Myanmar has a Buddhist majority. The Muslim minority in Myanmar are the descendants of Muslim immigrants from India (including what is now Bangladesh) and China (the ancestors of Chinese Muslims in Myanmar came from the Yunnan province), as well as descendants of earlier Arab settlers and the recognized Kamein minority and the Rohingya people, intermarried with local races of Myanmar. According to Human Rights Watch the Burmese government has denied citizenship to any Rohingya persons who cannot prove their ancestors settled in the country before 1823, the beginning of British occupation of what is now Rakhine State (also known as Arakan).[2]


Muslims have lived in Myanmar (also known as Burma) since the 11th century AD. The first Muslim documented in Burmese history (recorded in Hmannan Yazawin or Glass Palace Chronicle) was Byat Wi during the reign of Mon, a Thaton King, circa 1050 AD.[3] The two sons of Byat Wi's brother Byat Ta, known as Shwe Byin brothers, were executed as children either because of their Islamic faith, or because they refused forced labour.[4] It was recorded in the Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma that they were no longer trusted.[5] During a time of war, King Kyansittha sent a hunter as a sniper to assassinate him.[6][7]

Pre-modern persecution

The Burmese king Bayinnaung (1550–1581 AD) imposed restrictions upon his Muslim subjects, but not actual persecution.[8] In 1559 AD, after conquering Pegu (present-day Bago), Bayinnaung banned Islamic ritual slaughter, thereby prohibiting Muslims from consuming halal meals of goats and chicken. He also banned Eid al-Adha and Qurbani, regarding killing animals in the name of religion as a cruel custom.[9][10]

In the 17th century, Indian Muslims residing in Arakan were massacred, providing harmful and actual persecution. These Muslims had settled with Shah Shuja, who had fled India after losing the Mughal war of succession. Initially, the Arakan pirate Sandathudama (1652–1687 AD) who was the local pirate of Chittagong and Arakan, allowed Shuja and his followers to settle there. But a dispute arose between Sandatudama and Shuja, and Shuja unsuccessfully attempted to rebel. Sandathudama killed most of Shuja's followers, though Shuja himself escaped the massacre.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

King Alaungpaya (1752–1760) prohibited Muslims from practising the Islamic method of killing cattle.[18]

King Bodawpaya (1782–1819) arrested four prominent Burmese Muslim Imams from Myedu and killed them in Ava, the capital, after they refused to eat pork.[19] According to the Myedu Muslim and Burma Muslim version, Bodawpaya later apologised for the killings and recognised the Imams as saints.[19][20]

Go to link