News / Asia

Burma's Buddhist Extremists Criticized for Spreading Hatred

A mosque burns in Meikhtila, Burma on March 21, 2013.
A mosque burns in Meikhtila, Burma on March 21, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
Extremist Buddhist monks in Burma are under increasing criticism for failing to uphold their religious ideals of non-violence and spreading hatred and fear of Muslim minorities.  The Burmese campaigns are drawing the attention of Buddhist leaders abroad, including the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.  

Burma is about 90 percent Buddhist and 4 percent Muslim.  Christianity makes up another 5 percent of the population.  
 
But radical Buddhist monk U Wi Sate Ta, better known as U Wirathu, would have everyone believe that Muslims are a threat to Burma and Buddhism.  
 
In a phone interview with VOA, he claims the Muslim community is rapidly growing through illegal immigration and forcible conversions of Buddhists.
 
“Muslims are never willing to work for the benefit of other ethnic people," he said. "If Muslims keep getting stronger, and one becomes president, our country's religion will be destroyed like in India. We are worried about it.”
 
Since 2001, U Wirathu has warned against this imaginary Muslim take-over with his "969" campaign, which references Buddhist beliefs.  He was jailed in 2003 for inciting deadly anti-Muslim riots, but then released in 2012 as part of a general amnesty.
 
He quickly revived the 969 campaign after last year’s clashes pitting Buddhists against Muslims in western Rakhine state that killed 200 and displace 120,000.
 
Rights activists say monks, along with security and officials, fomented ethnic cleansing in Rakhine, a charge they deny. The unrest has since spread to central Burma where Buddhist mobs attacked Muslims, resulting in 44 deaths, including children.
 
Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama Tuesday spoke out against Buddhist-led violence in Burma.  He told students at the University of Maryland it was very sad and he prayed for those with negative views of Muslims to think of the Buddha.
 
"Respect all religions and also respect non-believers, and no preference, this religion, that religion, but rather respect all religions and also include non-believer," he said.
 
The Dalai Lama, while respected internationally, heads the Tibetan school of Buddhism which has no authority over Burma's separate Theravada branch of Buddhism.
 
U Wirathu, and other like-minded monks, have also called for a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses using 969 stickers to identify Buddhist shops.  But he denies the campaign has encouraged religious tensions.  
 
"All states that have 969 groups are peaceful," said U Wirathu. "That is why they should establish 969 groups in every state of Burma-to have peace.  Whenever they campaign, there is no violence at all because they teach the Buddhist community to defend themselves, according to law, when they get bullied by other religions."
 
U Wirathu calls himself the "Burmese bin Laden" in reference to the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. that killed 3,000 people. But despite frequent hate speech included in sermons, in written materials, and posted online, authorities have been reluctant to shut down his campaign.
 
Burma Muslim leader Myo Win launched a campaign to counter the 969 with stickers spreading messages of tolerance.  On Thursday he told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand that Muslims in Burma are living in a state of fear.
 
"So…why have 969 not been identified?  That's a key question," said Myo Win. "The second thing is, why have their members not been arrested?  Why have they been allowed to continue with their campaign to disseminate misinformation about the Muslim and Islam among the Buddhist majority?"
 
Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa is a founder of the Bangkok-based International Network of Engaged Buddhists.  He says the ultimate end of Buddhism is to overcome fear, but it is fear which is driving Buddhists in Burma to commit violence.
 
"When you have fear you can be violent, you can be greedy, you can be deluded.  Unfortunately, not only in Burma, in this country [Thailand], Sri Lanka, where Buddhism prevails, when people are afraid, they harm others, not themselves."
 
Burma's President Thein Sein on Monday said the country should work for peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Buddhists.
 
In a speech on state television he vowed to protect the rights of Muslims in Rakhine state while accommodating the needs and expectations of Rakhine Buddhists.  
 
He blamed policies of past military governments for rights abuses and said he would implement the recommendations of his commission on the Rakhine violence.
 
The commission last week recommended, among other things, doubling security in Rakhine state and efforts to better assimilate the Muslim population.  
 
Human Rights Watch says increasing security, without holding anyone accountable, would be a mistake as security forces were also involved in atrocities against Muslims.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: arif from: bangkok
May 12, 2013 9:33 PM
it is never a religion but bad people in every religion in every part of the world whom we call 'criminals' do bad things... that's why we have rules and laws to save the countrymen from their wrong doing. it is a simple case of majority (nationalism) suppressing their minority so you don't find a 'rule of law' to cure it. so you don't listen to good people like majority of monks inside and outside burma even don't listen to good people in majority inside burma and rakhine. why you create fear of known making it unknown?

by: vikram paliwal from: India
May 11, 2013 8:48 AM
The buddhist Monk is 200% correct, what happened to BAMIYAN everyone knows, I am from India and I know what happened to India during the midveil era 1000s of monuments temples and heritage was destroyed by muslim invaders. The whole problem with Muslims is that they are never attached to nationalism. True follower of Islam(Shiya) are better than Sunnis' I felt with my experience of dealing with them.

by: HJ from: Burma
May 10, 2013 2:42 PM
Buddhists spread Hatred...??? who spreads more hatred than Muslims??? Muslims spread hatred all over the world!!! listen to what they say about Israel... the most beautiful genius people - God's beloved people... listen to what the Muslims are saying about them...
Buddhist love life (like Christians and Jews) we protect lives and love life... its only Muslims who love the stench of death and decay
In Response

by: Diamond Heart
May 30, 2013 10:02 AM
Don't write comments with your stupid ideas, I live in Yangon, Burma and I know everything those buddhist extremist terrorists did. They distributed hate-speeches about Islam. And they wait for a simple crime committed by a Muslim. eg rape, or even worst case accidentally colliding with a monk, and they start to kill Muslims by mobs and rob empty Muslim houses and set houses and Mosques on fire. Extremist burmese buddhist terrorists.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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