Burma's muslims: terrorists or terrorised?

Author/s (editor/s):

Andrew Selth

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 150

Burma's importance in world affairs has long derived from its critical geo-strategic position. Another factor now attracting the interest of Western scholars and officials is Burma's large Muslim population. Usually overlooked in surveys of Islam in the Asia-Pacific region, Burma's Muslims have long suffered from discrimination, and harsh treatment at the hands of the country's military government. This has prompted the creation of several armed insurgent groups. The increased attention now being paid to the Muslim community in Burma, however, is mainly due to its growing international connections, which in the case of one insurgent group at least includes direct links to pan-Islamic extremist organisations. While the relationships between some Burmese Muslims and international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah have often been exaggerated, and at times even deliberately misrepresented, they are likely to attract even greater interest from the US government and its allies. In this regard, the global war against terrorism launched in 2001 has become both a burden and an opportunity for the Rangoon regime.

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