Rohingya activist calls magazine cartoon “insulting” and “dangerous”

Prominent Rohingya Muslim activist Wai Wai Nu has slammed a cartoon published in the Burmese edition of local magazine the Irrawaddy, describing it as “insulting” and “dangerous.”

Her take was in tune with other reactions swirling around social media today.

The cartoon, by Maung Maung Fountain, shows a dark-skinned and half-naked individual with the sign “boat people” on his back climbing over a railing and cutting in front of people from Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups.

The implication, it seems, is that Myanmar’s “boat people” (read: stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State) are demanding their rights under Aung San Suu Kyi’s new government before ethnic minorities get theirs.

Wai Wai Nu said in an interview today that the depiction could create more anger between religious communities.

“It’s like boat people are coming into the place of ethnic people. It’s a bad image and this depiction is wrong. Because boat people are just going out of the country, they are not coming in. It’s insulting and it can be dangerous because it is giving the wrong message to people,” she said. “The government should handle the issue of discriminating against Muslims in cartoons and movies. It can initiate conflicts.”

She accused the Irrawaddy’s Burmese edition of taking a different approach to the topic than its English version by referring to Rohingya Muslims as “Bengali.” The term implies that they are not citizens and are from Bangladesh. The new US ambassador to Myanmar has been asked by Suu Kyi’s foreign ministry to not use “Rohingya.”

“We need to question the Irrawaddy’s editorial team about why they published this cartoon,” Wai Wai Nu continued. “We need to question the editors.”

The cartoonist declined to comment. Two editors from the Burmese edition of the magazine did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Wai Wai Nu was far from the only person to react angrily to the cartoon, with much of the emotion spilling out on social media.

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