Suu Kyi, Orban agree on challenge of ‘growing Muslim populations’

Aung San Suu Kyi meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Obran via Hungarian Government Website
Aung San Suu Kyi meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Obran via Hungarian Government Website

Aung San Suu Kyi hasn’t been making a lot of friends in the international community over the past two years, which made it kinda surprising when she found a European leader she appears to be in lockstep with — at least, until you consider who that leader is.

It seems the embattled Nobel laureate has found a new ally in Hungary’s far right, anti-immigrant prime minister, Viktor Orban, bonding with the controversial leader over their shared problems with migration and Muslims in their respective countries.

Yes, you read that right.

Suu Kyi joined hands with Viktor Orban, who once called refugees “Muslim invaders,” to highlight that “one of the greatest challenges” facing their countries is “migration.” Moreover, both leaders puzzled over how to “co-exist” with “continuously growing Muslim populations.” Yikes.

The “Muslim overpopulation” myth, which holds that a rapidly growing Muslim population threatens Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, is a common trope among Buddhist nationalists and has become a rallying cry to justify anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“Aung San Suu Kyi seems more comfortable with Europe’s right-wing populists than the countries which spent years supporting her struggle for democracy while she was under house arrest,” Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign for UK, told Coconuts Yangon.

Farmaner went a step further and suggested that Suu Kyi was relying on the same strategy as former dictator Than Shwe when it came to foreign policy.

“Aung San Suu Kyi is positioning Burma’s foreign policy in pretty much the exact place it was under Than Shwe. Look to countries with bad human rights records for support, and accuse countries which support human rights of interfering. This after she spent 25 years calling on those countries to interfere,” he said.

Perhaps what’s even more baffling is that census data collected by Myanmar’s civilian government actually contradicts the assertion that the Muslim population is growing in Myanmar.

According to the most recent 2014 census, Muslims made up 2.3% of Myanmar’s total population. In 1973, Muslims made up 3.9% of the total population.

It’s telling, however, that even the country’s census seems to have some problems with Muslims, particularly the Rohingya, recognizing their undocumented status yet refusing to refer them by name.

“In Rakhine, an estimated 1.09 million people were not enumerated in the Census because they were not allowed to self-identify using a name not recognized by the Government. It is assumed that the non-enumerated population in Rakhine is mainly affiliated with the Islamic faith,” the report explained.

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