Today I spoke with a Burmese man of the Muslim faith about the recent events in his homeland. Mohammad (not his real name) described to me what members of his family living in Burma had been through: He spoke of the torture and disfigurement of one relative, and he told me another person he knew -- a woman -- had been burned alive. These horrible crimes occurred several years ago.
Mohammad spoke of the respect Burma's Muslims have for the monks of Burma.
"A few years ago, the government told soldiers to shave their heads and then go and attack Muslim neighborhoods." He said they had done this in an effort to get Burma's Muslims fighting the Buddhists.
The regime's strategy did not seem to have worked.
"As Muslims, we honor the monks' special place in our society. We are horrified at the fact the regime will do this to its own holy men. We see what they will do to monks, and we see that these men in charge must truly be crazy." Mohammad pointed to his head.
He was deeply worried about Burma, but also he said, "we have the upper hand now against the regime. They have cut off telecommunications. Cut the Internet. They are trying to put a wall around the country. They are afraid, should the world see what they are doing. . . "
Mohammad said, "This time is different than 1988. Back then it was democracy. This time the people are hungry." He pointed to his stomach, and his face looked pained. "They don't have enough to eat. The people are really hurting! They protest now because they have no choice." It's not about having a better political option this time round: it's now a matter of survival.
It's a race against the clock said Mohammad. "We have only a short window of opportunity; while Burma is center stage, we need the world put pressure the regime."
He added, "I am hopeful about what the Americans are saying. But they must do more. America has got to go to China. . . " Mohammad put his hand on my shoulder, "and say this and this is what is at stake for China if you don't work with us on Burma." Mohammad said the Olympics ought to be brought up with the Chinese. He also said every country needs to examine its business ties with the regime.
See also: "Muslims, Christians and Hindus defending the monasteries"