Lessons from Burmese Refugees

A local Imam went to visit the Burmese refugees in Malaysia, and gave a run down of his experiences and conversations with the refugees. These are my notes on his debrief. It is thoroughly paraphrased, thus I am not providing the name because it has been filtered through my perception.

Our Ummah has neglected the unity taught by our Prophet (saws). We care only about the crises that bring the most attention and the most money to our organizations. The Burmese Muslims have been being raped, killed, and tortured for years now – and there are no large-scale international efforts to help alleviate their pain. The Muslim community as a whole has turned their backs on the Burmese Muslims.

Those who have made it to refugee camps in Malaysia face a dire situation. They are kept in fenced in, guarded camps. One such camp is next to the water, with full view of the beached and degrading ship on which most of them made the three month journey on. This journey was on an over-packed ship, with an incredibly high number of young (including 10-15 year old) children.

The children whose parents were still alive said, “our parents had no choice” but to send us to another country as refugees. If Muslims went to Salah, they would be put in jail. Mothers are being raped in front of their children. Stories were told of fathers being tied between two trucks and torn apart.

The people in the camps, though, are making the best of the situation. Those with computer skills are teaching people how to use computers. Those who speak English are teaching ESL – and many of the younger people in the camps speak fluent English. Those who have memorized the Qur’an are helping others to do the same.

What is the point in me relaying this message?

  1. We, as a community, do not appreciate the things that we have. In these camps, they are educating each other. Our youth have no desire to learn, and take every moment in school for granted. We have thousands of dollars worth of technology at our disposal at any given time, but we do not appreciate it. We have much, and give little.
  2. We, as humans, are selfish. We want more; what others have. Each and every one of us has our individual struggles and our own individual gifts to deal with these struggles. Never will we be happy until we are satisfied with what Allah (swt) has given us.
  3. We, as a community, need to bring attention to injustice everywhere. The Imam said, “even among Muslims and Muslim organizations, we only do what brings us income. It is a disease from within.” This quote really highlighted the point of the night – we need to pay attention to those who are being ignore. We cannot fall into the nationalistic trap of caring only for those who share our language, skin color, or ancestry. We are all Muslims, and ultimately all human. As Martin Luther King Jr is famous for saying, “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

May Allah protect us from fitnah, and when our fitnah comes make us strong enough to handle it and stick with the Deen. May Allah grant us the strength to reach out to all those in need, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, language, or any superficial factor. Ya Allah, make us strong Muslims, strong enough to stand against injustice and cruelty. Ameen.


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