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.
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 7:37 PM
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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs