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Thursday, 10 May 2018 16:18

Muslims jailed for 3 months for street prayers

Authorities have sentenced seven Muslim men to three months in jail for organising prayers in the street in Tharkayta Township, in Yangon, Myanmar.

The events in question took place nearly one year ago and the sentence was based on the Ward and village Tract Administration Law, which prohibits unauthorized public gatherings, though legal authorities have argued there is a clear exemption for religious events.

The Tharkayta Township court ruled against the seven men on April 30th, 2018 following a trial against the men for organising a street prayer event on Ahnawmar 13 Street in Ward Number 1 in Tharkayta Townhip. The men were praying in the street following the sealing off of two Islamic schools on Ahnawmar 11 and 12 Streets in Tharkayta on April 28th of 2017, following protests and pressure from Buddhist ultra-nationalists groups.

After the closure of the schools, Muslims living inside of the ward requested formal permission to use the schools to host prayers for a month, to accommodate local Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. These requests were rejected by the head of the District General Administration. Following this denial, a group of 50 Muslims gathered on 31st March 2017 to break their fasts and hold a group prayer. The following day the ward administrator filed a suit against the organiser of the event, Ko Moe Zaw, claiming he breached section 21 of the Ward and village Tract Administration Law. He was charged under section 26 of the law. Two other trustees of the 12th Street Mosque were also charged. Then on July 15th of last year, an additional six people who participated in the prayers event were charged under section 26 of the law.

Tharkayta Township is home to 50, 000 Muslims, and has 8 Madrassahs. Two have been sealed shut by authorities since last year and the other six are only allowed to be used as schools for children. Muslims in this area are denied a proper place to pray or worship freely and are prohibited from building any new religious buildings - a fundamental human right.

Burma Human Rights Network's Executive Director, Kyaw Win said, "This case and the events which led to it all demonstrate a societal and systemic bias against Muslims and minorities inside of Burma. These men were denied a place to worship by the authorities intentionally trying to prohibit their religious freedoms. When some men took it upon themselves to continue practicing their religion outside in the rain because they were not permitted a place to worship, they were punished for this as well. It is hard to imagine any intention the authorities might have other than to make religious freedom nearly impossible for Muslims."

Darul Ihsan Media Desk

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