Monday, 15 April 2013

Radical Buddhists fuelling persecution of Muslim minority

Radical Buddhists fuelling persecution of Muslim minority

Radical monk: The Venerable Wirathu, who has branded Muslims as Radical monk: The Venerable Wirathu, who has branded Muslims as "the enemy". Photo: AFP
A shadowy anti-Muslim movement known as 969 is spreading throughout central Myanmar, threatening the country's historic democratic transition.

Pamphlets, stickers, DVDs and internet postings are spreading hatred towards the country's Muslim minority following violence last month that left 43 people dead and turned Muslim neighbourhoods in central Myanmar to ashen ruins.

The surge in so-called Islamophobia has emerged as a major challenge for Myanmar's reformist government with President Thein Sein calling for his country to learn from the violence during a speech marking the start of a four-day New Year festival.
Muslims, who account for an estimated 4 per cent of Myanmar's 60 million people, have mostly lived peacefully alongside Buddhists for generations.

But Nyunt Maung Shein, president of the Islamic Religious Affairs Council, said all Muslims are now worried about their future: "How can we live in a Buddhist society? Why are we so miserable that our men and women, children and students are brutally killed?
"Muslims are scapegoats in this transition period from the brutal junta."
Buddhists led by influential monks are behind the movement which encourages Buddhists to boycott the businesses of Muslims.

Radical monks who were at the forefront of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement are widely viewed with reverence.
The three numbers refer to various attributes of the Buddha, his teachings and the monkhood.
One of the movement's leaders is Mandalay-based monk Wiseitta Biwuntha - better known as the Venerable Wirathu - who has branded Muslims as the "enemy" and accused them of being responsible for Myanmar's crimes.

The Venerable Wirathu, who describes himself as a "Burmese bin Laden", was sentenced to 25 years in jail in 2003 for instigating anti-Muslim riots but was freed last year in an amnesty with hundreds of other political prisoners.

"We have a slogan: When you eat, eat 969, when you go, go 969, when you buy, buy 969," he told a journalist last month.
The Venerable Wirathu began giving a series of controversial 969 speeches four months ago but has not been stopped by Burmese authorities. "My duty is to spread this mission," he said.
The 969 stickers are increasingly visible in shop windows, taxis and homes in the country's biggest cities Yangon and Mandalay, which have Muslim minorities of up to 20 per cent, residents say.
with agencies

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