Your home is raided, belongings burned and family dragged away from in front of you. You stare into the eyes of army men, circling you. You are stateless and now unaware of what will happen next.
You are a Rohingya Muslim.
Earlier this week, Al Jazeera released a video of Rohingya women admitting to being raped by members of the Myanmar army. Shrouded in traditional clothing and standing underneath huts instead of homes, they related stories of being raped, sometimes while held at gunpoint and after their homes were burned and raided at others. “They raped my daughter and killed her. The seven military [men] also tried to rape me,” a woman says to the reporter. “I don’t know how I was saved from them. Only God knows.” Other women report bleeding.
The Rohingya Muslims are among the most persecuted minorities in the world; this is a fact. That most of the world has either forgotten, tossed aside or minimized the lives of the entire ethnic group is yet another sobering realization.
You stare into the eyes of army men, circling you. You are stateless and now unaware of what will happen next.
A United Nations official stated last Friday that Myanmar is carrying out an “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims. John McKissick, chair of the UN refugee agency in the Bangladeshi border town to where many Rohingya Muslims flee, said the Myanmar troops were “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses.”
Yet, Al-Jazeera is the only news agency covering the developing story, while the rest of American media remains hauntingly silent.
I waited for days for major news notifications to chime on my cell phone—for it to finally report that nearly 30,000 Rohingya Muslims have been displaced without anywhere to go. That Bangladesh and other countries are barring refugees from entering and instead encouraging the Myanmar to contain the ethnic community.
Why isn’t America, otherwise known for its savior complex, attuned to their suffering?
The failure of the media to report the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of people is part of a greater shift in which Muslims are only considered newsworthy in the context of their perpetrating terrorism. This is the news that sells; this is the news that is sensationalized. Muslims, when victims, are not afforded headlines or airtime out of danger of either one or both reasons: they garner unwanted sympathy for an already vilified group commonly capitalized upon or they fail to appeal to readers and their interests. Had any other religious group been officially declared as being “ethnically cleansed,” every major news outlet would be scrambling to crunch their keyboards.
The failure of the media to report the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of people is part of a greater shift in which Muslims are only considered newsworthy in the context of their perpetrating terrorism.
The Rohingya are not the only group of Muslims to be overlooked by the media. The armed conflict in Yemen that has plagued the Muslim-majority country since 2015, and has killed approximately 400, flared when Yemeni civilians and humanitarian workers were killed in multiple U.S. bombings carried out on a hospital site. While the grief-stricken world was holding vigils for the deceased following the 2015 Paris attacks, the simultaneous bombings in Beirut trailed behind only as an afterthought. Muslims in Kashmir have been suffering since the partition in 1947, but a recent escalation in violence has left the conflicted zone between India and Pakistan even more perilous than before. The death toll of Kashmiri civilians is on the rise as gunfire and tear gas ravage the region.
These groups are not the first and will certainly not be the last Muslims to be swept under the rug. What used to be the media’s role as watchdog is quickly eroding into a hodgepodge of bias and capitalist tendencies meant to serve a tilted readership. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of persecuted civilians hope to make their way into the hearts and minds of those who have the power to save their lives and wait for their turn to make the headlines as they are replaced instead by “Flamingo Mating Rules” and “Here’s Your First Look At ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7.”