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Why did this young Rohingya girl leave Burma on her own?
Why would parents sell everything they own and put their beloved daughter onto a wooden boat to travel at the mercy of treacherous seas and an uncertain future.
This morning, Fatimah told me her story.
She shared with me her real name, her village name, and other details when I met her in a refugee camp in Indonesia that I was visiting for research and advocacy efforts. I will refer to her in this article as “Fatimah,” to protect her identity.
Throughout the conversation, her eyes remained furious, her face was tense and her words direct. May Allah continue to keep her strong. Our Ummah is not bereft of strong sisters but I pray that we see more like Fatimah; sisters standing tall, strong and firm.
Fatimah, like others, was fleeing genocide in Burma. In Burma, rape is an instrument of war used for genocidal ends, to annihilate the Rohingya. Parents in Burma are selling all they have to send their daughters out of Burma just so they are not raped by the Burmese military or Buddhist extremists.
But that was not on my mind when I interviewed Fatimah. I asked her, “Why did you leave Burma?”
That was the first time her furious eyes started looking downward. It was, however, her silence that spoke louder and louder, as my heart sank.
“Ya’ Allah,” I told myself. I did not mean to raise that question.
I raced to change the topic and made another mistake as a Rohingya refugee teacher translating for me started giving words to her silence, informing me that Rohingya women are raped by military, police, as well as Buddhist extremists. Parents have limited choices: accept rape as a cost of life, try to hide their girls, bribe the culprits away, or try to flee.
I wish I had remained quiet. I wish the Imam hadn’t spelled that out for me. Her haya, or modesty, was enough to convey the message.
I ended up asking Fatimah about her future. “Where would you like to go?”
Her furious eyes shot up at me. Still silent, she looked at me reproachfully as though saying “why did you ask.” She finally spoke, “Anywhere my Rab (Lord) would take me.”
My heart beat began to shake my iPhone. Her face blurred. I had to stop. But Fatimah was tearless. Her tears seemed gone long ago.
May Allah keep her safe. May Allah help us keep her in our hearts and duas (prayers).
May Allah help you and I translate our anger into an energy of thoughtful struggle to liberate the enslaved Rohingyas and to end the genocide.
What You Can Do for Fatimah in Ramadan
I humbly request you to help the cause of Rohingya liberation by doing the following:
1. This weekend, do a family shura at home.
Have a young member of the family recite Fatiha and someone translate it.
Have someone read this letter.
Think together what you can do for Rohingya Muslims this Ramadan.
2. Make Duas every Taraweeh
Monitor if the Imam is including Rohingyas at the end of Taraweeh duas.
Thank and ask for more.
3. Have your family raise funds to stop genocide in Burma
You see, it is Burma Task Force, a coalition of 19 Muslim American organizations that got 10 Nobel Laureates to declare the persecution against the Rohingya a genocide, while the government was avoiding the use of the “g” word. Alhamdulillah.
It is because of your responses to our action alerts that we have been able to stop many attacks. It is our united effort that got the US congress for the first time to pass a resolution in support of reinstating Rohingya citizenship. Stopping genocide will cost resources.
Saving lives and liberating people is covered by Zakat.
Each family member call ten other friends and families requesting them to give their Zakat to stop genocide in Burma, and forward that to the united effort of American Muslims, Burma Task Force.
4. Get people to sign up for 10 minutes a day to stop genocide campaign.
We mobilize in the US and around the world through our emails. It is critical for our work.
We have found that sisters are good at calling, network, and follow up.
Please sisters get your friends to sign up.
But also encourage brothers to sign up for 10 Minutes to Stop Genocide.
Abdul Malik Mujahid
P.S. The child in the photo above is not Fatimah’s baby. When the baby’s parents died on the ship, Fatimah started taking care of the baby. And now the baby does not want to be with any other person, although she says her parents are still alive. *Fatimah is not the sister’s real name.