The downtrodden people say only Aung San Suu Kyi can deliver them from hell Among Myanmar's oppressed religious and ethnic minorities, Muslims are the worst off under the military junta, say diplomats and analysts in Yangon. There are about eight million Muslims in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, whose population is estimated at 50 million. A senior Islamic leader said Muslims were subjected to the worst discrimination, including mass rape, slavery, arbitrary confiscation of land, travel restrictions and systematic exclusion from government jobs. He also accused the regime of instigating extremist Buddhists to target Muslim women and children. He charged government agencies with aiding and abetting widespread killings of Muslims and destruction of Muslim homes, businesses and mosques. 'Our only hope is a civilian administration headed by the National League for Democracy's Aung San Suu Kyi. She is fully aware of our plight. Only she can deliver us from the hell we are living in', the senior leader said. 'Muslims across Myanmar pray five times daily to God that Ms Suu Kyi somehow comes to power.'' Ms Suu Kyi, 57, is a practising Theravada Buddhist but is widely regarded as a champion of embattled Muslims and Christians. Analysts said there were many Muslims in her inner circle. A western diplomat said the junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), deliberately projected Muslims as hate objects to divide the population and divert attention from a mismanaged economy and misrule. Myanmar authorities regularly refuse to register Muslims as citizens to deny them jobs, employment, the right to go to court and to get passports. The Muslim community leader appealed to Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Bangladesh - Muslim-majority countries that have good political and trade relations with Myanmar - to exert pressure on the junta, particularly leader General Than Shwe, to stop frequent attacks on Muslims and restore religious freedoms. Last year, US-based human rights groups urged the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar, Razali Ismail, to take up the persecution of Muslims with the military government. A diplomat said Mr Ismail raised it but the junta denied the accusation. The US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for last year slammed the junta for 'widespread prejudice against Muslims and a sharp increase in anti-Muslim violence'. In the 1990s, the army launched several campaigns to force Muslims out of Myanmar, resulting in exodus of tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh. The senior Muslim leader said that even today, Muslim students interested in pursuing higher studies in universities were asked to shave their beards and eat pork as a pre-condition for admission or state scholarships.