Rohingya Muslims in Malaysia: Finding (Imperfect) Heaven in Polymedia

  • Eva F Nisa Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Abstract

The condition of Rohingya Muslims, who for decades have faced a humanitarian crisis, especially in their homeland of Rakhine State, Myanmar, has attracted international attention and sympathy. This article focuses on Rohingya Muslims living in a transit country, Malaysia. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Malaysia between 2015 and 2017, this article examines the efforts of Rohingya Muslims to reestablish familial bonds with relatives with whom they had lost touch as a result of a series of crises. The article analyses the role of polymedia in the life of Rohingya Muslims, particularly the impact of polymedia among youth and activists who centre their efforts on Rohingya Muslims. The article expands on the available work regarding the use of communication technologies in times of crisis by focusing on the ways in which young Rohingya Muslims use communication technologies to amplify their voices and establish a connected presence in their distributed and disrupted family lives. By claiming their place in a polymedia-rich environment, young Rohingya Muslims have found a “virtual heaven”—albeit an imperfect one—by embracing the freedom to use their voices through a wide variety of communication technologies. Living in their country of asylum, Malaysia, they can play a significant role as bridging agents who both raise awareness of the plight of Rohingya in Myanmar and work together with those living in resettlement countries to solve the complex problems arising from persecution, displacement, and statelessness.

Published
2019-06-07