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Book Review

The Rohingyas: A short account of their history and culture

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29th-Sep-2017       
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by Dr Abdul Karim :
People are eagerful to know the real history of the Rohingyas and Arakan. To gather knowledge about the land and the people a renowned historian, researcher, former Vice-Chancellor of Chittagong University, Dr. Abdul Karim's book titled The Rohingyas : A short account of their history and culture is a wonderful, excellent informative one and an authentic history for Bengali researchers.
It is a comprehensive study covering the origin of the Rohingyas, their glorious history, heritage, society, tradition, and culture as well as relations between Arakan and Bangladesh. The Burmese former ruling junta and so-called democratic present government claim that historically there are no names like Rohang or Roshang or Rohingya in Myanmar (formerly Burma). But the author of the book unearthed that the old name of Arakan is Rohang and the Rohingyas have got a history, a language, a heritage, a culture, and a tradition of their own that they had built up in Arakan by their long and historic settlements. In fact, they  have been setling in Arakan for more than a thousand years. Moreover, the history and writings of the greatest poet Alaol and Daulat Qazi note that Rohingya Muslims have contributed a lot in the economic development of Myanmar in the mediaeval age and in the history of education and literature. Burma (now Myanmar) became familiar all over the world in the mediaeval period because of Muslim traders, travelers and Bengali poets.  
The second edition of the book has been published from Jatiya Sahitya Prakash in February, 2016 and the first edition was published from Arakan Historical Society, Chittagong in June 2006. Cover design and publisher's notes are different. The first edition consists of 134 pages while the second edition consists of 112 pages. In the second edition, some important maps of Arakan and Myanmar have been excluded.
In the second edition, publisher says, "The Rohingyas : A short account of their history and culture, written by Professor Dr. Abdul Karim, discloses long historical facts and realities of the Rohingyas in a dispassionate attitude and proves that the Rohingyas are not the outsiders; they are the legitimate citizens of Myanmar and they should be returned to their own country and to live there peacefully. The writer has also drawn attention to the International Community, especially to the UNO to solve this illegitimate and man-made disaster."  
Excluding 'Preface', 'Bibliography', 'References' and 'Index', the book has six chapters: Introduction, Coming of the Muslims into Arakan, Muslim Ministers and other Officers in Arakan, Muslim Poets of Arakan, Rohingya Muslims of Arakan, and Conclusion.
Very first chapter portrays the geographical introduction of Arakan and Myanmar from historical perspective.
Then the writer mentions the number of population in Arakan. He claims that the estimated population is 40 lakh excluding about 1.5 million of the Rohingya Muslims who had been expelled from Arakan since 1943. At present inside Arakan, the Buddhists and the Muslims stand at almost in equal proportion, i.e. 20 lakh are Buddhists, 18 lakh are Muslims and 2 lakh are Animists, Hindus and Christians.
Then the writer says : In the 17th century Arakan reached its pinnacle of glory through the contribution of Muslim poets, Muslim learned men, saints and administrators.
The writer analyses why Rohingya Muslims are victims of mass killing.
In the final chapter, Dr. Abdul Karim concludes focusing on the role of national and internal organizations. He claims if they paid their attention, the problem could be solved easily what became possible in 1978.
The publisher has done a great task publishing the translation of the book in Bangla in the same year. It has been translated by distinguished poet, essayist, editor and translator Mustafa Masud. His translation reflects the original. We hope this English Book of the famous historian Dr Abdul Karim and its Bengali translation by eminent writer; translator Mustafa Masud will be authentic source of information about the Rohingya victims of genocide.
We expect wide circulation of the book.

Reviewer: Mohammad Jashim Uddin
(The reviewer is Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Northern University Bangladesh)

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