Myanmar's increasingly marginalised Muslims seek equal rights and security from upcoming elections. Masako Iijima reports.
Every Friday, these men gather at the Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque in central Yangon to pray. It's a tradition that goes back to British colonial times. But the descendants of the Muslims who built the mosque are now feeling increasingly marginalised. There are only a handful of Muslim candidates among the 6,000 hoping for a seat in parliament. Many have been disqualified in a selection process one monitoring group says lacked credibility. Rohingyas are barred from voting and have no contenders, even though their plight is a hot topic in the polls. (SOUNDBITE) IMAM OF BENGALI SUNNI MOSQUE, MUFTI JAARAR SAYING: "At the moment, I don't see any good signs for the future of Islam because I've seen that the Muslims are losing their rights now. What I hope from the new government is that they give equal rights - rights that all religions are entitled to whether they are Muslim, Christian or Hindu." Khin Maung Thein is one of few Muslims in the fray, He doesn't campaign much because his party doesn't have money -- and besides, those who will vote for him are mostly family and friends. (SOUNDBITE)(Burmese) MUSLIM CANDIDATE KHIN MAUNG THEIN, SAYING: "Political and non-political organizations are trying to create a democratic country. The coming November elections will be really interesting and it needs to be fair and balanced. If not, we will be in trouble for another 50 years," After the end of military rule in 2011, anti-Muslim sentiment flared across Myanmar, resulting in violence. Hundreds have been killed and more than 100,000 mainly Rohingya have been displaced in western Rakhine State due to fighting between Muslims and Buddhists. Myanmar watchers warn that the upcoming polls could reignite sectarian conflict.