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Politics

Jonathan Head: Myanmar's long-targeted minority creates havoc in the region

Aung Mingalar, the last Muslim neighborhood in Sittwe. Residents need police permission to leave. (Photo by Jonathan Head)

The 1 million or so Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine state, and their use of the term Rohingya to identify themselves, are at the center of one of the most intractable and damaging issues in the country. The nation is riven with conflicts arising from its 50 years of isolationist military rule. The Rohingya crisis threatens to undo much of the progress made in repairing relations with the world.

     Confusion reigns over the tensions around this identity issue. Emotions stirred by the question of Rohingya inside the slowly democratizing country, fueled by a contagious flow of misinformation, have led to anti-Muslim violence. Research by historians into the start of the so-called Rohingya Problem have exposed the paucity of good information, and produced fiercely contested narratives about this minority and their origins.

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