Thursday, August 6, 2009

Response to the Press Release of the ‘Rohingyas’ ( Part 2)

By Khin Maung Saw, Berlin, Germany

B. Buddhists kings with Pseudonym Muslim Titles:

The 'Rohingyas' claimed that Arakan was ruled by the Muslim kings from 1430 for about 100 years.

In fact, the Kingdom of Mrauk U was not established by the 'Rohingyas'. All kings of the Mrauk U

dynasty were Buddhists. Some kings had assumed Muslim Titles because, as mentioned above, Min

Saw Mun (Man Saw Muan), the founder of the Mrauk U City wanted to show his gratitude to the Sultan

of Gaur who helped him to regain the Arakanese throne in 1430. Hence, he promised the Sultan that

the Arakanese kings would bear Pseudonym Muslim Titles. But in fact, all of the Arakanese kings were

donors of many temples in Mrauk U as well as in the other parts of Arakan. They did make coins, one

side with Burmese/Arakanese scripts and the other side with Persian (NOT Bengali).

For example: Min Saw Mun (Man Saw Muan), the founder of the Mrauk U City with the assumed

Muslim Title 'Suleiman Shah' built seven Buddhists temples in Mrauk U. One of them was Laymyetna

Phaya (Leemyatna Phara) in Mrauk U (now Mrohaung). His successor and younger brother Min Khayi

(Man Khari), who had an assumed Muslim Title 'Ali Khan', erected the Nyidaw Zedi, which can be

roughly translated as 'The Pagoda built by the Younger Brother'. His son and successor King Ba Saw

Phru alias Kaliman Shah constructed four Buddhists temples including the Maha Bodi Shwegu Pagoda.

His son Dan Ugga alias Daluya, who bore the Muslim Title Moguh Shah, was the donor of Thongyaik

Tasu Temple (meaning the temple of Thirty One Buddhas). His successor Min Yan Aung (Man Ran

Aung) alias Narui Shah founded the Htupayon Pagoda. Min Bin (Man Ban) had an assumed Muslim

Title of Zabauk Shah; and was the donor of seven temples including Shit Thaung Phaya (Shite Thaung

Phara) or the Temple of Eighty Thousand Buddha Statues. Min Phalaung (Man Phalaung) alias

Secudah Shah was the donor of six temples including Htukkan Thein, his son Min Yaza Gyi (Man Raza

Gri) with the Muslim Title Salem Shah donated Phaya Paw (Phara Paw) Pagoda and Pakhan Thein in

Mrauk U and also Shwe Kyaung Pyin Monastery in Thandwe. Min Khamaung, who subjoined the

Muslim Title Hussein Shah constructed Yatanapon (Ratanabon) and Yatana Pyethet (Ratana Prethat)

Pagodas and his son Thri Thudhamma (meaning the Protector of Buddhist Religion) alias Salem Shah

the Second, erected the Sekkya Manaung (Sakkya Manaung) Pagoda.

Muslim Sharia Law dictated the Muslim community to convert all 'infidels', i.e., all who supported any

other religions except Islam. A Muslim who converts to another religion can be punishable with a

death penalty. If those kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty were Muslims, they would have been

condemned to death by the Mullahs for breach of the Islamic faith.

There was and is no Muslim ruler who undertook or undertakes to promote Buddhism or Christianity or

any other religion. The Crusade Wars had proven this in history. In 2000, the Talibans of Afghanistan

destroyed two 2000 years old gigantic Buddha Statues despite of the protests from the whole world.

They could not keep those statues even as historical monuments. For them, those statues were the

“Idols of the Infidels”!

See also: Jacques Leider, “Those Buddhist Kings with Muslim Titles”, Scholars Column,

Taking assumed Muslim Titles or a Muslim name did not and does not mean that that person must be

a Muslim. Even President Obama of USA, a Christian, has a second name Hussein. One of the famous

singers of the Burmese Classical Songs during the late Colonial Era and in the early 50’s bore the

name U Ali, but he was a Buddhist. Many people of Burma took and still have some Christian names

though they were and are devoted Buddhists. The late Daw Khin May Than, wife of the late Dictator

General Ne Win bore the Christian name Kitty Ba Than. A son of the first President of the Union of

Burma, Sao Shwe Thaik, a Shan and a devout Buddhist had the name Eugene Thaik. Even the Prime

Minister of the NCGUB, Dr. Sein Win, was called John Ba Win until 1959 in the then St. John’s

Diocesan Boys’ School, Rangoon, though he is a Buddhist and his parents were devout Buddhists. His

former classmate, the present author too has also a Christian name Peter Saw Maung, though I am a

Buddhist and my parents were Buddhists.

There are many reasons for bearing a foreign name. It may be because of friendship, in some cases

just for courtesy and sometimes just to show respect for that society. All members of ‘the Thirty

Comrades’ had Japanese Pseudonyms. For example: Omoda (Aung san), Tani (Let Ya), Tagazuki (Ne

Win). Most of the Burma Scholars of Foreign Origin have Burmese names. For Example: U Hla Thein

(Prof. John Okell, London), Daw Khin Khin Chaw (Prof. Anna Allot, London), U Ba Tin (Prof. Vadim Kasevitch, Russia), Daw Hnin Si (Dr. Annemarie Esche, Germany), Daw Than Than Win (Dr. Uta

Gaertner, Germany).

IV. British contributions about Muslims in Burma:

I searched for the ethnic group ‘Rohingyas’ in all history books, literature, encyclopaedias and other

publications published before 1953 and written by foreign scholars. Unfortunately, I did not find any.

None of the British Colonial Officers recorded the name 'Rohingya, neither in the Indian Subcontinent

nor in Burma.

To be honest, I had never heard of the word "Rohingya" until the late 1950's.

1. "The fact that there has never been a "Rohingya" ethnic group in Burma is quite evident. There is

no such name as "Rohingya" in the Census of India, 1921 (Burma) compiled by G. G. Grantham,

I.C.S., Superintendent of Census Operations Burma, or in the Burma Gazetteer, Akyab District

(1924) compiled by R. B. Smart.

2. Even in Hobson-Jobson. "A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred

Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive" published by British Colonial Officers

of British East India Company, Col. Henry Yule and A. C. Burnell (First Published 1886) the word

"Rohingya" was not mentioned. Since this book was published by the Bengal Chamber Edition,

Calcutta, India, and is an indispensable dictionary for those who want to study the history of India

during the last 300 years and its impact on the East and West, it should be considered as a

standard literature.

3. The well known author and scholar, Maurice Collis, who wrote many articles and books about

Arakan, also never mentioned the word "Rohingya".

4. None of the British Colonial Officers' contributions about Burma and India mentioned that word

"Rohingya", however, they mentioned about 'Zerabadi' the Indo-Burmese Hybrids or "Burmese

Muslims", the Muslims in Shwebo and Yamethin Districts in Burma Proper, "Myay Du Muslims",

"Kaman Muslims" and Bengali Muslim Settlers of Arakan.

A. Kaman Muslims

Some Muslim settlement began only after Min Saw Mun (Man Saw Muan) regained the throne of

Arakan in 1430 with the help of the Sultan of Gaur. There were some Muslim troops in Mrauk U to

protect Min Saw Mun (Man Saw Muan) from the Burmese invasion. About two hundred years later,

some followers of Mogul Prince Shah Shuja, who took refuge by the Arakanese king Sanda

Thuddhama, joined the descendants of these soldiers. These groups of mercenaries were Afghans,

Persians and Moguls. They were called "Kamans", meaning archers in Persian language. Their

descendants still live in the Rakhine State, particularly in Akyab (Sittwe) District and Rambree Island.

Now they are assimilated into the Arakanese society. Only in religion and complexion do they differ

from the Arakanese (Rakhaing/Rakhine), they know the Arakanese language, literature and Buddhist

traditions very well. Most of them have Burmese/Arakanese names. They rarely used their Muslim


B. Myay Du Muslims

There are some Muslims living in Thandwe District. These Muslims are called "Myay Du". They are

the descendants of the former "Pagoda Slaves". When King Min Bin (Man Ban) alias Min Bargyi (Man Bargri) reoccupied the Chittagong District in A.D. 1533, he brought back some Bengalis as prisoners

of war and let them work as menial workers at Andaw, Nandaw and Sandaw Pagodas in Thandwe.

Since they had to do menial works and were not free people anymore, they were called "Pagoda

Slaves". In the year 1624, these Bengali "Pagoda Slaves" supported the 'Palace revolution' lead by

the 'Duke of Thandwe' and the crown prince then, Min Khamaung, against his own father King Raza

Gri. After the aborted revolution against the Arakanese king these 'Bengali Pagoda Slaves' and their

families, all together about four thousand people, escaped to the Burmese kingdom of Ava to take

refuge. The Burmese king accepted them as his subjects, gave them their freedom by royal orders

declaring that they were no longer "Pagoda Slaves", and let them settle in the small town Myay Du.

That's why they were known as "Myay Du Muslims". These "Myay Du Muslims", generation by

generation, served in the Burmese Royal Army. When Bodaw Phaya's armies invaded Arakan in1784,

the descendants of these "Myay Du Muslims" came together with the Burmese Army at Thandwe front.

When the Burmese occupied Arakan they let the "Myay Dus" resettle in Thandwe and nearby villages.

Since these people had lived about 150 years in Upper Burma, these "Myay Dus" were assimilated into

Burmese society. Although their descendants live in Thandwe District, they speak Burmese central

dialect instead of Arakanese Thandwe Dialect. Only in complexion and faith do they differ from the

Arakanese and Burmese, yet they know the Burmese language, culture and traditions very well.

Officially, they have Burmese/Arakanese names. They rarely use their Muslim names in public. See

also: Tydd, W.D., Burma Gazetteer, Sandoway District, Vol.A, Rangoon, 1926.

C. Bengali settlers after the British annexation of Arakan in 1826:

Since Arakan has a direct land border with East Bengal many Chittagonian Bengalis were brought to

Arakan by the British as cheap labourers. These latter settlers are called "Khawtaw Kalas" in both

Burmese and Arakanese.

Some settlers learnt Arakanese and Burmese; hence, some of them were assimilated in the native

society. However, these Chittagonian Bengalis differ from the Arakanese in their features, complexion

and religion as well as in some customs which their religion directs; in writing they use Burmese but

among themselves employ colloquially the language of their ancestors, either Urdu or Bengali. They

never named themselves ‘Rohingyas’ but ‘Arakan Muslims’. Since they were assimilated in the native

society, Burmese as well as Arakanese (Rakhaings) did not call them Khawtaw Kala any more, but

used the term Muslims, just to differentiate them from the natives who are Buddhists, Kamans and

Myaydus. Though Kamans and Myaydus are Muslims they were already assimilated in the native

society. When one hears the name Kaman or Myaydu, one knows automatically that they are


Unfortunately, however, many latter settlers never tried to assimilate into the native society and

therefore they were and are never welcomed by the natives, neither by the Burmese nor by the

Arakanese society. Nor could they join even in the society of "Indigenous Muslims of Arakan", the

"Kamans" and the "Myay Dus". That was the main reason why racial riots happened often during the

whole colonial era and also in post-colonial era, especially in Northern Arakan. Burmese and

Arakanese (Rakhaings) called them either Khawtaw Kala or Sittagaung Kala.

D. Mujahid Rebels

After Burma had regained her independence, these settlers wanted to turn northern Arakan into an

autonomous Muslim state. "Some members of the 'Juniyatu Olamai' religious association went to

Karachi on a delegation to discuss the incorporation of Butheedaung, Maungdaw and also Rathedaung

townships into East Pakistan. Some of them went underground and called themselves "Mujahid" rebels. The leader of the "Mujahids rebels was Mir Cassim, an uneducated fisherman. It was only an

illusion of an uneducated man like Cassim who wanted to turn a traditionally Buddhist land like Arakan

into a Muslim state". As a result, in the 1950's these rebels were totally crushed by the Burma Armed

Forces. Some surrendered while some fled to East Pakistan. Cassim fled to East Pakistan and he was

shot dead in Cox Bazaar by an unknown person in 1966.

Both surrendered Mujahid and Bengali Muslim Settlers did not want to be called Khawtaw Kala or Kala

which according to their own interpretation supposed to be derogatory because ‘Kala’ means ‘dark’ or

‘Coloured’ or ‘Blackie’ in the languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Bengali . In fact, the literal pronunciation

of the Burmese as well as Arakanese word ‘Kala’ is ‘Kula’ and also written as ‘Kula’. This term was

derived from the Pali or Sanskrit word ‘Kula Puttra’ meaning ‘the son of a noble race’ because Lord

Buddha himself was an Indian. Both Po and Sagaw Karen word for Indian is ‘Kula’ and the Thai word

for Indian is ’Kal’. Hence, it is not derogatory instead it is ‘a word of courtesy’!

Anyway, Bengali Muslim Settlers did not want to be called ‘Kala’. As a result, they settled for the

name "Rohingya". In the late 1950"s, the demand for the statehood of the Rakhaings (Arakanese)

and the Mons was at the peak. The Bengalis who started calling themselves "Rohingyas" asked for the

same status as the Arakanese (Rakhaings). When their demands were turned down by the Burmese

government on the grounds that they were not an indigenous race of Arakan, some educated Bengali

Muslims like M. A. Tahir, well known through his Burmese name Ba Tha, Maung Than Lwin and some

Bengali Muslim students from the University of Rangoon began to fabricate historical facts to prove

that they were "Indigenous Arakanese Muslims" and started to fabricate stories that they and their

ancestors belonged to Arakan historically.

V. Evolution of the word ‘Rohingya’

There are many stories fabricated by educated Bengali Muslims to prove that their ancestors were the

indigenous ethnic minorities of Arakan but all of them are baseless.

The real etymology of the term ‘Rohingya can be traced as follows:

After the Second World War when British Administration restarted in Burma, all Bengalis who went

back to Bengal during the war came back to Arakan. They brought many new settlers with them.

Because of their immigration waves many Arakanese left their villages in Northern Arakan and moved

southwards. These villages were named "Old or Deserted Villages", Ywa-Haun in Burmese (Rwa-Haun

or Ra-haun in Arakanese pronunciation). The villagers of Ywa-Haun were called Ywa-Haun-Tha in

Burmese (Ra-Haun-Tha in Arakanese pronunciation). Those Bengali new settlers could not pronounce

'Ra-Haun' as well as Ra-Haun-Tha properly and called with their Bengali accent "Ro-han" and the “Rohan-

za”, respectively. Later it deviated to ‘Ro-han-ja’ and then ‘Ro-hin-gya’.


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