Rohingya grass-cutter harassed over Islamic knowledge as online xenophobia spills over

The Rohingya grass-cutter being forced to answer questions from a stranger in this screenshot of a video shared on Facebook.

PETALING JAYA: A Rohingya man found himself harassed by a local who, abusing him verbally, demanded “proof” of his Islamic faith in an example of xenophobic attacks against the minority spilling over from the online world.

A video uploaded by Facebook user Mohd Zakki also shows the Rohingya, a grass-cutter on his way to work, being scorned by the local for breaching the movement control order (MCO).

“Look at his insolence,” the man is heard saying as he pans the camera over to the Rohingya’s grass-cutting tools.

“We Malaysians stay at home during the MCO; this man goes places,” he says.

He then holds out a United Nations Human Rights Commissioner (UNHCR) identification card issued to the Rohingya man.

“He thinks this is big? No way,” he says.

The video surfaced amid a spike in xenophobic comments aimed at the Rohingya in recent weeks, with religious leaders and rights activists appealing for calm.

The wave was triggered in part by a report falsely claiming that Rohingya refugees in Malaysia are demanding citizenship. It followed the authorities’ controversial move to push back boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar.

There are currently some 200,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. The government has accommodated them on humanitarian grounds, but refuses to recognise them as refugees, forcing many to work illegally and beg on the streets.

In the four-minute video posted on Facebook early today, the local shouted at the Rohingya for failing to understand a request to recite the Islamic declaration of faith to prove that he was a practising Muslim.

“If you are Muslim, recite the shahada, recite it now,” the man was heard saying in Malay as the Rohingya struggled to understand.

“I understand only a bit of Malay,” the refugee responded in broken Malay.

However, the man continued his line of questioning, asking the Rohingya if he performed the five daily prayers and telling him to name each one.

After struggling to understand the question, the Rohingya successfully named all five Islamic prayers. He also recited the shahada interspersed with verses in the Rohingya language.

Appearing unsatisfied, however, the local then asked him for the number of units (rakaat) of each prayer.

He also asked him to recite the Fatihah, the first chapter of the Quran.

FMT has been unable to verify the identity of the local man, who is believed to have recorded the video himself.

His actions drew criticism from Facebook users, many of whom said they were un-Islamic.

“This (person) is crazy for publicity. Islam doesn’t teach people to be rude,” said Rizal Jan.

But there were also comments attacking the Rohingya.

“Just kick him and see what happens, burn his motorcycle, then he’ll know,” wrote Reduan Ibrahim.

FMT is attempting to get a response from the UNHCR representative in Malaysia.

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