Cairo, Egypt – The Muslim community in Burma has cancelled plans to hold festivities to mark the advent of `Eid Al-Adha, one of two major festivals in Islamic calendar, in solidarity with ethnic-Bengali Muslims, known as Rohingyas.
“Our brothers and sisters are being murdered and their villages are being burned down in Arakan State,” Myo Latt, a senior leader of the Burmese Muslim Association, told The Irrawaddy newspaper on Wednesday, October 24.
“It is for this reason that we will not celebrate `Eid.”
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`Eid Al-Adha, or "Feast of Sacrifice”, is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Fitr.
After special prayers to mark the day, Muslims offer unhiyah, a ritual that reminds of the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of God
Festivities and merriment then start with visits to the homes of friends and relatives.
But Burmese Muslims decided to scrap `Eid celebrations in solidarity with Rohingya Muslims, who are facing attacks in the western state of Rakhine.
Myo Latt said Burmese Muslims often gather for a grand dinner in Rangoon to mark `Eid Al-Adha, which will start on Friday, October 26.
But they decided to cancel this year’s celebrations for the first time in living memory over the ongoing persecution of Rohingya Muslims.
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term "Rohingya", referring to them as "Bengalis".
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee their homes in June after ethnic violence rocked the western city of Rakhine in July.
Human rights groups have accused Burmese police and troops of disproportionate use of force and arrests of Rohingyas in the wake of the violence in Rakhine.
Human Rights Watch has accused Burmese security forces of targeting Rohingya Muslims with killing, rape and arrest following the unrest.
Muslim leaders said that the cancellation of `Eid celebration was also prompted by fears of attacks during the festival.
“He [Myint Swe] told us not to hold the festival because of a lack of security,” Muslim community leader Hla Thein said, referring to chief minister of Rangoon.
Sectarian clashes erupted again this week between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state of Rakhine.
Official media said Wednesday that two people had been killed and eight injured in the violence since Sunday, while 1,039 homes had been burned down.
Unconfirmed reports from other sources put the death toll higher.
Burmese authorities imposed a night-time curfew in at least two towns in Rakhine to help control sectarian violence in the state.
“Five Muslim organizations [in Burma] got together to pen an open letter to the president requesting full protection for our brothers in Arakan State,” said Myo Latt.
“But we have not as yet received a reply.”
Burma is about 90 percent Buddhist and the majority are ethnically Burman, but the remaining people are a diverse group of over 100 ethnic and religious minorities.
Treating Buddhism as the state de facto religion, the Buddhist Burman majority was singled out as the trustworthy pillar of national identity.