Rohingya Culture

Introduction

The Rohingya is one of the ingenious ethnic minority group in Arakan (Rakhine) State, Myanmar. Approximately 800,000 to a million of the world’s 3.5 million Rohingya live in Myanmar where they currently face severe institutionalised discrimination and violence in what is framed as a religious conflict between Buddhists and Muslims. Many have settled elsewhere in Southeast Asia, and Australia, Europe, New Zealand, North America, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The large Rohingya refugee communities exist in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand. Many thousands of Rohingya are internally displaced within Burma, where they are persecuted and killed in dreadful condition.

Language

The Rohingya language is part of the Indo-Aryan sub-branch of the greater Indo-European language family and is related to the Chittagonian language spoken in the southernmost part of Bangladesh bordering Myanmar. Rohingya scholars have written the Rohingya language in various scripts including the ArabicHanifiUrdu, Roman, and Burmese alphabets, where Hanifi is a newly developed alphabet derived from Arabic with the addition of four characters from Latin and Burmese. More recently, a Latin alphabet has been developed using all 26 English letters A to Z and two additional Latin letters Ç (for retroflex R) and Ñ (for nasal sound). To accurately represent Rohingya phonology, this alphabet also uses five accented vowels (áéíóú). It has been recognised by ISO with ISO 639-3 “rhg” code.

Religion 

The major religion in the Rohingya community is Islam (97%), but a significant percentage of the population adheres to Hinduism (2%) including Christians (1%).

Culture, Gender and Family 

Rohingya typically have a strong social bond that comes from their Islamic faith; community members work together to support one another such as providing food to families in need and helping the poor.

The majority of Rohingya follow a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam. Traditionally, men pray in congregations and women pray at home. Men typically have beards, and most women wear a hijab and Burka.

Rohingya culture also shares many similarities to other ethnic groups in the region. The clothing worn by most Rohingyas is indistinguishable from those worn by other groups in Myanmar. Men wear bazu (long sleeved shirts) and longgi or doothi (loincloths) covering down to the ankles. Religious scholars prefer wearing kurutha, jubba or panjabi (long tops). In special occasions, Rohingya men sometimes wear taikpon (collarless jackets) on top of their shirts.

Ludifida is a type of flatbread regularly eaten by Rohingyas on religious occasions, while bola fida also a popular traditional snack made of rice noodles. Betel leaves, colloquially known as faan, are also popular amongst Rohingyas.

Nationality

The Burmese Government does not recognise the Rohingya as a “national race” and stripped them of their citizenship rights under the 1982 Citizenship Law, categorising them as “non-nationals” or “foreign residents”. 

Literacy

Due to discrimination and continues persecution the majority of Rohingya people cannot read and write. 

75% of the population are self-identified as illiterate and only 25% of them have opportunities to go to school, college and universities aboard.

Employment

Traditionally, most Rohingya were farmers. Due to discrimination preventing them from access to education, and other human rights. 

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