DJIBOUTI - A global Muslim body urged the international community on Saturday, November 17, to protect Bengali-ethnic Muslims, known as Rohingyas, from genocide as US President readied for a landmark trip to the Asian country.
We expect from the United states to convey a strong message to the government of Burma so they protect that minority, what is going on there is a genocide, Djibouti Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, who is the acting chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
We are telling things how they are, we believe that the United States and other ... countries ... should act quickly to save that minority which is submitted to an oppressive policy and a genocide, he said.
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.
In the latest wave of anti-Muslim violence, which erupted last October 21, at least 84 people have been killed and 129 others injured in deadly clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
Official figures have shown that at least 180 people have been killed in deadly clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine since June.
The violence has displaced nearly 29,000 people, more than 97 percent of whom are Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.
Many now live in camps, adding to 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June.
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 has accused Burmese security forces of targeting Rohingya Muslims with killing, rape and arrest following the unrest.
President Barack Obama on Monday will become the first sitting US president to visit Burma, in a short but hugely symbolic trip that he hopes will spur greater reform in the formerly isolated country and highlight a rare success for his policy of engaging pariah regimes.
OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu called for stopping ethnic cleansing of the world's most prosecuted group of Rohingya Muslims.
We would like the international world to act immediately to stop the ethnic cleansing, Ihsanoglu said.
The OIC calls are not the first.
Last October, the OIC said that it had obtained the green light from the Burmese government to open an office in the country.
It came after a delegation from the Muslim group visited Rakhine state, which was the scene of deadly sectarian violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.
But the plans to open an OIC office in Burma have triggered massive protests by Buddhist monks who blocked the opening of the organization's office.
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.
The latest bout of violence has raised concerns that the violence could spread to other parts of Burma, where Muslims make up about 4 percent of the population.
Thousands of Rohingyas have been displaced from their homes in the western state of Rakhine after a new bout of sectarian violence with the Buddhist majority.
An investigative report by Reuters found that the attacks on Rohingya Muslims were incited by Buddhist monks and led by nationalists tied to a powerful political party.