News / Asia

Burma Objects to Time Magazine Criticism

Controversial Buddhist monk Wirathu, foreground, June 14, 2013.
Controversial Buddhist monk Wirathu, foreground, June 14, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
Burma's government is objecting to a Time Magazine article critical of an extremist monk who has been attacking Islam.  Authorities deny they are defending the monk, U Wirathu, but said they are concerned the article could create problems after recent unrest between Buddhists and Muslims. 

Burma's government says the magazine's Asia edition for July is misrepresenting Buddhism in the country. The news magazine's cover story features a photograph of extremist monk U Wi Sate Ta, better known as U Wirathu, with the words "The Face of Buddhist Terror."

The monk has become well known for giving fiery speeches branding Islam as a threat to Burma and for urging a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses.  

The Office of Burma's President issued a statement late Sunday condemning the article.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said they are not defending U Wirathu's views on Islam, but are objecting to the article linking Buddhism with terror.  

"Also, in some parts of the article, it creates the misunderstanding on Buddhism and also it will create unnecessary attention in our country between the two communities.  So that is what we would like to point [out]," Ye Htut stated. "And that is what we are objecting [to].  We are not defending U Wirathu or his speech."

But U Wirathu said the Time Magazine article is not against Buddhism, just against him.  In an interview with the Irrawaddy Magazine he also alleges Muslim extremists are behind the article and planning to wage jihad, or holy war, against Burma.

Since 2001, U Wirathu has warned against Muslims taking over Burma, despite the country's population being 90 percent Buddhist.

Muslims make up less than five percent of the country while Christians and Animists account for the rest.

The radical monk was jailed in 2003 for inciting deadly anti-Muslim riots, but released in 2012 as part of a general amnesty.

He quickly re-launched a campaign called "969," a number that references Buddhist beliefs to boycott Muslim businesses.  Critics say the 969 campaign is being used by Buddhist extremists as justification for violence against Muslims, a charge the monk denies.

Deadly clashes in the past year between Buddhists and Muslims have left more than 200 people dead, the vast majority Muslims.  In the most recent unrest in central Burma, 969 was found written on destroyed Muslim property, including burned mosques.

Spokesman Ye Htut said some Buddhists may be using 969 inappropriately, but authorities will not act against U Wirathu for hate speech.  He said if there are complaints about the monk then the religious association, the Sangha Maha Nayaka, should review his speech.

"But, up to now we did not receive any official complaint to the Sangha Maha Nayaka by - any individual or any organization.  Because the Sangha Maha Nayaka is the organization who review the speech or sermon made by the monks," said Ye Htut.

Burma's Buddhist leaders have been reluctant to speak out against U Wirathu or defend the country's Muslim minority.  

Even opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a staunch defender of human rights, has taken heavy criticism for avoiding the issue.

Political analysts said they see little to gain from defending the religious minority and would risk losing support from the country's vast majority.

An online campaign launched by a Burmese citizen is trying to collect 50,000 signatures to petition Time Magazine to change the July cover.  By Monday afternoon it had reached more than 45,000.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Nashwan from: Yemen
July 09, 2013 9:55 AM
why the world is silent while Muslims are killed everyday in their own homeland . when something happens don't blame extremists for what they do to rescue their brothers in Islam .

by: Anonymous
June 26, 2013 8:19 AM
“Unexceptional heading published by Time Magazine” “The face of Buddhist Terror” ?. The face of that particular Buddhist monk would be more exceptional by Buddhist followers. The foundation of Buddhist was build on love and respect for any beings including nature. The militant monks are fueling anti-Muslim violence in Asia, are opposed to Buddha’s teaching. Time Magazine is creating terrifying panic among Muslim and Buddhist followers around the world. This gimmick is only to aimed at an increase in the sale of Time Magazine.

by: DINGS from: INDIA
June 24, 2013 2:44 PM
Truly speaking, both of these ......., should be banned, and people should not be allowed to follow these ......, as they don't have their own origins and just teach hatred.

by: minmachen from: jaigaon
June 24, 2013 12:46 PM
Whole concept of the Buddhism is at its worst crisis if whats happening in Burma is accepted .But here we shouldn't forget that its more a way of sympathy toward life than religion .Its pith of morality ,a very simple truth ,not then nor now ever realized . Other all religions' life-line drawn on each other's suppression through more hatred than love .The Buddhism being odd than theirs had had to bear the maximum brunt to keep its hearth burning .And it was mercilessly thrashed wherever it had been at its pinnacle by none other than the Islamist .Once so rife and rich philosophy of life is now at its pathetic existence .The irony is that it's not them but its worst tormentor has the effrontery to seek justice for its causes .

by: TSO
June 24, 2013 10:17 AM
I don't think it was Time's article which misrepresented Buddhism but the Buddhist extremists like Wirathu who are actually misrepresenting the true peaceful nature of Buddhism.

Majority of Buddhists are peaceful-minded but the voices of Buddhist extremists are louder than the peaceful ones and it is very shameful. Unfortunately, the essence of a religion can only be reflected by the behaviours of its followers.
In Response

by: Ajay from: Fremont,CA,USA
June 24, 2013 1:04 PM
Muslims are can't live in peace with other religion. Not the monks, because christians and other minorities have no problem.
In Response

by: Wur from: India
June 24, 2013 12:54 PM
Its is so strange to see the double face of the world. If this would have been done my Taliban or any other muslim extremist group, then everyone would have said 'Muslims are Terrorists', and when the same thing is done my a different faith person, suddenly everything is changed and people are coming up with the comments that it is a personal act.

If this is not double standards then what should we call this?

On the other side, Burmese govt. is not even bothered to say anything about the killing of muslim faith people in the country, but they are defending there monks in a very diplomatic way, by saying we are not defending anyone's ideas, and on the other side they are not even condemning the views.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More