x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Pan-Muslim body urges Myanmar to allow OIC delegation to visit

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has urged authorities in Myanmar to allow a ministerial delegation to visit the country to discuss violence against Muslims.

JEDDAH // The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation yesterday urged authorities in Myanmar to allow a ministerial delegation to visit the country to discuss violence against Muslims.

The world's top Islamic body also urged the UN Human Rights Commission to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Myanmar.

The statement called on "Burmese authorities to strongly respond to the organisation's appeal and allow a ministerial OIC delegation to visit" Myanmar.

Last year at least 180 people were killed in the western state of Rakhine in clashes between local Buddhists and Rohingya, a Muslim minority treated with hostility by most Burmese who see them as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

In March, at least 43 people died in Buddhist-Muslim clashes which broke in central Myanmar where mosques were burnt down and Muslim homes were destroyed.

The unrest has instilled fear in the country's Muslims, some of whose families had lived peacefully alongside Buddhists for generations.

"Such violence is a clear indication of the government's negative approach in dealing with ethnic and religious tensions that erupted last summer," said the OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, describing the violence as "unacceptable".

While the Rohingya, who the UN calls among the most-persecuted minorities in the world, have long been denied Myanmar citizenship, the Muslims targeted in last month's unrest are Myanmar nationals.

The apparent trigger for the latest violence was a quarrel between a Muslim gold shop owner and Buddhist customers in the town of Meiktila. Soon afterwards, a monk was killed by Muslims.

The violence escalated into a street riot that unleashed Buddhist-led bloodshed around the region.

Mr Ihsanoglu spoke at an emergency OIC Contact Group foreign ministers meeting in Jeddah on the Rohingya minority.

The Contact Group, formed in September, includes 11 of the OIC's 57 members, the UAE, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sudan and Turkey.

Last year the OIC condemned the violence against Muslims in Myanmar as "genocide".