Rohingya crisis sparks fear among Bangladeshi Buddhists

Rohingya woman Dildar Begum gets treatment at Sadar Hospital in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. Begum and her daughter Noor Kalima, not pictured, got stabbed by Myanmar soldiers and her husband was killed. (AP)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Rohingya crisis sparks fear among Bangladeshi Buddhists

RAMU, Bangladesh: As thousands of Rohingya flee ethnic violence in Myanmar, Bangladesh’s small Buddhist community fears the crisis could spark a violent backlash from their Muslim neighbors.
Many Bangladeshis are angry over the treatment in Buddhist-majority Myanmar of the Rohingya, a persecuted stateless minority who they see as Muslim brethren.
The anger is particularly acute in the southern district of Cox’s Bazar near the border with Myanmar, where many people have close links with the Rohingya and share linguistic and cultural roots.
But the area is also home to a sizeable Buddhist minority that has suffered hate attacks in the past.
Authorities in Cox’s Bazar have deployed 550 extra police in Buddhist areas to prevent a repeat of religious unrest in 2012, when Muslim mobs attacked temples and Buddhist homes.
Buddhist monk Proggananda Bhikkhu vividly remembers the night a Muslim mob torched a 300-year-old temple he looks after.
He fled when between 30 and 40 Muslims broke into his temple and began looting statues and other valuable artefacts, but he watched the violence from a nearby field.
“When the looting was over, they set fire to the temple,” he told AFP at the Kendriya Shima Bihar temple, which had to be largely rebuilt after the 2012 attack.
“We never imagined this could happen, we had good relations with the local Muslims.”
Bhikkhu said the monks had not received any direct threats, but he had seen some on the Internet.
“People on social media are trying to portray this as a religious conflict. But like the Muslims, we are citizens of Bangladesh, and we condemn these actions (in Myanmar),” he said.
Many of the more than 420,000 refugees have accused Myanmar’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhists of participating in the attacks on their villages that forced them to seek refuge in Bangladesh.
On Monday at least 20,000 Islamist hard-liners took part in a demonstration in Dhaka to demand an end to what they termed a “genocide.”
Buddhists make up less than one percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people and are broadly well integrated.
But there have been attacks on the community in the past. Last year an elderly Buddhist monk was hacked to death, one of a series of gruesome murders targeting religious minorities that police blamed on Islamist extremists.
At a small food stall near the Kendriya Shima Bihar temple in Ramu, a cluster of villages in Cox’s Bazar, a group of elderly men recalled the night Muslims angered by images on Facebook showing a desecrated Qur'an went on a violent rampage.
But they said the two communities now lived in harmony and blamed outsiders for the violence.
“These people are Muslims,” said Manoda Barua, a retired businessman who lives in a large house next to the temple, as he gestured to two men standing nearby.
“We eat together, we study together. There are Muslim villages all around us.”
Mohammad Ismail, a Muslim carpenter from the next village who had come for a plate of vegetable curry, said the two communities had “very good relations” and claimed the 2012 violence had been started by outsiders.
But some Buddhists in the village are quietly worried.
Prokriti Barua, a housemaid, said she had heard rumors of rising anger in the local Muslim community.
“We are feeling threatened,” she said. “People are saying that the Muslims want to kill us.”
Bangladesh’s Buddhist leaders have said they will tone down celebrations for an upcoming religious festival and donate the money saved to the relief cause.
Last week, monks at the Kendriya Shima Bihar temple organized a blood donation drive for the Rohingya refugees.
But Barua, the businessman, said the Rohingya were “uneducated people” and expressed anger that their plight had brought difficulties to his community.
“There are differences between us and the moghs,” he said, using a local term for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
“We are just innocent Buddhists.”
Some of the Rohingya who cross into Bangladesh travel to refugee camps through the Rakhine villages, where small Buddhist stupas dot the green paddy fields and line the banks of the Naf river that divides the two countries.
Ranga Babu Chakma, a Rakhine Buddhist, said some had tried to settle near his farming village of Dunga Khatta, but had been moved on by police who feared communal tensions.
“Bangladesh is a small country that is already overpopulated,” he said.
“If they (Rohingya) settle here it will cause big problems.”


Crowd in Pakistan kills man accused of burning Qur'an: police

Security personnel stand guard in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. (AFP file photo)
Updated 4 sec ago
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Crowd in Pakistan kills man accused of burning Qur'an: police

  • Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani man accused of desecrating the Qur'an was slain and burned Thursday by a crowd that removed him from a police station where he had been detained for his protection, authorities said.
“On the evening of the 20th, locals in the Madian area detained a man, alleging he had burned the Qur'an. The police intervened, rescued him, and took him to the local police station,” a police source in Swat told AFP, noting the man was not from the area.
But the crowd, urged on by local mosques, converged on the police station and pelted it with stones.
“To disperse the angry mob, police fired warning shots into the air, which further incited the crowd. The mob overpowered the police, dragged the man out, and beat him to death with sticks,” the source said.
Later, some people poured oil on his body and set it ablaze, the source added.
A local official confirmed the incident, saying: “After killing the man, the enraged protesters started stoning the police, forcing them to abandon the station.
The situation in the area remained tense, with protesters blocking the main road, according to the official.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence.
In late May, a Christian accused of burning pages of the Qur'an was also lynched by a mob in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab region, before succumbing to his injuries in early June, according to police.
Also in Punjab, in February 2023, a crowd beat to death a Muslim accused of having desecrated the holy book.
 

 


Campaigners urge UN rights chief to act on China Xinjiang abuse report

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021.
Updated 19 min 9 sec ago
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Campaigners urge UN rights chief to act on China Xinjiang abuse report

  • The August 2022 report, produced under the leadership of the last commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, said the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may be an international crime

GENEVA: Campaign groups called on the United Nations human rights chief on Thursday to take more action over what they said were documented abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
The groups, including the World Uyghur Congress and Amnesty International said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk had not followed up on a 2022 report by his own predecessor that found China may have committed crimes against humanity.
China defended its record and dismissed the groups’ statement given at a meeting in the Geneva headquarters of the UN Human Rights Council.
Volker did not attend the meeting and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. After taking office in October 2022, the Austrian former lawyer said he stood by the report and wanted to engage China over the findings.
The August 2022 report, produced under the leadership of the last commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, said the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may be an international crime.
China has repeatedly denied accusations of abuses in its northwest Xinjiang region.
Just before Turk took office, mostly non-Western members of the Rights Council voted down a motion brought by the US, Britain and other mostly Western powers to hold a debate about the report — a result that was seen as a diplomatic victory for Beijing.
“To date there has been no action, no meaningful action,” Zumretay Arkin, a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, told Thursday’s meeting. “We are here to remind everyone ... that impunity cannot be the solution.”
The campaign groups, also including Human Rights Watch and the International Service for Human Rights, translated the 2022 report into five languages, published them and called for Turk to give an update on how his office and China had responded to the report’s recommendations.
China’s attache at its mission in Geneva, Zhu Kexing, told the session: “In order to discredit China and hinder China’s development, a small number of NGOs and Western countries do not hesitate to act as liars and rumor-makers to serve their anti-China separatist plots.”
Several countries including the United States and Australia also voiced concerns about the lack of follow-up on the 2022 report but stopped short of giving specific recommendations on how Turk’s office should react.

 


US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

Updated 26 min 50 sec ago
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US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday banned Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky from providing its popular anti-virus products in the country, the US Commerce Department announced.
“Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” the Commerce Department said in a statement announcing the action, which it said is the first of its kind.
 

 


Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

Updated 34 min 39 sec ago
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Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

MOSCOW: Russians on Thursday reported some problems with processing payments at major banks after a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Russian banks, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported.
At least one Russian bank was telling clients that it was having trouble sending messages containing codes to confirm payments, a Reuters reporter said.
The Kommersant newspaper said Russians had reported problems using the websites of major banks, as well as with the Telegram messaging app and with major mobile phone networks.
It cited Russia’s payments cards operator as saying that the disruption had been short-lived and that the fast payments system was now working as usual.
The IT army of Ukraine, a group of volunteers committed to disrupting Russian digital communications, later issued a statement saying it was responsible the Russian bank outages.


US philanthropist Melinda French Gates endorses Biden

Updated 44 min 18 sec ago
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US philanthropist Melinda French Gates endorses Biden

  • French Gates announced in May that she would be using her $12.5 billion fortune to help “women and families,” making a first payment of $1 billion

WASHINGTON: American philanthropist Melinda French Gates, the ex-wife of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, endorsed President Joe Biden on Thursday for November’s US election, arguing that he is the best candidate for women.
“I’ve never endorsed a presidential candidate before. But this year’s election stands to be so enormously consequential for women and families that, this time, I can’t stay quiet,” she said on X.
“Women deserve a leader who cares about the issues they face and is committed to protecting their safety, their health, their economic power, their reproductive rights, and their ability to freely and fully participate in a functioning democracy.”
French Gates, who recently stepped down as president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the contrast between Biden and his Republican opponent Donald Trump “couldn’t be greater, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
“I will be voting for President Biden,” she concluded.
Reproductive rights have been an effective political cudgel for Democrats in the two years since the conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that made abortion a constitutionally protected right.
A comfortable majority of Americans think abortion should be legal in most cases, according to extensive polling, and around half of states have measures in place to protect access.
The issue has been a major theme of the election campaign, with Biden supporting women’s right to choose and Trump failing to stake out a clear-cut position beyond pride in appointing three of the justices who struck down Roe v Wade.
French Gates announced in May that she would be using her $12.5 billion fortune to help “women and families,” making a first payment of $1 billion.
She said the Supreme Court ruling on abortion had prompted her to devote herself to defending women’s rights.