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Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya. Merle Jacobs Response /Part 3

Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya. Merle Jacobs Response /Part 3

My last Response to clarify why I have some difficult in the recycling of certain ‘facts’

Another topic of controversy is the percentage of the Muslims in the total population during the 19th century before the accurate census of the late colonial period. Sources do not harmonize, but it seems reasonable to assume a percentage not above 10 to 15 percent around 1830. To assume a higher percentage such as 30 percent (as Rohingya writers today like to assume, basing themselves on a little reliable source) creates an issue with the interpretation of a much lower percentage around 1870 just before the huge labor migrations from Chittagong.
Some researchers link the Rohingya to an ethnic group within Myanmar & try to persuade the world that they are true natives of Arakan. The Rohingya themselves try to make it a Muslim kingdom. They say the documents were burned by the Burmese Kings. I have read Phayre (1844) that supports the idea that there was a Kingdom, a non Muslim kingdom – and that historical documents exist.
Phayre, A. P. “On the History of Arakan.” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 13, no. 1 (1844):23-53. states:
“A compilation was made at my request from various ancient chronicles, by Nga-mi, one of the most learned among the literati of his country, and I proceed to furnish an epitome of its contents. Many copies of the Ra dza-weng, (History of Kings,) are to be found among the Arakanese, differing from each other in details, being ample or scanty in the narrative, according to the research or imagination of the authors, but, all agreeing in the main facts of the national history. On the Burmese conquest of the country, the ancient chronicles were sought after with avidity, and destroyed or carried away, in the hope apparently of eradicating the national feeling. These efforts were, however, futile, many of the ancient books were secretly preserved, or carried away by the owners on their emigration to the adjoining British territory, where many chiefs anxiously watched for an opportunity to recover their country.” The article is a good read via google.

Another book that I read/obtained is Races in Burma 1933 2nd Ed by Major C.M. Enriquez he describes all the different ethnic groups, classified 135 languages & states Burma belongs to the Indo-Chinese Peninsular. As well, “the aborigines disappeared unless the Andamanese are a survival” and that “Burma is ethnically distinct from India.”
In many book and articles, the Muslims in Arakan Kingdom were called by the westerners as “The Mohammedans”. The Mohammedans called the country / Arakan / Rakhaing Kingdom as “Rovingaw”, “Rekan”. Could it be that the Muslim from Rakhain Kingdom could have mentioned to Buchanan that he’s a “Rooinga” or native from Rakhaing Country?
My concerns with the limited interpretation in your article, ‘Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya’ is that 1)you did not speak to the Rakhine people who do not have a problem with the settlers of whom you describe but will not give their land to those brought in by the British. 2) your use of selected articles.

This is also a discourse about indigenous land, and settlers. There is a space for the rights of the Rakhine and to include evidence how a land grab occurred during Independence talks with Britain. This issue and the 1942 killings has creates current distrust and resentment within the Rakhine State. Leaving out documentation of how in 1948 some Muslim Rakhine/Rohingya wanted to take a part of Rakhine and make it part of Pakistan informs the Rakhine people that this is advocacy for one group without concerns about their apprehensions. The past is the present for many with ethnic histories, unlike newly formed countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States.

When historical facts are available it is important for researchers to include all relevant facts. Then, if said researcher wants to advocate for settlement and citizenship use moral discourse as a means for intervention. International agencies like the UN have little power in reality in these debates, especially when they appear to take sides. Therefore, it is important for all of us in the area of social justice to persuade our audience with legitimate argument on how to live together within a just society.

Merle Jacobs

From Rangoon to London then to Canada, now home. Professor at York U in Toronto. Equity Studies.

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Rakhine not included in Rohingya/ Part 2 In Francis Buchanan Rooinga

In Francis Buchanan – A Comparative Vocabulary of the Languages spoken in Burma Empire – Page 223 does not support the claims made by some researches which then becomes fact by Journalist. I am concerned that page 237 is the corner stone of this historical discourse. You do not let your reader know that ‘the proper natives call themselves Yakain.’ Buchanan goes on to state the “Bengal Hindus … have been settled in Arakan, the country is called Roffawn ….. not conceiving that it would be Arakan. Buchan goes on to say in the same page at the very bottom “The Mohommedans settled at Arakan call the country Rovingaw.”
Yes, on page 237 there is a one mention of Rooingo. Buchanan goes on to say that Hindus of Arakan wanted to persuade him that theirs was the common language of Arakan , ‘for what reason I do not know.’ There is no analysis on this claim. Francis Buchanan mentioned “Rooinga” a single time only, never appeared again in any of his writings. It should had been appeared many times if “Rooinga” is an ethnic or race name at that time.
As well, according to Jacques Leider, the word “Rohingya” (under the form “Rooinga”) appears a single time in a pre-colonial English text (BUCHANAN, Francis 1799. “A comparative vocabulary of some of the languages spoken in the Burma Empire” Asiatick Researches or Transactions of the Society instituted in Bengal for inquiring into the History and Antiquities the Arts, Sciences and Literature of Asia, volume V, p. 219-240.). You also can find it at below link (page 3 – 5):

http://www.networkmyanmar.org/images/stories/PDF13/jacques-leider.pdf

I take this analysis from Dr. Leider’s views:
“Dr. Francis Buchanan-Hamilton used the term “Rooinga” in a paper written in 1798 describing languages spoken in the “Birman Empire”. How should one interpret the fact that the term “Rooinga” appears a single time in an English language document before 1951 and never in any British colonial administrative text or census during the whole colonial period, i.e. 1826-1948?
The Muslims that Hamilton met in Amarapura in 1795 had been deported from Arakan, conquered in 1785 by the Burmese king. They referred to themselves in their own language as “Arakanese”, because the term “Rooinga”/ spelt “Roewhengya” by Ba Tha, the chief Rohingya “historian” and creator of the myth of a unified Rohingya race / now spelt: Rohingya, is derived from Rakhanga and means nothing more than Arakanese. Many fancy etymologies are circulating to explain the word, and often they tend to discard the obvious connection with Roshang or Rohang as found in Bengali sources since the 17th c.
It is is rather clear from contextual source evidence that the term heard by Hamilton was not used in the modern sense of a separate ethnic group of Muslims.
First of all, Hamilton was the best expert on Southeast Bengal and never used the term while talking about people in the region. He traveled in the Chittagong District and noted any ethnic group that he met during his travels and he specifically also mentions Muslims who had fled from Arakan after 1785 to Chittagong. Still he did not call them Rohingyas nor did they call themselves “Rooinga” because they were Muslims who integrated themselves into the local Muslim society where their forefathers had come from. Hamilton also wrote three detailed articles on the Bengal-Arakan frontier after his retirement and never mentions any distinctive ethnic group called such.
Second, no British administrative document during the colonial period mentions a separate ethnic group that referred to itself or was referred to by others as Rohingyas. This is not because the British census makers were still confused about the profile of Muslims in Arakan after 50 or 60 years of domination. They made indeed, as one sees in the 1931 census for example, a clear difference between recent migrants (called Chittagonians, to specify their origins in Bengal) and the old stock of the Muslim community referred to as Arakan Muhammedans. The old community formed then a sixth of the total of 300,000 in Akyab district.
Third, no early 19th century Western source on Arakan that mentions the Muslims, ever uses the term “Rohingya”. Muslims are each time described as being assimilated to the local Buddhist population in their living style, with the sole exception of their religion.”

Merle Jacobs

From Rangoon to London then to Canada, now home. Professor at York U in Toronto. Equity Studies.

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The use of Francis Buchanan, on Rooinga -to Rohingya by Gregory B. Poling/ Part 1

The use of Francis Buchanan, on Rooinga -to Rohingya by Gregory B. Poling/ Part 1

Dear Gregory B. Poling:

Your Published Analysis: Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya.
By Gregory B. Poling. Feb 13, 2014
In it you State:
“The British colonial government encouraged immigration to Myanmar from modern-day India and Bangladesh. This is a source of continued resentment within Myanmar, which is why 1823 was used as a cut-off for citizenship. The dominant narrative within the country is that the term “Rohingya” is a recent invention, and those who claim to belong to the group are actually the descendants of these colonial-era immigrants from Bangladesh.
But this narrative is demonstrably false. In 1799, Francis Buchanan, a surgeon with the British East India Company, traveled to Myanmar and met members of a Muslim ethnic group “who have long settled in Arakan [Rakhine], and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan.” That would indicate there were self-identified Rohingya living in Rakhine at least 25 years before the 1823 cut-off for citizenship.
Even if the name “Rohingya” is too taboo to be accepted inside Myanmar, the historical record is clear that the ethnic group itself has existed in Arakan, or Rakhine State, for centuries. A significant Muslim population lived in the independent Kingdom of Mrauk-U that ruled modern-day Rakhine State from the mid-fifteenth to late eighteenth centuries. Many of the Buddhist kings of Mrauk-U even took Muslim honorifics. The evidence suggests that this community is the origin of today’s Rohingya. The group likely assimilated later waves of immigrants from Bangladesh during and after British rule, but it did not begin with them.”

My Response to clarify why I have some difficult in the recycling of certain ‘facts’:
You cite both Dr. Zarni and Rogers, are they the only know scholars of the Rakhine file and why did you leave an expert on Rakhine like Professor Leider out? Yyou do not mention of his work. You also do not mention Dr. Aung Thwin on why the takeover of the government of Burma occured. This presents a bias in presenting the facts. U Nu was a weak and terrible Prime Minster of Burma. Ask me or my family regarding all his antics. He nearly destroyed the country with his deals.
In your scholarly article you state, “The Rohingya and many of their international defenders are concerned that the census will mark the first step in a campaign to cement their status as non-citizens.” As a Fellow, it is mandatory to explore this topic with both parties having the same rights within this research area? There is the plight of the ‘Rohingya’ which we now know will not be a name used in Myanmar’s census. The plight is very real, we need to get them accepted and have them live together. To do this, the international defenders will have to make sure that those who brought papers or crossed illegally into Rakhine maynot be part of this ‘Rohingya’ group. This would be unfair to the Rakhine people. It would also be helpful if the international defenders would ask this group to learn either Burmese or Arakanese language. There are members who speak Burmese and I have met them in Canada. However, there are those who claim to be Rohingya and have no language skills of the country they claim to have lived in for centuries. International defenders must be fair and sort this out before they try to shove their truth down the throats of the Rakhine people or belittle them in the media.

Merle Jacobs

From Rangoon to London then to Canada, now home. Professor at York U in Toronto. Equity Studies.

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Mother’s Day 2014 – Almost the end of the day &…….

Mother’s Day 2014 – Almost the end of the day &…….

Thinking all day of what to say about this day was not difficult. I wrote on my Facebook and twitter accounts wishing Mothers’ a Blessed day.

It is hard to think about Mother’s day when 6 years have gone by after the  death of my mother. She always told us children to do for her when she was alive and not when she was dead. Following that rule, there was nothing to do or say. I had said my thank you, my I love you and of course our good old fights. Two strong headed women who loved control. She  also said what she needed to say to me before she died. A strong mind in spite of her stroke she made sure I knew that she loved me but not in a messy way. Firm and fast.

In a way today was kind of empty – she was not there to buy the roses I always gave her – and I thought of the children who have difficult relationships with their mothers. Like Christmas and other ‘family’ holidays these days leave a little pit or hole in one’s heart. That empty feeling or the odd person out while everyone is dancing to the music that the whole world knows. With social media our world is a lot closer yet strangely not more loving. It is the love of parents, biological or not, that makes the difference for a child. Growing up in this knowledge makes days like this have meaning. When there is a void of this meaning such days take on a different picture. One where most people take the inside space, while the others stand on the outside looking in. And the wars, the bombs that leave families broken. What do we say to those children? Countries play war games but people die. The empty seat on a day like today is not taken into account when mad men go to war in the name of democracy or any strange feel good sound bite.

Well Mother, the day is over. Thank you for teaching me to do for the living. That paid off well as really there is nothing to say or do for you. And you would know, I speak of you often just like you did when Dad died. You taught us well: to live in the present, give to others and to treat everyone equally.

Thank you to all mothers who took time with your children teaching them some life lessons

Merle Jacobs

From Rangoon to London then to Canada, now home. Professor at York U in Toronto. Equity Studies.

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Back to Blog – 2014: How student engagement stopped my blog engagement :-)

Teaching Research Methods at York U was not just fulfilling but it got me thinking of my research. Informing students that they needed to keep an open mind while wanting to research areas where they “knew” the outcome was difficult. The light bulb and the ‘ah ha’ moments thrilled me. It thrilled me watch how topics on Aboriginal justice, Human Rights, Multiculturalism, Sexuality and Gender Rights,all based on survey research, secondary research which made students acknowledge that there were many views relating to their ‘truth.’

Time management was an issue for me which left me away from this site. I missed the time I spent with my ‘brain’ and researching ‘my truth’. Reading 60+ drafts, and final papers takes time. But that was one course – the other had over 20 papers which was a major paper. Of course l must remember the other two classes. Overload is never good and it made me speak to several students about their lives. One mother with a year old child came to 8.30 AM classes, the other was had a part-time job which he loved plus instead of taking 5 courses was taking 6 major courses. On top of the course load, this young man was actively involved with civic activities at the university. Then the 20% who I no longer base my evaluation of student participation avoided most classes, assignments but could show up for exams – just hoping the 40% would let them slide through – what I do not know.  I sure would love to communicate with them as to why register for a course and waste over $1000.

As I want to engage with all my students I attended ‘Rethinking Retention’ where I heard Vincent Tinto the Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at Syracuse U. We discussed Purpose and how to develop this, about Engagement, Connectedness and Academic Culture. Cam we help students answer this question: “what is a university?”

I will be teaching the same courses but I hope this new learning will help the 20% who may not have the same interest as the 70%. Well the 10% who are high achievers will always visit me in my office without the usual ‘please come with your draft to see me in my office.’

Welcome back Merle

Merle Jacobs

From Rangoon to London then to Canada, now home. Professor at York U in Toronto. Equity Studies.

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