2015.

Gray, Stephen and Josefine Roos, Intercommunal Violence in Myanmar: Risk and Opportunities for International Assistance, Adapt Research and Consulting, 2014.

Hall, D.G.E., A History of South-East Asia, London: Macmillan, 1958.

Hindstrom, Hanna, “MP hits back at official denial of Rohingya”, DVB Multimedia Group, 22 Feb 2013, http://www.dvb.no/news/mp-hits-back-at-official-denial-of-rohingya/26571, accessed 20 Nov 2015.

Hindstrom, Hanna and Aye Nai, “Local hostility threatens Arakan reconstruction pledge”, DVB Multimedia Group, 11 Apr 2013, http://www.dvb.no/news/local-hostility-threatens-arakan-reconstruction-pledge/27574, accessed 21 Apr 2013.

Hinshelwood, Colin, “Burmese Muslims reject ‘morally repugnant’ Al-Qaeda”, DVB Multimedia Group, 6 Sep 2014, http://www.dvb.no/news/burmese-muslims-reject-morally-repugnant-al-qaeda-burma-myanmar/43908, accessed 9 Jun 2014.

“HRW’s report on Rakhine conflict can affect democratic reform: ’88 group says”, Eleven Myanmar, http://elevenmyanmar.com/politics/3281-hrw-s-report-on-rakhine-conflict-can-affect-democratic-reform-88-group-says#.UX6j_A5d3Gc.twitter, accessed 29 Apr 2013.

“International Buddhist leaders urge Burmese to show compassion for Rohingyas”, Mizzima News, 12 Aug 2012, http://archive-2.mizzima.com/news/inside-burma/8537-international-buddhist-leaders-urge-burmese-to-show-compassion-for-rohingyas.html, accessed 22 Apr 2016.

“Islamic Associations in Myanmar call for peaceful settlement of Rakhine incident”, English.news.cn, 20 Aug 2012, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-08/20/c_131795787.htm, accessed 21 Aug 2012.

“Islamic Leaders Officially Explain Meaning of ” 786 “”, Democracy for Burma, 15 Jun 2013, https://democracyforburma.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/islamic-leaders-officially-explain-meaning-of-786/, accessed 15 Jun 2013.

Kadoe, Lily, “Shiite and Ahmadiyya Muslims in Yangon”, In Person interview, 2012.

----, “Muslim leaders in Yangon”, In Person interview, 2014.

----, “the Chairman of the Myanmar Islamic Religious Affairs Council (HQ) at his office in Yangon”, In Person interview, 29 Sep 2014.

Lwin, Al Haj U. Aye and Lily Kadoe, “email correspondence”, personal communication, 2 Jan 2013.

Mohiyuddin, Mohammed and Mohammed Sulaiman, “Islamic Education in Myanmar: a Case Study”, in Dictatorship, Disorder and Decline in Myanmar, ed. by Trevor Wilson, Canberra: ANU E Press, 2008.

“Muslim Leaders Urge Myanmar to Restore Order”, GlobalPost, 28 Mar 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130328/muslim-leaders-urge-myanmar-to-restore-order, accessed 3 Mar 2013.

“Myanmar: Government rejects OIC office request for troubled Rakhine”, IRIN, 16 Oct 2012, http://www.irinnews.org/report/96562/myanmar-government-rejects-oic-office-request-troubled-rakhine, accessed 17 Oct 2012.

“Myanmar President urges Change of Attitude Toward Muslim Minority”, The Nation, 22 Nov 2012, http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/Myanmar-president-urges-change-of-attitude-toward--30192795.html, accessed 14 Nov 2015.

“Nationalist Monk U Wirathu Denies Role in Anti-Muslim Unrest”, Irrawaddy.com, 29 Mar 2013, http://www.irrawaddy.com/interview/nationalist-monk-u-wirathu-denies-role-in-anti-muslim-unrest.html, accessed 29 Mar 2013.

Nyein, Nyein, “Govt Complains to Bangladesh Over Rohingya Op-ed”, irrawaddy.com, 25 Mar 2014, http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/govt-complains-bangladesh-rohingya-op-ed.html, accessed 25 Mar 2014.

Oi, Mariko, “Asia Migrants: What do Those in the Region Think Should be Done?”, BBC News, 24 May 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32824199, accessed 23 Nov 2015.

Organization, Central Statistical, Statistical Year Book 2010, Myanmar: Nay Pyi Taw, 2012.

“Photo Essay: The Ismaili Jamatkhana in Myanmar, With Notes on the Community’s Patriotic Spirit”, Simerg Photos, 13 Apr 2014, https://simergphotos.com/2014/04/13/photo-essay-the-ismaili-jamatkhana-in-myanmar-with-notes-on-the-communitys-patriotic-spirit/, accessed 15 Apr 2014.

“Protest against UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon”, The Economic Times, 29 Nov 2014, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/slideshows/day-in-pics/november-29-2014/protest-against-un-secretary-general-ban-ki-moon/slideshow/45318109.cms, accessed 29 Nov 2014.

“Rakhine protests after UN passes resolution on Burma”, Kaladan Press Network, 23 Nov 2014, http://www.kaladanpress.org/index.php/news/375-news2014/november-2014/4702-rakhine-protests-after-un%20passes-resolution-on-burma.html, accessed 23 Nov 2014.

Reuters, “Bangladesh: Refugee Aid Discouraged”, The New York Times, 2 Aug 2012.

a Rohingya leader in Yangon, In Person interview, 9 Apr 2014.

“Rohingya NGO Calls on UN to Push Thein Sein”, Colin Hinshel Wood, 27 Sep 2012, http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/rohingya-ngo-calls-on-un-to-push-thein-sein.html, accessed 27 Jul 2012.

Saw, Khin Maung, “Islamization of Burma through Chittagonian Bengalis as ‘Rogingya Refugees’”, burmalibrary.org, http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/Khin-Maung-Saw-NM- - -Islamanisation_of_Burma_through_Chittagonian_Bengalis-en.pdf 2011, 10/10/2012.

“Sectarian tension in Myanmar threatens aid workers”, IRIN, 16 Apr 2013, http://www.irinnews.org/report/97852/sectarian-tension-myanmar-threatens-aid-workers, accessed 16 Apr 2013.

Shein, Al-Hajj U. Nyunt Maung, In Person interview, 29 Sep 2014.

Sohel, Ishak Mia, “The Urgency of Reforming Madrasa Education in Myanmar”, openDemocracy, 28 Nov 2014, http://www.opendemocracy.net/ishak-mia-sohel/urgency-of-reforming-madrasa-education-in-myanmar, accessed 29 Nov 2014.

Sone, Nyein Pyae, “At Rangoon Mosque, Buddhist Monks Accept Alms and Discuss Tolerance”, The Irrawaddy, 4 Jul 2013, http://www.irrawaddy.com/conflict/at-rangoon-mosque-buddhist-monks-accept-alms-and-discuss-tolerance.html, accessed 4 Jul 2013.

The Humanitarian Crisis of Rohingya in Rakhine States on December 2014, Manor Park: BROK, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, 2014, http://burmacampaign.org.uk/media/The-Humanitarian-Crisis-Of-Rohingya-In-Rakhine-State.pdf.

“The New Light of Myanmar”, a Burmese News Paper, 21 Feb 2013, http://www.burmalibrary.org/docsMA2013/NLM2013-02-21.pdf, accessed 21 Feb 2013.

Thwe, Francis Khoo, “Myanmar Buddhist monks back President Thein Sein’s move to expel Rohingyas”, AsiaNews.it, 4 Sep 2012, http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Buddhist-monks-back-President-Thein-Sein%E2%80%99s-move-to-expel-Rohingyas-25723.html, accessed 19 Nov 2015.

Tisnadibrata, Ismira Lutfia, “Khabar: Burma Welcomes Indonesia’s Engagement: Natalegawa”, Khabarsoutheastasia.com, 16 Jan 2013, http://khabarsoutheastasia.com/en_GB/articles/apwi/articles/features/2013/01/16/feature-03, accessed 17 Jan 2013.

Weng, Lawi, “Burmese Muslims cancel Eid Festivities”, Irrawaddy.com, 24 Nov 2012, http://www.irrawaddy.com/conflict/burmese-muslims-cancel-eid-festivities.html, accessed 24 Oct 2012.

----, “OIC Delegation met by angry protesters in Sittwe”, Irrawaddy.com, 11 Dec 2013, http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/oic-delegation-met-angry-protesters-sittwe.html, accessed 15 Nov 2013.

Yegar, Moshe, The Muslims of Burma: A Study of Minority Group, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1972.

Zaw, Aung, “Rohingya Attacks Stem from Myanmar’s Troubled History”, The National, 23 Aug 2012, http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/rohingya-attacks-stem-from-myanmars-troubled-history, accessed 13 Nov 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015 Naw Lily Kadoe, Fatimah Husein

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.