Before There Were “Rohingyas,” Colonizing Bengali Muslims Waged Jihad in Myanmar—And It Continues Apace

Aided by regional promoters of jihad Bengladesh and Pakistan, as well as Saudi Arabia, and even assisted by jihadist manpower from “moderate Muslim” Indonesia, the 2017 jihad terrorist organizations in Arakan/Rakhine wage the same World War II-era jihad of their Bengali Muslim colonist forbears from the “Muslim Liberation Organization,” and “The Mujahid Party”, dubbed “Rohingya” beginning in August, 1951.

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As we shall see, like their ethnically cleansed co-religionists to the south, in western Myanmar’s Arakan province, the Buddhists of the Indian subcontinent were subjugated to the near extinguishing ravages of jihad, albeit some 800 years prior. British historian of India Vincent Smith has described the devastating impact of the late 12th century jihad razzias [raids] against the Buddhist communities of northern India, centered around Bihar, based on triumphal Muslim sources, exclusively:

The Muhammadan historian, indifferent to distinctions among idolators, states that the majority of the inhabitants were ―“clean shaven Brahmans”, who were all put to the sword. He evidently means Buddhist monks, as he was informed that the whole city and fortress were considered to be a college, which the name Bihar signifies. A great library was scattered. When the victors desired to know what the books might be no man capable of explaining their contents had been left alive. No doubt everything was burnt. The multitude of images used in Medieval Buddhist worship always inflamed the fanaticism of Muslim warriors to such fury that no quarter was given to the idolators. The ashes of the Buddhist sanctuaries at Sarnath near Benares still bear witness to the rage of the image breakers. Many noble monuments of the ancient civilization of India were irretrievably wrecked in the course of the early Muhammadan invasions. Those invasions were fatal to the existence of Buddhism as an organized religion in northern India, where its strength resided chiefly in Bihar and certain adjoining territories. The monks who escaped massacre fled, and were scattered over Nepal, Tibet, and the south. After A.D. 1200 the traces of Buddhism in upper India are faint and obscure.

Confirmatory evidence of the Muslim devastation of Buddhist temples and plight of the Buddhist community in northern India (i.e., Bihar) during the early 13th century C.E., from the victims’ rueful perspective, is recorded in the chronicle of Dharmasvamin, a highly educated Tibetan monk who traveled through this region from 1234-1236 C.E.

Eight centuries later, Dr. Aye Chan, Professor of Southeast Asian History at Kanda International University in Japan, wrote an open letter to then U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on November 14, 2014 demonstrating the transparent if “strenuous efforts” of Bengali Muslim migrants to Northwestern Myanmar “to take away Rakhine’s [Arakan’s] own [Buddhist] ethnic identity from the Rakhine people.”

A decade before, Dr. Chan wrote a dispassionate analysis [“The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar),” SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 3, No. 2, Autumn 2005, ISSN 1479- 8484] of the late 19th through World War II era origins of the Bengali Muslim jihad in Western Myanmar—rooted in Islam’s same timeless institution of expansionist jihad which eliminated Buddhist civilization in northern India. The crux of Dr. Chan’s findings made plain the “irredentism” of these Bengali Muslim migrants. He averred, “over successive generations their ethnicity and Islam” have remained indistinguishable, so that now these Muslims of Bengali origin constitute “an ethnic and religious minority group in the western fringe of the republic,” which continuously threatens both Myanmar’s autonomy, and the safety of the residual indigenous Buddhists of Arakan. Moreover, the Bengali Muslim migrants to the Western Myanmar region of Arakan/“Rakhine” were not even dubbed “Rohingyas” until the word was first put forth in a Guardian Daily, August 20, 1951 essay entitled, “The Sudeten Muslims”

What follows is a summary of how Dr. Chan’s illuminating analysis underscores the critical role of jihad in shaping this regional conflict, including key extracts from his text.

Chan traces the 1942 and 1943 outbreak of violence during the brief interval of anarchy which punctuated the British evacuation and the Japanese occupation of the area, to “ethnic and religious cleavage that had been simmering for a century,” as a result the Zamindary [Muslim aristocrat landowner] System, transplanted from Bengal, and imposed by the British.

Thousands of Bengali [Muslim] peasants from Chittagong District were brought to cultivate the soil (Report of the Settlement Operations in the Akyab District 1887-1888: 2, 21). Most of the Bengali immigrants were influenced by the Fara-i-di movement in Bengal that propagated the ideology of the Wahhabis of Arabia, which advocated settling ikhwan or brethren in agricultural communities near to the places of water resources. The peasants, according to the teaching, besides cultivating the land should be ready for waging a holy war upon the call by their lords. In the Maungdaw Township alone, there were, in the 1910s [decade], fifteen Bengali Zamindars who brought thousands of Chittagonian [Muslim] tenants and established agricultural Muslim communities, building mosques with Islamic schools affiliated to them.

Not surprisingly, Chan adds,

In the period of the independence movement in Burma in the 1920s and 1930s the Muslims from the Mayu Frontier [Northwestern Arakan area] were more concerned with the progress of Muslim League in India…

Chan blames the British colonial administration for creating and arming the so-called “Volunteer Force,” or “V Force” of Bengali Muslims (aka, “Chittagonians”) in the Mayu Frontier during1942 shortly after the Japanese invasion threatened British India. Ostensibly, this Muslim V Force’s primary roles were to gather information on Japanese movements, act as interpreters, and conduct guerrilla operations against Japanese. But as described contemporaneously by a British Army Liaison Officer, which Chan relates, these Muslim “volunteers,” opted in lieu of combating the Japanese, to wantonly pillage and mass murder the indigenous Buddhist population.

…destroying Buddhist monasteries and Pagodas and burn[ing] down the houses in the Arakanese villages. They first killed U Kyaw Khine, the deputy commissioner of Akyab District, left behind by the British government to maintain law and order in the frontier area; they then massacred thousands of Arakanese civilians in the towns and villages.

Chan cites a record of the Secretary of British governor of Burma from February, 4 1943 [British Library, London, India Office Records R/8/9GS. 4243], who observed:

I have been told harrowing tales of cruelty and suffering inflicted on the Arakanese [Buddhist] villages in the Ratheedaung area. Most of the villages on the West bank of the Mayu River have been burnt and destroyed by the [Muslim] Chittagonian V forces…. The enemy never came to these villages. They had the misfortune of being in the way of our advancing [Muslim Chittagonian V force] patrols. Hundreds of villagers are said to be hiding in the hills… It will be the Arakanese who will be ousted from their ancestral land and if they cannot be won over in time, then there can be no hope of their salvation.

Ultimately, the motivation for this Muslim violence, as Chan notes, was jihad:

For most of the Chittagonians it was a religious issue that would necessarily lead to the creation of a Dar-ul-Islam, or at least to being united with their brethren in the west. It also aimed at the extirpation of the Arakanese or being forced them to migrate to the south where there were overwhelming majority of Arakanese Buddhists.

The Bengali Muslim jihad to dominate the Arakan/Rakhine region of western Myanmar, and dispense with any possibility of “infidel rule” by incorporation into the Buddhist majority of the country, continued with perhaps even greater zealotry in the immediate aftermath of World War II, and the dawning of Burma’s/Myanmar’s independence. Chan recounts how before Burmese independence occurred in January, 1948,

In 1946 a delegation was sent by the Jami-atul Ulema-e Islam to Karachi to discuss with the leaders of the Muslim League the possibility of incorporation of Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Ratheedaung townships into Pakistan, but the British ignored their proposal to detach the frontier area to award it to Pakistan. The failure of their attempts ended in an armed revolt, with some Muslims, declaring a holy war on the new republic. The rebels called themselves “Mujahid.” [jihadist “holy warriors’] A guerrilla army of 2700 fighters was organized…The Mujahid uprising began two years before the independence was declared. In March 1946 the Muslim Liberation Organization (MLO) was formed with Zaffar Kawal, a native of Chittagong District, as the leader.  

As a result, this dynamic epitomized the starkly contrasting sentiments of Arakan’s Muslims and Buddhists:

In the wake of independence most of the educated Muslims felt an overwhelming sense of collective identity based on Islam as their religion and the cultural and ethnic difference of their community from the Burmese and Arakanese Buddhists. At the same time the Arakanese became more and more concerned with their racial security and ethnic survival in view of the increasingly predominant Muslim population in their frontier.

Predictably, jihad violence ratcheted up with formal independence:

The ethnic conflict in the rural areas of the Mayu frontier revived soon after Burma celebrated independence on 4 January 1948. Rising in the guise of Jihad, many Muslim clerics (Moulovis) playing a leading role, in the countryside and remote areas gave way to banditry, arson and rapes….there were more than two hundred Arakanese villages in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships before the war began. In the post-war years only sixty villages were favorable for the Arakanese resettlement. Out of these sixty, forty-four villages were raided by the Mujahids in the first couple of years of independence. Thousands of Arakanese villagers sought refuge in the towns and many of their villages were occupied by the Chittagonian Bengalis.

Within less than 6-months after independence, the Islamic supremacist goals of Western Myanmar’s Bengali Muslims—consistent till now, 7 decades later—were openly and formally presented. The violent jihad tactics these Bengali Muslims were ready and willing to employ to achieve Islamization remains another feature still apparent in 2017.

A conference was held in May 1948 in Garabyin Village north to Maungdaw and the name of the [Muslim Liberation] organization was changed to “Mujahid Party.” Some Chittagonian Bengalis from nearby villages brought the weapons they had collected during the wartime to the mosques in Fakir Bazaar Village and Shahbi Bazaar Village (Department of Defense Service Archives, Rangoon, DR 491 (56)). Jaffar Kawal became the commander in chief and his lieutenant was Abdul Husein, formerly a corporal from the Akyab District police force (Department of Defense Service Archives, Rangoon, DR 1016). The Mujahid Party sent a letter written in Urdur and dated 9 June 1948 to the government of Union of Burma through the sub-divisional officer of Maungdaw Township. Their demands are as follows (Department of Defence Service Archives, Rangoon: CD 1016/10/11): (1) The area between the west bank of Kaladan River and the east bank of Naaf River must be recognized as the National Home of the Muslims in Burma. (2) The Muslims in Arakan must be accepted as the nationalities of Burma. (3) The Mujahid Party must be granted a legal status as a political organization. (4) The Urdur [Urdu] Language must be acknowledged as the national language of the Muslims in Arakan and be taught in the schools in the Muslim areas. (5) The refugees from the Kyauktaw and Myohaung (Mrauk U) Townships must be resettled in their villages at the expense of the state. (6) The Muslims under detention by the Emergency Security Act must be unconditionally released. (7) A general amnesty must be granted for the members of the Mujahid Party. Calling themselves “the Muslims of Arakan” and “the Urdur [Urdu]” as their national language indicated their inclination towards the sense of collective identity that the Muslims of Indian subcontinent showed before the partition of India into two independent states. When the demands were ignored the Mujahids destroyed all the Arakanese villages in the northern part of Maungdaw Township. On 19 July 1948 they attacked Ngapruchaung and near by Villages in Maungdaw Township and some villagers and Buddhist monks were kidnapped for ransoms (Department of Defense Service Archives, Rangoon: CD 1016/10/11).

The monotony of their repeated Islamic demands, three years later, in June, and August, 1951, notwithstanding, Chan notes a final bitter irony about the first time usage of the word “Rohingya” by the Bengali Muslim colonizers of Arakan/Rakhine, Myanmar. Just two months before a Bengali Muslim leader pronounced them “Rohingya,” in an August, 1951 essay, their own published June 1951 “charter” was entitled, “The Charter of the Constitutional Demands of the Arakani Muslims”.

On 15 and 16 June 1951 All Arakan Muslim Conference was held in Alethangyaw Village, and “The Charter of the Constitutional Demands of the Arakani Muslims” was published. It calls for “the balance of power between the Muslims and the Maghs (Arakanese), two major races of Arakan.” The demand of the charter reads: North Arakan should be immediately formed a free Muslim State as equal constituent Member of the Union of Burma like the Shan State, the Karenni State, the Chin Hills, and the Kachin Zone with its own Militia, Police and Security Forces under the General Command of the Union (Department of the Defense Service Archives, Rangoon: DR 1016/10/13). Here it is again noticeable that in the charter these peoples are mentioned as the Muslims of Arakan. The word “Rohingya” was first pronounced by the Mr Abdul Gaffar, an MP from Buthidaung, in his article “The Sudeten Muslims,” published in the Guardian Daily on 20 August 1951.

Aided by regional promoters of jihad Bengladesh and Pakistan, as well as Saudi Arabia, and even assisted by jihadist manpower from “moderate Muslim” Indonesia, the 2017 jihad terrorist organizations in Arakan/Rakhine wage the same World War II-era jihad of their Bengali Muslim colonist forbears from the “Muslim Liberation Organization,” and “The Mujahid Party”, dubbed “Rohingya” beginning in August, 1951.

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at @andrewbostom.org

One response to “Before There Were “Rohingyas,” Colonizing Bengali Muslims Waged Jihad in Myanmar—And It Continues Apace

  1. The British did the very same thing in the Land of Israel. they brough in thousands of Horani and Yemeni and Saudi Arabs to build the Haifa port then left them near the Jewish towns as Mulsim settlers. Those are the so-called palestinians. Thye are far less native to the Land then the so called Royingas to Burma. Joan Peters has it all recorded

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