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Illinois Mosque Hosts Peace Rally for Rohingya Muslims

CARBONDALE, Illinois — The Muslim community in Carbondale, Illinois, is planning a rally on Saturday to support the rights of Rohingya Muslims facing a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” at the hands of Burmese military.

“(Some) 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the last three weeks,” Mohtashim Shamsi, the organizer of the rally, told The Southern Illinoisan on Thursday, September 21.

“Their villages were burnt over a 100-kilometer stretch. Their nationality (was) revoked in 1982; since then, they are stateless. We want people to know the injustice going in the land where the president is a Nobel Peace prize winner.”

Nearly 421,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority have fled from western Rakhine state to Bangladesh to escape a military offensive that the United Nations has branded a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

More than 1,000 people may already have been killed in Burma, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims, a senior United Nations representative told AFP last week.

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Organized by Carbondale Muslim Center (Masjid Al-nour), the rally begins at 11 am at the mosque and will include a march to the Carbondale Town Square, near 120 N. Illinois Ave.

The rally aims to bring awareness to the plight of these people and to help raise funds for those who are refugees and in the process of being resettled.

This past May, local resident Sumera Makhdoom, her family, and others from this area visited a Rohingya cultural center in Chicago, where they met people who had fled the violence in their homeland.

There, she said staff showed maps indicating how, over time, the Rohingya had been displaced from their homeland.

“It’s all political … (a) fight over resources, it come down to that,” she said.

Described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Burma’s ethnic-Bengali Muslims, generally known as the Rohingya, are facing a catalog of discrimination in their homeland.

They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants.

Burma’s government, as well as the Buddhist majority, refuse to recognize the term “Rohingya,” referring to them as “Bengalis.”

Construction of mosques and religious schools in the region was banned in 1962 when military rule was first established in the country.