September 24 - 30, 2012
SEX, lies and videotape. Itwas once a famous movie,but over the past week it hasturned into real life. An anti-Islamic video calledthe
Innocence of Muslims
,which makes Pussy Riot’s gigin the cathedral seem like achildren’s prank, has ignitedriots around the world.The crass 14-minute video,replete with lies about Islamand the Prophet Muhammad,veers from ridicule intogratuitous malice. Thoseresponsible obviouslysought to provoke outrageand must have known itcould precipitate clashesthat would lead to the loss of innocent lives, which it hasalready done.Thankfully, the protestshave been largely peaceful inthis region, although Westernembassies in Indonesia andMalaysia remain heavilyguarded in case mattersescalate and turn as violentas in the Middle East. It is asombre situation, and withoutintending to be undulyfrivolous, we must be gratefulto Catherine Mountbatten-Windsor’s breasts for bringingsome relief to an otherwiseprofoundly depressing weekfor humanity.It seems doubly ironic,given that Kate and Willswere visiting Malaysia whenthe protests erupted, thatsex, lies and photographyreared its impish head onceagain. Knowing our innatevoyeuristic instincts, probablymore people checked outKate’s boobs than viewed theinflammatory anti-Muslimvideo. As Julia Roberts saidin
when puzzlingover the male obsession withbreasts: “They’re odd looking,they’re for milk, your motherhas them, you’ve seen athousand of them. What’sall the fuss about?”Well, tell that to Kate, orthe more firmly endowedThai artist, DuangjaiJansaunoi, who went toplesson a TV show in June andused her knockers to executea painting – and shocked thenation.For Thailand, despitemisperceptions in the West, isamong the most conservativesocieties on the planet.Not a nipple, or bare bottom,or any other naughty bits everappear on Thai television orin the press. Sometimes onewonders how Thais learnhow to reproduce. And that aptly brings usto Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew. There is plenty of sex inSingapore, but as far as Leeis concerned far too much of itis done for fleeting pleasure,not procreation. Duringlast month’s national daycelebration, he lamented thatif his young compatriots didnot smarten up, Singaporeas we know it today wouldvanish due to the patheticallysmall birth rate.But Lee himself is toblame for this. Early in hispremiership in the 1960s,he developed an irrationalfear that over-populationmight wreck his dream of a super-efficient, squeaky-clean, short-haired island.Imbued with eugenicnotions he imposed harshanti-breeding provisions onhis people. Women wereurged to get sterilised, whilerecalcitrant breeders wereinstructed to “Stop At Two” orface stiff financial penalties.Of course, his son’sgovernment now seeksdesperately to boost thebirth rate with lavishbenefits, dating servicesand risqué adverts. Buttoo late the phalarope, forSingaporeans have becomestaunchly material boys andgirls, and have evolved intoa community of childlessnesters.One is tempted to suggestthat they, and perhaps allof us, should rent a fewvideos that are provocativein a healthy sexual way, andthen should emulate Kate’scavorting behaviour on theFrench balcony. If nothingelse, it would take our mindsoff the religious holocaustthat the anti-Islamic videonow threatens us with.
From Kate to theQuran in one move
Rohingya sit in a tractor loaded with bags of donated rice outside atemporary relief camp on the outskirts of Sittwe in June.
By Nehginpao Kipgen
SINCE May this year, Myanmarhas witnessed an escalation in thesimmering tension between two groupsof people in Rakhine State. The violencebetween the Rakhine (also known as Arakan) and Rohingya (also knownas Bengali) has led to the death of atleast 88 people and displacement of thousands of others. Unofficial reports,however, put the number of deaths inthe hundreds.The immediate cause of the violencewas the rape and murder of a RakhineBuddhist woman on May 28 by threemale Rohingya. This was followed bya retaliatory killing of 10 Muslims by amob of Rakhine on June 3. It should benoted that tension between these twogroups has existed for several decades.Several questions are being routinelyasked: Why has little apparently beendone to resolve the conflict? Is therea possibility of reaching a permanentsolution to this protracted problem?Much blame has also been directed atboth the Myanmar government andthe opposition, led by Daw Aung SanSuu Kyi. As members of the internationalcommunity are trying to promotetheir own national interests in newlydemocratic Myanmar, sectarian violencesuch as we have seen in Rakhine Statehas not been paid serious attention,especially by Western powers.While Human Rights Watch hascriticised the Myanmar governmentfor failing to prevent the initial unrest,majority Muslim nations, such asIndonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia,Pakistan and Malaysia have criticisedwhat they allege is discriminationagainst the Rohingya based on theirreligious beliefs.The sensitivity of the issue hassilenced many from discussing itpublicly. Even the internationallyacclaimed human rights champion andleader of the democratic opposition,Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has madeonly brief comments about the conflict,emphasising the need to establish anadequate citizenship law.The root of the problem begins withthe nomenclature itself. Althoughmany of the Muslims in RakhineState call themselves Rohingya, theMyanmar government and many of the country’s citizens call them illegalBengali migrants from neighbouringBangladesh.Since the governments of Myanmarand Bangladesh have refused to acceptthem as their citizens, the Rohingyahave automatically become statelessunder international law. Under suchcircumstances, are there any possiblesolutions to the problem?President U Thein Sein suggestedthat the United Nations HighCommissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)should consider resettling the Rohingyain other countries. Although suchproposal may sound ideal to many,there would definitely be challenges interms of implementation.For example, will there be a nationor nations willing to welcome andembrace the million or so Rohingyapeople? Moreover, UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres has rejected the ideaof resettlement. Even if the agencyreconsidered its position, would theUNHCR offices in Myanmar andBangladesh have adequate resourcesto process such a large number of people?One possible solution is for thegovernments of Myanmar andBangladesh to reach an amicablearrangement to integrate the Rohingyapopulation into their respectivesocieties. There are about 800,000Rohingya inside Myanmar and another300,000 in Bangladesh.This proposition also has its ownchallenges. Chiefly, will the indigenousRakhine accept Rohingya as their fellowcitizens and live peacefully with them?On the other hand, will the Bangladeshgovernment change its policy and offercitizenship to the Rohingya? Another possible solution is thatMyanmar can amend its 1982citizenship law to pave the way forthe Rohingya to apply for citizenship. As Minister for Immigration andPopulation U Khin Yi told
Radio Free Asia
recently, under the existing lawforeigners can apply for citizenshiponly if they are born in Myanmar, theirparents and grandparents have livedand died in Myanmar, they are literatein Burmese and meet some additionalcriteria.Finally, to prevent a furtherescalation in tensions, the governmentsof Myanmar and Bangladesh needto secure their porous internationalborders to prevent illegal movements.None of the above suggested policiesare simple and easy to achieve. Despitethe challenges and difficulties, theRohingya issue cannot be ignored fortoo long. Without addressing the crux of the problem, the May incident and theviolence it sparked could recur, witheven more tragic consequences.Until a solution is achieved,international institutions, such asthe United Nations and Associationof Southeast Asian Nations, shouldpressure the Myanmar governmentto take steps to resolve the problemof Rohingya statelessness in a holisticmanner, rather than inciting, orallowing others to incite, hatred alongreligious or racial lines.(
Nehginpao Kipgen is general secretary of the United States-based Kuki International Forum. His researchinterests include political transition,democratisation, human rights, ethnicconflict and identity politics and he haswritten numerous peer-reviewed andnon-academic articles on the politics of Myanmar and Asia.
The Rohingya conundrum