Asia

In pictures: The Muslims of Yangon

Thwarhairah poses for a portrait in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, November 14, 2015. For fifteen years Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption Thwarhairah has run a betel nut stand on a primarily Muslim street, which she took over from her parents. She said she was quite happy on election day, and went to vote in the rural town of Dala, across the Yangon river, where her family is originally from

As the National League for Democracy (NLD) prepares to take power in Myanmar the future for Muslims in the country is unclear.

In recent years, the treatment of Muslims in Myanmar has been in the spotlight with outbreaks of deadly violence and the plight of ethnic Rohingya who are denied citizenship.

Neither of the main parties fielded any Muslim candidates in the 8 November poll, and in the months before the election, officials confirmed that hundreds of thousands of Muslims had been left off voter registration lists.

Photographer Andre Malerba met two people in a Muslim area of Yangon, to find out if they think life will improve under Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD.

Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption Thwarhairah says downtown Yangon is primarily safe for Muslims. In some areas, however, some Muslims may be asked to remove their burqas, and children have to be careful on their way to school. "As Muslims, we are worried about being Muslim," she says
Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption She does not think that there will be too much change for Muslims under the leadership of the NLD. She says, "they (NLD) are not Muslim, they are Buddhist, and they will say anything to get votes"
Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption She relates that one time a Buddhist monk came to her shop and made lewd comments towards her after asking for bettel nut. She did not dare to say anything or tell him to leave for fear of retribution
Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption Thwarhairah says that she is sad that there are no Muslim members of parliament because Muslims are not being given a chance. She only hopes that they will be given equal representation
Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption Farooq has assumed the duty of muezzin for approximately 20 years, dutifully leading the call to prayer five times every day, a very important position in Muslim communities
Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption On voting day, Farooq relates that he had no problems at all. He says that he has never experienced any direct persecution where he lives on a primarily Muslim street. However, he admits that he can't be sure of what would happen if he were to travel
Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption He related that he has heard of religious persecution towards Muslims, but was reluctant to confirm specific examples or to say whether he believed any of it. Of the various known examples he says, "I was not there so I cannot say one way or another"
Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption He thinks religious tolerance is getting neither better nor worse, simply staying the same
Image copyright Andre Malerba
Image caption He says it doesn't matter so much whether there is a Muslim member of parliament, only that the change comes. He believes that the NLD will help to bring change

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