On 26th May 2017, on the eve of Ramadan, Human Rights Watch reported that two Islamic schools, or madrassas, were chained shut in the Thaketa Township in Rangoon after a Buddhist ultranationalist mob pressured authorities to close them. The schools have not been allowed to reopen and some fear they will suffer the fate of other madrassas shut by the authorities, and stay closed.
This is just a small fraction of the pressure facing the Muslim community in Burma, but it is felt acutely. As Muslim minority communities increase, they have fewer places to pray. The Burmese population is 90 percent Buddhist, with the percentage of Muslims estimated to be in the lower single digits.
Although Buddhist ultranationalists have, in the past, pressured madrassas not to allow people in for prayers, Muslims in Thaketa Township told me that for several years they’ve received permission to pray there during Ramadan. Now they have no such option and are faced with crowded mosques – the closest is a 30-minute walk away – and staggered prayer sessions.