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One Region in Myanmar Limits Births of Muslims

27 May 2013 New York Times 46 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Hla Hla May, Rohingya Muslim woman displaced by violence, holds her one year old daughter Roshan.

Hla Hla May, Rohingya Muslim woman displaced by violence, holds her one year old daughter Roshan.

One Region in Myanmar Limits Births of Muslims

New York Times

YANGON, Myanmar — The local authorities in the western state of Rakhine in Myanmar have imposed a two-child limit for Muslim Rohingya families, a policy that does not apply to Buddhists in the area and comes amid accusations of ethnic cleansing during earlier sectarian violence.

Officials said Saturday that the new measure would be applied to two Rakhine townships that border Bangladesh and that have the highest Muslim populations in the state.

The unusual order makes Myanmar perhaps the only country in the world to impose such a restriction on a religious group, and it is likely to fuel further criticism that Muslims are being discriminated against in the Buddhist-majority country.

In a recent meeting with President Thein Sein, President Obama mixed praise for the country’s rapid pace toward democracy with a warning that violence against Muslims “needs to stop.”

It was unclear how the local government would enforce the rule, and the announcement could be as much about playing to the country’s Buddhist majority as about actual policy. It was also unclear what effect the new limits would have; there have already been restrictions on Rohingyas marrying, which analysts said were meant to decrease the birthrate.

A spokesman for Rakhine State, Win Myaing, said the new program was meant to stem rapid population growth in the Muslim community, which a government-appointed commission identified as one of the causes of the sectarian violence.

Although Muslims are the majority in the two townships in which the new policy applies, they account for only about 4 percent of Myanmar’s roughly 60 million people. The measure was enacted a week ago, after the commission recommended family planning programs to stem population growth among Muslims, Mr. Win Myaing said. “Overpopulation is one of the causes of tension,” he said.

The policy will not apply yet to other parts of Rakhine State, which have smaller Muslim populations. The central government has not made any statement about the two-child policy, which was introduced at a local level. Calls seeking comment on Saturday from two government spokesmen were not immediately returned, but an official with Rakhine State, Myo Than, said all local policies require “consent from the central government.”

A new wave of sectarian violence in Myanmar first flared nearly a year ago in Rakhine State between the region’s Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya. Mobs of Buddhists armed with machetes razed thousands of Muslim homes, leaving hundreds of people dead and forcing 125,000 to flee, mostly Muslims.

Human Rights Watch has accused the authorities in Rakhine of fomenting an organized campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya.

Since then, violence against Muslims has erupted in a few other parts of the country. Containing the strife has posed a serious challenge to Mr. Thein Sein’s government as it tries to make democratic reforms. It has also tarnished the image of opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticized for failing to speak out strongly in defense of Muslims.


  1. Another method of marginalization.

  2. And they call us terrorist! Muslims will never give up until we have freedom!

  3. Our own American government is killing us with GMO’S and drones and disarming us while they arm their cops and military. Of course cleansing already exists.

  4. Using the term”Myanmar” in itself supports and mainstreams the ruling junta…the place is called Burma

  5. except the violence against Muslims in Myanmar has been going on for months now. This attack is probably a (drastically misguided) retaliation to that. You should probably get your chronology straight

  6. Always the victim; never a trace of agency or personal responsibility 🙂

  7. I’m not defending the guy who did the burning. I’m saying the burning isn’t the reason for the ethnic cleansing

  8. Want to see an *actual* ethnic cleansing, as opposed to a misguided political policy on fertility? Try the Sudan. THAT, is ethnic cleansing……….now who was doin’ that again? Hmmmm, let me see………

  9. @ Richie: You’re right – this incident is recent. The anti Muslim violence has been going on for a while now. However for bigots with an axe to grind that’s not important.

  10. Obvious diversion… The difference between the ethnic cleansing in Sudan and the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar is the ethnic cleansing in Sudan was stopped by the international community, while nothing is being done to stop this ethnic cleansing.

  11. lol Compare the numbers of dead and when you find reality get back to me

  12. Just another conflict in which Muslims are the victims, right? Like sooooooooo many other conflicts in the world involving Muslims, it’s everybody else’s fault. Always the victim; never a trace of agency.

  13. The crisis in the Sudan was ethnic cleansing. Those responsible, mostly Muslims, deserve the harshest punishment for their crimes. What you’re doing is trying to make people guilty by association. Most of the people in Rakhine have probably never heard of the Darfur crisis, let alone had anything to do with it. So I don’t see what one has to do with the other. The Muslims committing genocide in Sudan should be punished, the Buddhists committing it in Myanmar should be punished. But only them. Crimes in one part of the world do not justify the same crimes in another part

  14. ^^^do us all a favor and swim in a river of piranha while covered in blood

  15. One was/is *actually* ethnic cleansing, i.e. genocide. The other is a minor conflict by comparison. But yes, touche, one must speak out against all atrocities. Just can’t help but wonder why one group is damn near ALWAYS in the middle of endemic, chronic violence and strife.

  16. Ahhhh, here comes the blood lust. Such. A. Surprise.

  17. it’s targeted toward a specific ethnicity within a country. I don’t think scale should really factor that much into classification.

    African Americans make up a disproportionate amount of crime in the US, Europeans have been responsible for injustices from the Atlantic slave trade to hundreds of millions of deaths during colonialism. History has placed various groups of people in the place of aggressor, oppressor, and instigator due to a variety of factors. It is the job of civilized people to avoid the temptation to let this justify condemning whole groups of people as backwards, evil, violent, or in some way less “human” than themselves.

    in any large group of people, be it Africans or Muslims or “Westerners”, the majority are people trying to make a living a raise a family, with no desire for violence, oppression, etc. The actions of European armies, african american criminals, Muslim terrorists, or Latin American drug cartels cannot be taken as representative of populations as a whole. To do so is to succumb to the racism, prejudice, and blind hatred against which we must always fight

  18. Some groups are driven by ideological convictions much more dangerous than others. The Abrahamic religions are all bad; they do NOT provide healthy foundations for mutual human respect. But Islam is currently highly, highly pernicious. The disproportionality of violence and bloodshed coming from conflicts either involving Muslims or between Muslims is shoking to anyone who’s actually looked at violence around the world in any actual depth. The facts may be uncomfortable, but that alters little.

  19. it is only dangerous as interpreted by extremists. There are two major factors that have contorted the interpretation of Islam in modern times: the Saudi Monarchy, and foreign governments. The Saudi’s gained power by allying with Wahhab, a extremely radical conservative who was universally rejected by Muslim scholars of the time. His cadre of zealots, however, helped the Saudi’s to cement their control over Saudi Arabia. The tenet of Wahhabism that states that their form of Islam is the only legitimate version (which goes against the mainstream view that there can be disagreement and diverging schools within Islam) allowed the Saudi monarchs to dictate the interpretation of the religion, and silence opposition. They use the billions in oil revenue to fund Madrassahs and conservative authors throughout the Muslim world to spread their super conservative worldview. Meanwhile, scholars that try to directly criticize Wahhabism or the Saudis are threatened with not being granted a visa to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. Saudi petrodollars find their way into radicalizing institutions, and often radicals themselves.

    Meanwhile, foreign governments have played their own part. Like the Saudi’s they saw the advantage of using superconservatice zealots as useful military tools, and so funneled guns and money into armed groups least representative of Muslims in general. The best example of this is in Afghanistan. US aid to afghan rebels went through Pakistan, which had been heavily influenced by the aforementioned Saudi literature, especially in Madrassahs in the border regions. Pakistan selectively aided more conservative groups in the south, eventually including the Taliban, thinking that like the Saudis they could use them to gain functional control over Afghanistan. In addition, in many cases, Islam has been unhappily wed to anti-western, anti-colonial movements. this militarizes faith to the point where, even after independence, it is used for violence. The same thing happened to Buddhism in Cambodia and Christianity in the Balkans.

    And, of course, a lot of the fault lies with Muslims themselves. In addition to the actions of the Saudis, conservatives (usually, but not always, of the Hanbali school) have fought reform efforts within Islam. It isn’t inherently worse than other religions however. At this time in history, various factors have brought it to the point where it is at a nexus of violence and suffering, just as European Christians were in the 19th century. the important thing to remember is that we are all human, making independent choices depending on our own knowledge and situations. You can judge ideologies and you can judge individuals. But to judge groups, implicating millions of people of which you know about, is wrong and dangerous.

  20. Our national policy to keep up the war against Islam for another 50 years must stop. Israel is the source of all of this trouble. We need to be independent again.

  21. Since 1945 I believe. It is our national policy to destabilize and unset any government that resists giving us its resources and supporting Israel. Our military is planning another 50 years of the same and congress is either too stupid or afraid to disagree.

  22. “It isn’t inherently worse than other religions however.” Hence my use of the word “currently.” And the ideas are exactly what I’m talking about; they MUST be combated, even if challenging such ideas draws cries of racism and so-called islamophobia. However, the tough thing about ideas is, they reside in people’s heads and make some people much more likely to choose violence and bloodshed than others.

  23. Freedom only for Muslims?

  24. It isn’t Islam that breeds such violence, however, as much as it is how people interpret Islam, and the factors that influence how they make that interpretation. Like other religions and ideologies, Islam inspires charity (in fact, requires it), peace, dialogue, and friendship as well as violence and hatred. Unfortunately, any war on ideas is dangerous, because it involves deciding which ideas should be repressed. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote “I disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it”

    The only ones that should be combated are those that commit violence and repress others. I would actually argue that that includes the Saudi monarchy, and we should end their stranglehold on Islamic literature. But also, of course, war criminals, be they Arab or Burmese, terrorists, be they Muslim or Buddhist, and others that commit violence. My issue with you here was that you seemed to be justifying the two child policy and violence against civilians with a single crime by a single Muslim.

  25. False X2: 1) You’ve misconstrued my point. I take issue with the choice of wording (i.e. “ethnic cleansing” is a tad hyperbolic when it comes to a one child policy), and the constant ‘we’re the poor innocent victims’ stance in general. 2) Fundamentalism is when people stick to the fundamentals of their religion. When the fundamentals of a religion call for violence, there is something fundamentally wrong with the religion. Faith is at the core of the problem. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are problems, perhaps the biggest we face globally. Wanna see peace? Wanna see prosperity? Really wanna see people solve problems? Look at the demographics of atheism, and compare what you find with any number of criteria designed to analyse the quality of life in a country. Here’s a list to get started.

    The Human Development Index
    The Global Peace Index
    The Global Gender Gap Index
    The World Press Freedom Index
    The World Health Organization’s Ranking
    of the World’s Health Systems.
    The Environmental Performance Index
    A List of Countries by Intentional Homicide Rates
    A List of Countries by Patents
    The Happy Planet Index
    The Index of Economic Freedom
    List of Countries by Infant Mortality Rate
    Global Creativity Index
    Researchers in R&D (per million people)
    Worldwide Governance Indicators
    World Giving Index
    Multidimensional Poverty Index
    The Best and Worst Countries to be a Mother
    The PISA Rankings
    Corruption Perceptions Index
    World Bank World Development Indicators

    Compare who’s at the top of most lists and where people are least likely to be believers, and see for yourself. (BTW: check out what the rock bottom of the Global Gender Gap Index is chiefly comprised of. Hint hint: it’s an inherently misogynistic belief system.

  26. that’s why a lot of people reject the label “fundamentalist” for terrorist organizations, because to more peace minded Muslims (or Christians, or others), the fundamentals of their religion prohibit violence and hatred.

    And you think one factor can explain the placement on the list? I could point to the fact that African countries occupy a lot of the bottom rankings and white countries the highest, but that doesn’t mean that race is a factor in a country’s success. You’re using the same type of logic that people have tried to use for centuries to prove their superiority: find a trait that you possess with other successful people/countries, and a trait that you don’t have that is common among less successful people/countries.

    Claiming religion is inferior to atheism, and Islam worst of all, based on such a simplistic reading of statistics, is no better than using similar figures to claim darker peoples are worse than whiter peoples, with the whitest the best, and the darkest the worst.

    Islam is not inherently violent, misogynistic, or oppressive, any more than any other religion (and, if I remember, you claimed that you only were referring to right now, and that Islam wasn’t inherently worse). Human society in general has trended towards those extremes for most of its recorded history, and only recently has seen much different. I come back to my original point: everyone should be treated as human beings, because that’s what they are, and only proven involvement in crime should warrant punishment for said crime.

  27. Strawman: I never suggested a monocausal explanation, just a consistent and suggestive correlation. “…and only recently has seen much different” (sic) May I suggest a huge difference between “recently” and the past? How about the rise of secular humanism, and contemporary western hegemony? Overall, a positive step away from tthe primitive faith based epistemologies of the past. You completely ignore the dark side of religions, particularly the Abrahamic religions, in a way that suggests willful ignorance. Moreover, your values are based on secular humanism, even if you think they come from religious morality: moraliity and ethics have moved forward DESPITE religion, not because of it.

  28. correlation doesn’t imply causation, as I’m sure you know. Usually in these cases different factors interact with each other, distort each other, etc. So there is little that you can actually DO with such a correlation.

    well now you’re the one accusing me of offering a monocausal explanation. I said that religion could be an inspiration for such positive behaviors (and negative behavior. I did cite violence and hatred as possible results), I didn’t say that they were the only sources of it. I see no reason why humanism and religion can’t be used together. In fact, the idea that secular and religious outlooks are incompatible is part of the problem. Atheist regimes have seen religion as a threat to progress, and took it on themselves to persecute and even kill religious figures (Not just the usual boogymen of Stalin and Mao, but others, like Calles), meanwhile religious regimes have perceived secularism as a threat to morals, and tried to eradicate secular influences (the best examples being the Taliban or the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom). The best success has been in countries where there is a culture of tolerance, with Atheism, the Abrahamic faiths, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc coexisting. At different times the best examples of this were in the Achaemenid Empire, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Mongol territories, and the US, and the EU. The danger isn’t religion. The danger is assuming one ideology is inherently superior, and dissidents from it inferior. That’s what makes the Whabbists the biggest problem in the Muslim world: they don’t accept any other interpretation of Islam. according to them, only they are true Muslims, and the other billion are as “bad” as non-Muslims. So whether the ideology is communism, democracy, Islam, etc, tolerance of other viewpoints is what’s important. I don’t think that that outlook is incompatible with religious faith.

  29. “so there is little you can actually DO with such a correlation.” Um…….education perhaps? It’s most effective when couched in terms of critical thinking and skepticism, btw, not faith. Like I said: look at the countries that are the most peaceful in the world, see where peaceful coexistence is most fully actualized, and I’ll show you one where religious conviction is on the wane. The two phenomena are related, even if the facts contradict your cultural relativist, egalitarian convictions.

  30. Myanmar is in the right for defending its identity. Islam is a plague and should be dealt with as such. Human rights are for humans, not Mohammedists.

  31. and what are we supposed to teach? that one belief system (Atheism) is inherently superior over others? As I said, the most tolerant societies throughout history have been a number of different faiths. In the Achaemenid Empire they were Zoroastrianism, so should we assume that is the superior belief? or what of the Shamanist beliefs of the Mongols, or the Islam of the Abbasids? You’re basing your conclusions on one period of history, and again ignoring other factors. Economic development, stability, relative diversity, etc. Europe is one of the wealthiest regions of the world, but the processes that lead to that development began far before religious sentiments entered decline. that wealth has allowed a high standard of living and access to education that has allowed it to become more tolerant (and, on the flipside, look how intolerant it became with economic downturn, targeting Jews during the Great Depression, and now Muslims in the midst of the Euro crisis). It’s the same confirmation bias that every group has tended to indulge in. I’m not trying to say that any religion, or even religion in general is the better belief system. Individuals and the decisions they make aren’t defined solely by what belief or ideology they subscribe to, so they shouldn’t be judged solely on that.

  32. Teach that faith is not a virtue, and skepticism towards any claims of superiority: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The rest will follow

  33. faith not being a virtue is an opinion, though, and one that doesn’t really seem to offer any benefit. skepticism of superiority I can certainly understand however. My biggest problem with organized religion is the assumption that some people are more qualified to make interpretations than others (even though neither the New Testament nor the Qur’an make any mention of a clergy). Religion isn’t so much a problem as the assumption of a monopoly of religion. the claims of Wahhab, or the papacy, or others to being the “qualified” interpreters of their religions are what are dangerous. And I think you and I can both agree that wedding government authority to religion is an outright hazard. Faith can be a virtue depending on one’s own beliefs. Blind obedience to other humans claiming to be better than other humans is the danger.

  34. This is a biased law, the long run its going to benefit the rohingyas.
    In fact all south and south-east Asian countries need this kind of law for all citizens, for better population control.

  35. AAI please ban this plague against humanity Cindy Melpho. I sure hope she hasn’t whelped and produced a litter.

  36. Man’s inhumanity to man…..Did you know according to Islam (Submitting to The Will of Allah , unified in Peace)..We as Muslims Believe in All Religions, form Buddah, to Essa (Jesus) to Moahmmed P.B.U.T. as Prophets of 1God, indeed The Message of Allah (Glory Be to Him) is all of The same, One in Worship, in taking The Middle Road, The Perfect Balance , in Becoming one With The Lord’s Nature….indeed Why would He ,Allah 1God, in His Omni Potence, Intelligence, Wisdom and infinate Mercy make one in one part of the world have a certain and another in some part of the world another Belief, He Is in All Aspects Capable of doing All Things…Islam is simply the last Message and a Culmination of All in Peace……

  37. @tarek
    PC should not be stretched beyond limits.

  38. In almost all countries where muslims are minority ,they have higher growth rate .they are known to refuse goverment funded family planning in india ,and thus constitute a bigger this case muslims had TEN times more rate

  39. Than rakhine ,so what is a nation supposed to do? Still its two child which is ideal anyways

  40. really because it seems to me Islam is the problem

  41. Ban us all over the world? Why? Because of the Muslims in these few countries?I’m Muslim n i’m happily living in peace together with people of other races & religions. The problem is not our religion, i think the problem is the culture & education in those countries. The attitude of the people, obsessed with power.

  42. Blah blah blah! (Yawn)

  43. Just happened upon this thread and was re-reading some of the responses. Whoever you are, Richie Lomas, it’s clear-sighted people like you who are the real hope in the struggle against bigotry.

  44. Not good-I hate to see where this is going

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