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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs