Myanmar Muslims face brutality: Top 5 news stories

For Myanmar Muslim Minority, No Escape From BrutalityCrisis stirs old fears for Ukraine’s JewsThe Woman Who Saved Syria’s JewsDenominations Downsizing and Selling Assets in More Secular EraMuslim Couple Sue Empire State Building Over Discrimination

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

Photo by Flickr user Adam_Jones

For Myanmar Muslim Minority, No Escape From Brutality

Violence by the Rakhine ethnic group, driven by an extreme Buddhist ideology, has led tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee in the last 18 months through smuggling rings that pledge to take them to Malaysia, a Muslim country that quietly accepts the desperate newcomers.

Thailand is the way station where the Rohingya, denied citizenship in Myanmar by national law, arrive on fishing boats converted to human cargo vessels. If they have money to pay unscrupulous brokers, they leave quickly for neighboring Malaysia.

But those who cannot afford to pay languish in smugglers’ camps hidden in the jungle across southern Thailand, or in the abysmal detention cells of the Thai immigration authorities.

“People are afraid of the Russian tanks. If they get into [the border regions of] Donetsk and Lugansk, why not come here,” asked Shmuel Kaminetzky, the chief rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk.

Crisis stirs old fears for Ukraine’s Jews

The foreboding mood was palpable Friday at the Jewish center of this rambling city of 1 million bisected by the mighty Dnieper River. A gleaming 22-story complex serves as a sprawling beacon of the Jewish revival. It combines a synagogue, a luxury hotel, shops, two convention halls, kosher restaurants, and art exhibits.

Zelig Brez, executive director of the Jewish Community of Dnepropetrovsk, walked past a display in the Ukrainian city’s Holocaust Museum on Friday.

Some people at the center said they were considering leaving for good.

The Woman Who Saved Syria’s Jews

In Syria’s three-year war, which is becoming more sectarian by the day, much has been made of the fate of the country’s minorities. Christians, Druze and Kurds in the country have enjoyed more column inches dedicated to their plight over the last three years than ever before. But one Syrian minority is almost never spoken of—the Syrian Jews.

“If they were there now, what would have happened? I know what would have happened. It would have been the slaughter of the Syrian Jewish community, that is for sure,” says Judy Feld Carr matter-of-factly. Delving into why this slaughter never happened uncovers a story of spy-craft, subterfuge and tightly-kept secrets.

Denominations Downsizing and Selling Assets in More Secular Era

The American Unitarian Association, peopled and powered by this city’s Brahmin elite, announced its presence here in 1886 with a grand and stately headquarters at the very top of Beacon Hill, right next door to the Statehouse.

If anyone doubted the denomination’s might, its next move made it clear: In 1927, strapped for space, the Unitarians finished building a new home next to the capitol on the other side, even persuading the legislature to change the street’s numbering so they could take their address with them.

But the Unitarian Universalist Association, as the denomination is now known, is selling its headquarters building, as well as two grand homes and an office building it owns in the same neighborhood.

Muslim Couple Sue Empire State Building Over Discrimination

Amina and Fahad Tirmizi, a Muslim couple from Long Island, are suing the Empire State Building for $5 million over what appears to be a case of religious discrimination.

According the lawsuit obtained by The Huffington Post, the Tirmizis say their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when they were “assaulted, battered and forcibly removed” from the building’s observation deck on July 2, 2013 as they peacefully recited evening prayers.