News / Asia

Religious Leaders in Burma Tackle Issue of Hate Speech

Buddhist monk Wirathu (C), leader of the 969 movement, greets other monks as he attends a meeting on the National Protection Law at a monastery outside Yangon, June 27, 2013.
Buddhist monk Wirathu (C), leader of the 969 movement, greets other monks as he attends a meeting on the National Protection Law at a monastery outside Yangon, June 27, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News
— This week's Time Magazine cover bearing the image of Wirathu, a monk who has come under international scrutiny for spreading anti-Muslim hate speech was banned in Burma. Has hate-speech on the internet and in sermons delivered by Buddhist monks led to religious violence, and has the government fulfilled its responsibility in dealing with hate speech?  

Burma has only just recently stopped censoring print news media, but when Time magazine ran a cover story detailing the anti-Muslim hate-speeches of influential Buddhist monk Wirathu, the issue was banned because the information ministry feared it could incite further violence.

Since June of last year, five separate incidents of communal violence perpetrated against Muslims across the country have left scores dead, and over 150,000 displaced.

Watch related video of the U.S. Embassy in Burma hosting a workshop:

Watch related video about Burma preventing hate speechi
X
June 28, 2013
The U.S. Embassy hosted a workshop Friday on preventing hate speech in Burma which has more than 100 minorities, as well as a large community of Rohingya Muslims who do not have an official status. The U.S. ambassador, Derek Mitchell, emphasized the importance of free speech in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democratic society. He said it is important to clarify what is hate speech because what some consider hate speech, others may consider as an expression of appreciation for their own race, faith or ethnicity and a form of defense from outside danger.

At a workshop on preventing hate speech in Burma on Friday U.S. ambassador Derek Mitchell delivered opening remarks in which he stated that the government's ability to deal with hate speech will determine the country's future, and cautioned against the potential for uncontrolled hate speech to incite violence.

"This country has been at war with itself.  For decades the talk has been one of enemies within," he said. "This attitude has been a major cause of this country's underdevelopment. As a close observer who cares deeply about the future of your country, it is very sad to see that talk continue and take new forms."

Wirathu's rhetoric includes calls for Muslim blood at public sermons where audiences number several thousand.

Deputy Minister of Information Ye Htut believes it was necessary to ban the magazine, and blamed social media like Facebook for spreading hate speech. He blamed Burma's tight media controls in the past for contributing to people's inability to effectively deal with newfound freedoms, and said he doesn't believe Wirathu's speeches qualify as hate speech.

"We have to differentiate between what is a strong opinion and what is a hate speech," said Ye. "We have to allow the freedom of speech and also we have to make clear guidelines on what is hate speech. That's why one of the monk reminded U Wirathu to control his emotion."

Wirathu was jailed in 2003 for inciting violence, and released in 2011. He has continued to make speeches without interference from the government.

Many citizens feel dissatisfied with the government's response to controlling anti-Muslim sentiment, among other reasons because Burmese courts that have convicted Muslims after incidents of communal violence have yet to convict a single Buddhist with incitement.

Thet Ko Ko, a Muslim from Moulmein, home to the monastery from which the anti-Muslim "969" movement originated, traveled to Rangoon to attend the workshop, and says he's very disappointed in what was said at the workshop.

"My religion faces discrimination from the state and the majority especially some Buddhist monks. I'm not satisfied," said Ko Ko. "We need government to prevent hate speech in Myanmar [Burma], especially by law. I mean public speeches, there are a lot of information in many villages they distribute. Why they didn't prevent this activities is the main point. Very weak [in not preventing this] prevent in this."

Next week, the Ministry of Religious Affairs is expected to make an announcement about the controversial drafting of a new law that would prevent interfaith marriage between Buddhist women and Muslim men.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid