From Myanmar To Sinai, Dangers Of A Single Word

Catholic nuns await the arrival of Pope Francis in Rangoon
Catholic nuns await the arrival of Pope Francis in Rangoon

Rohingya. Outside of Myanmar, it's a simple word, though not necessarily easy to pronounce. Largely unknown until recently, its utterance now unmistakably evokes persecution, humanitarian tragedy, and what the UN said was "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" at the hands of government authorities and local militias. But inside the Buddhist-majority country, it's a politically-charged term, the simple mention of which can have devastating consequences.

"Rohingya" refers to the Rakhine (or Arakan) State of Myanmar where they've been living for several generations. Government authorities and the military use instead the word "Bengalis', which clearly suggests that the members of this Muslim community, who were stripped of their Burmese citizenship in 1982, are immigrants. For many Buddhists in Myanmar, the Rohingya are nothing but foreign terrorists.

Pope Francis landed Monday into this linguistic minefield, momentarily steering attention to another religious minority, his own Christian flock, who have also been the victim of persecution in the past in Myanmar.

The pontiff is sure to speak about the plight of religious minorities, with special emphasis on the Muslims forced to flee in droves over the past two months. But what will he call them? "The situation," as The New York Times astutely summed up is "a no-win scenario even for a political operator as deft as he is." By saying the word, he risks putting the lives of the 700,000 Roman Catholics living in Myanmar at risk of retaliation from the military or militias. If he doesn't say it, his moral credibility could suffer.

La Stampa"s Vatican correspondent Andrea Tornielli noted ahead of the trip that the Pope went off-script on his visit to Armenia when he used the word "genocide" to describe the events of 1915, which angered the Turkish government. "Still, it seems that the favored approach is to speak in a very clear way in front of the country's leaders about minority rights without using the word ‘Rohingya,"" Tornielli writes.

There is another word making headlines over the weekend for its potential life-or-death implications: "Mushrikin." It means polytheists in Arabic, and it's one that ISIS has been using repeatedly against Sufi Muslims who, according to the Salafi school of thought ISIS gets its inspiration from, aren't even Muslims. The fact that Sufis also venerate saints is enough for the terrorist group to label them as heretics and therefore kill them. Though the organization hasn't claimed responsibility yet for the deaths of at least 305 people in Friday's bombing of a mosque in the North Sinai, everything indicates that it was the work of ISIS and of its determination to purge the Sinai, and the Muslim world, from "infidels'.

With the same ISIS eager to turn the plight of the Rohingya into a rallying cry for a "holy war", the crisis in Myanmar is a worrying matter that needs to be addressed urgently and appropriately. It all begins with finding the right words.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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