There was a time in recent history that the USA became a haven of hope for many downtrodden minorities of European kingdoms. When these immigrants sacrificed and struggled to arrive in the USA, they adopted the “melting pot” approach to culture. It did not matter where you came from, because “all men are created equal”. Even today, American domestic laws forbid the collecting of racial information in employment or other personal documents.
For much of the rest of the world, however, identity is first a matter of religion and ethnic culture. Therefore, to draw borders around present-day Iraq, such as, Europeans tried to make a “melting pot” out of three cultures that, until this day, refuse to live together — Sunni Muslim, Shi’a Muslim, and Kurdish. Iraq is a “failed state” precisely because the “melting pot” analogy no longer satisfies in this complex, “culture-clash” world. The West has tried to “melt” various cultures in drawing post-world-war borders in many places. Most of these states are in shambles, if not entirely failed.
It is a good bet that George Bush Senior followed advice not to capture Saddam Hussain to avoid exactly the conditions now unfolding in that sad and artificial “secular state” construct. In seeking revenge (or oil fields), Bush Junior has opened exactly the “can of worms” his father had perhaps hoped to avoid. The human suffering seems only to grow in Iraq, and other such artificially-bordered “melting pot” states.
Now it happens that if you “melt” Muslim identity and cultures down to merge with secular elements, you very often emasculate them. Malaysia is struggling to avoid such a fate, and has succeeded so far, although the ever-present secular-liberal political pressures are always troubling. And now we have Myanmar, applying to join the modern world, and rebelling against the borders of Burma as drawn by those same western powers that have always forced various unfriendly cultures to mix and be happy. Saudi Arabia is such a creation, bolstered by vast amounts of money, so the Saudis are a monarchy that looks to be fairly stable, as long as it is defended by the Western oil interests.
Who loses out? Who is emasculated? The Rohingya of the former Burma. Myanmar doesn’t want them, and has denied them citizenship. They are stateless, and even their neighbouring Buddhists are up-in-arms against them. How would a stateless people defend themselves? The Rohingyas are emigrating to various nearby countries, such as Malaysia, where they are a burden on the native populations and economic institutions. Rohingyas are, after all, denied education and forced to protect themselves by Mafia-like groupings.
So this is a self-defeating situation. Either Myanmar must “play by the rules” and let them melt into the nation-state they have inherited from the British, or else they must re-draw the borders to give the Rohingyas their own country. But would Rohingyas know what to do with it? Did the Acehnese? Would the Czechnians, Kashmiris, Mindanaoans, Uigher, Kurds, South Thai, Palestinian, or any other alienated and impoverished cultural groups (usually Muslim)?
Where is the so-called “United Nations”? Myanmar is in total and flagrant violation of UN Human Rights Principles, and yet nothing is done. ASEAN is trying the “melting pot” approach by treating Myanmar as an equal participant in the ASEAN grouping, and who is speaking out against this? Is there any other such alienated culture group within ASEAN? As a former ASEAN leader has said, the principle of non-interference within local domestic policies of ASEAN members cannot really apply in the modern world, where so many problems, such as statelessness, are trans-border.
So what is the solution? As best we can until now, we must speak out. And in speaking out, we must seek solutions for other minorities who are suffering the forced “melting” by which the western world likes to control and exploit the poorer members of our human community. For Muslims, the solution is obvious. We must revive our Ummah, until it becomes a source of identity-formation that takes precedence over national constructs.
Worms are worms, and the super-powers strive to keep up-and-coming cultures passive and compliant by various aspects of the “melting pot” strategy. The Muslim Ummah is one possible response to that hegemony, one that the West does not like, nor do the rich Saudis who enjoy their wealth by the sufferance of their western protectors. From this point of view, Osama bin Laden was easily able to prove his attack on the American icons, if indeed he really was clever enough to organize it all by himself. There has always been speculation of “inside help” in that attack, and the twenty-first century has been almost completely defined by it. An American Muslim has recently stated that the two biggest catastrophes of modern times have been bin Laden and Bush. Together, they have distracted perfectly credible attempts to meet cultural identity by the rubric “War on Terror”. And so Buddhists in Myanmar consider the Rohingyas terrorists, as well they might, since any cultural grouping whose identity and very existence is threatened by world majorities tends to become extremely desperate.
As Noam Chomsky has recently pointed out, the survival of highly-educated humanity is severely threatened by all the problems created by the attitudes and machinations of those same educated and powerful groupings, while the long-term survival of humanity itself may well lie with the meek and disenfranchised of the earth, of whom the Rohingya are probably the foremost example at the moment.