(April 16, 2012) On Thursday, April 11, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Religions for Peace (RfP) hosted Al Haj U Aye Lwin, Chief Convener of the Islamic Center of Myanmar (Burma), for a meeting with American Muslim leaders in Washington, DC.
Dr. William F. Vendley, RfP General Secretary, praised the Lwin for his work to “reach out to those who can ennoble our common humanity,” thus “winning the hearts of those in the Buddhist community who would themselves reject the persecution of Muslims.” He added, “it is a joy to sit at this table where Muslims of the world have found a home and are finding a mechanism themselves to benefit the global ummah.”
Lwin shared his community’s experiences of religious persecution in Myanmar and spoke about the role of multi-religious cooperation in advancing peaceful coexistence. While Muslims previously co-existed with people of other religions in the region, he said they have been used as scapegoats in the past 50 years. Those who perpetrate atrocities against the Muslims of Myanmar treat this as an appropriate Buddhist response to “Islamization,” but fortunately they are in the minority. Many more Buddhists in the region and elsewhere are concerned about these travesties and are concerned that this persecution will tarnish the Buddhist community. In many cases, Lwin said, it is clear that clashes between Muslim and Buddhist civilians are being instigated by a third party. Rather than delivering harsh words to the government of Myanmar, he urged the American Muslim leaders to empower those who are engaging the issue in a positive way.
ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid spoke about the formation of a Burma Task Force in Chicago, led by American Muslims, and his support for such efforts. “We have raised the issue with our government,” he said. “We are deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar and are working hard to increase awareness about this issue.”
Naeem Baig, President of the Islamic Circle of North America, Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and other American Muslim leaders were also present. Ambassador Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, also attended. He expressed the President’s strong opposition to the persecutions in Myanmar, concerns which the President publicly voiced during his visit there in November.
To learn more about the situation in Myanmar and what you can do, please see the following: