Friday, January 9, 2009

Muslims proscribed from worshipping in residential flats

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Aping a recent diktat against the country's Christian community, authorities have summoned and warned leaders of Burma's Muslim community not to worship in residential flats.

Rangoon's Kyauktada Township Peace and Development Council office, as they did with Christian pastors from the city, summoned Islamic leaders on the 5th of this month and warned them to halt all religious services and the reading of the Quran in residential flats.

"The government doesn't give permission to build mosques, so people of the Islamic faith have to worship in residential areas such as those in Thaketa, North and South Okkalapa [towships]. Now local authorities have warned leaders not to provide religious services in these residential flats," an Islamic leader from Rangoon told Mizzima.

A similar ban against Christians was reported by Mizzima on Wednesday (

"We had special religious services at night. But now local authorities have banned such services. They warned us not to provide these services, and if we defy the order serious action would be taken against us. So the people are scared and dare not to gather at these places. It seems we have to perform our religious services in a mosquito net. The people now dare not ask us to provide religious services in their homes as has been customary up to this time. Instead, they come to the mosque and read the Quran. However, the poor cannot come to these downtown locations," explained another Muslim leader.

Thai-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) Director Aung Myo Min said the position of the government is a clear violation of human rights in that the ruling discriminates against a religious minority in Burma.

"According to the latest constitution drafted and approved by the SPDC [government], all are equal before the law, irrespective of their race and creed. This is a violation of the fundamental rights of a citizen and moreover is discriminatory against a minority religion," he expounded.

Further, Burma is signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which clearly stipulates religious freedom and the right to practice one's faith.

"Previously we heard about such repression against religious minorities only in Chin and Kachin states. But now such restrictions are being imposed in major cities such as Rangoon, which shows the deterioration of the situation in this regard," Aung Myo Min added.

A majority, nearly 90 percent, of Burmese follow the Theravada Buddhist faith, with the country's Christian and Islamic communities representing five and four percent of the population, respectively.

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