JEDDAH - As state-sponsored persecution of Burmese Muslims continues unabated, a global Muslim body has called for rallying efforts to provide political, humanitarian and financial aid Rohingya Muslims.
"This is a large humanitarian crisis but unfortunately the international and Muslim communities are mostly unaware of the dimensions," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), told a news conference cited by Reuters on Tuesday, July 31.
"In this holy month I call upon all the Muslims...to extend aid for this issue."
Ethnic-Bengali Muslims, generally known as Rohingyas, are complaining of persecution and discrimination in Burma.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled their homes in June after ethnic violence rocked the western state of Rakhine after the killing of ten Muslims in an attack by Buddhist vigilantes on their bus.
The attack came following the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman, for which three Rohingyas were sentenced to death.
At least 77 people were killed in the violence and thousands of homes were burnt and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.
Human rights groups have accused Burmese police and troops of disproportionate use of force and arrests of Rohingyas in the wake of the riots.
Human Rights Watch accused Wednesday Burmese forces of targeting Rohingya Muslims in the wake of the ethnic violence.
The government claims it is committed to ending ethnic strife and abuse, but recent events in (Rakhine) state demonstrate that state-sponsored persecution and discrimination persist, Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's Asia director, said in a statement.
The New York-based group said police and paramilitary forces "opened fire on Rohingya with live ammunition".
It quoted one Rohingya man in the Rakhine state capital Sittwe as saying that security forces watched as a Buddhist mob started torching houses.
"When the people tried to put out the fires, the paramilitary shot at us. And the group beat people with big sticks," he said.
Another Rohingya Muslims gave similar accounts.
"I was just a few feet away. I was on the road. I saw them shoot at least six people -- one woman, two children, and three men. The police took their bodies away."
The OIC called for Muslim countries to join hands to provide humanitarian and political aid the Muslim minority in Burma.
"There is displacement where tens of thousands of people lost their homes. There is a great need to house them, feed them, help them medically, Ihsanoglu said.
There is a need for political and humanitarian aid. There is also a need for financial aid.
The "political aid" would consist of diplomatic representations to the Burmese government on behalf of the Rohingyas, he said.
"We asked member states, who have embassies in Myanmar (Burma), to call the government and ask them to improve their treatment of those people."
The OIC will hold a consultative meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 3 to determine possible ways to deliver aid to affected people in Myanmar and refugees from the violence who fled to neighboring countries, Ihsanoglu said.
The OIC plans to discuss the issue further during its extraordinary summit in Makkah on Aug. 14-15.
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".Last month, Burmese President Thein Sein said that Rohingyas should be settled in a third country.