The Rise of Radical Buddhist Monks in Myanmar

In June 2013, Times Magazine’s cover story’s title was “The Face of Buddhist Terror” and it also published a cover photo of “Ashin Wirathu“. Wirathu, a Buddhist Monk and Spiritual Leader in Myanmar is also known for his “Anti-Muslim” affiliation. The 969 Movement is the outcome of his “Anti-Muslim” doctrine. No wonder, his large followers are highly pumped up by his Nationalist agenda that encourages racial discriminatory attitude towards the minority Muslim population in Myanmar. This self proclaimed “Burmese Bin Laden” was sentenced to 25 years in prison back in 2003 for his Anti-Muslim sermon.

Ashin Wirathu On Time MagazineAshin Wirathu on Time Magazine. © AFP/Christophe Archambault.

While referring to the Muslims, he often called them as “Mad Dog” or “Snakes” and encourages Buddhists people not to trade or to get into Inter-Religious marriage with Muslims.

The history of Muslim population in Myanmar dates back to 16th century. However, the number of Muslim minority in the country grew largely during British period as people of British Raj could have moved between these countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma etc.) without any legal issues. As the British leaves the greater Indian Sub Continent after the WWII, Myanmar finally gets it’s independence in 1948. In the early 60’s, Burmese military takes over the power of the country after a successful military Coup under the direct supervision of Ne Win. In 1982, Ne Win’s Military Government enacts Burmese Nationality Law which does not recognize the Rohingya people as one of the ethnic group to be their Citizen. Such denial from the state left many Rohingya as “Stateless” people which ultimately led them to flee from Myanmar and to seek asylum in neighboring countries like Bangladesh, India and others.

Since Myanmar’s Independence, number of Incidents took place against the minority Muslims which is well documented in many different sources (see below). Even Wikipedia has a fair amount of information to reveal what exactly has happened in the past and how the prosecutions took and are still taking place in the country. Surprising enough, “Peaceful” Buddhists Monks are also taking active role on this ethnic cleansing operation. This is not to say that all Monks are like them but definitely it indicates the rise of “Buddhist Extremist” in Myanmar. Would it be right to call them “Buddhist Terrorist”? It’s your call.

Myanmar is predominantly a Buddhist country. However, a sizable number of Muslim minority group lives along with others in the Rakhine state. The notion of Buddhist people of being “Peaceful” is pretty well known to many of us. Even though I personally think “Peaceful” people don’t need to have any religious identity, they can be anywhere and everywhere, with or without any religious affiliation. In recent years (2012 & 2013) riot and mass killing of Muslim people took place in Myanmar that does not reflect such attribute to be the ethics of majority Buddhist population of the country. Especially in Post Independence era, the “Anti-Islam” sentiment grew couple of fold in Myanmar.

For years, I personally had a soft corner in my heart for Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese politician who struggled to bring Democracy in Burma and awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Surprisingly, she never took any serious stand for her fellow country Men and Women who happens to be Muslim. Like those of Radical Monks she also questions the citizenship of Rohingya Muslim population despite the fact that these people are part of their country for many years. It is nothing but utter disgust for me to see that a person of her caliber is taking such an stand towards the minority population.

The overwhelming evidences of Buddhist’s atrocities on minority Muslims are pretty well documented. You can find number of videos on YouTube. Remember that some of these videos are pretty graphic.

Some resources to better understand the Rohingya Issue of Burma.

I can go on an on with such evidences and resources. If you want to know more, feel free to take Google’s help. There’s enough material to write a genocide book on this topic.

The Rohingya Muslim issue is not new, yet the Worlds’ leading nations and the UN remained pretty much inactive and nothing really has been done at a serious scale to resolve this issue. These stateless people needs their identity as a citizen of a Nation to live with honor and dignity.

Personally, I am against any kind “Religious Fanaticism”. The ideological differences between the different Religious groups was there and it is almost certain that it will be there until the end. Which I think is absolutely alright but the violence that comes along with this as a by-product is something that needs to be taken seriously, it should be addressed and condemned, Period.

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