RADICAL BUDDHIST MONKS AND ANTI-MUSLIM ACTIVITIES IN MYANMAR

ANTI-MUSLIM ACTIVITIES BY BUDDHISTS IN MYANMAR

Radical monks have led a campaign to shun shops owned by Muslims and called for a law to restrict marriages between Buddhist women and men of other faiths. The proposed marriage law seeks to prevent Buddhist women from converting to Islam when they marry Muslim men, drawing on concerns about forced conversions.

Kate Linthicum wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Anti-Muslim sentiment has been stoked by a Buddhist political party that views Muslims as a threat and a group of ultranationalist monks who say they are defending the country against an Islamist militant takeover. Though Muslims nationwide have been targeted, members of one particular ethnic group, the Rohingya, have borne the brunt of the violence. Tom Andrews of the U.S.-based rights group United to End Genocide linked the problem to decades of state-sponsored discrimination against Muslims. "The building blocks of genocide are in place," he said. [Source: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2013]

Joseph J. Schatz wrote in the Washington Post: “As deadly incidents have spread from long-volatile Rakhine state to parts of the country where Buddhists and Muslims have lived in relative harmony, some monks have taken part in the riots, according to media reports. But they appear to be a minority. Leaders of a Buddhist monastery, for instance, sheltered more than 1,000 Muslims during a recent riot in Lashio, near the eastern border with China. And many people here, regardless of their personal prejudices, quietly deplore the violence, which has many local Muslims on edge.[Source: Joseph J. Schatz, Washington Post, July 5, 2013]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called the Burmese government’s treatment of the nation’s Rohingya Muslim minority “ethnic cleansing”. “The Burmese government engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement,” said HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson. “The government needs to put an immediate stop to the abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable or it will be responsible for further violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the country.”

See Separate Articles on the Rohingya

Reasons for Anti-Muslim Sentiments in Myanmar

Anti-Muslim sentiment is closely tied to nationalism and the dominant Buddhist religion, so leaders have been reluctant to speak up for the unpopular minority. Joseph J. Schatz wrote in the Washington Post: “Some observers point to a complicated legacy of mistrust in a country that is surrounded by more-powerful neighbors, has 135 official ethnic groups and was held together by force for decades. “There is an insecurity and fear that comes with being Burmese,” said Derek Mitchell, the U.S. ambassador to Burma. [Source: Joseph J. Schatz, Washington Post, July 5, 2013 ~~]

“U Sona, a monk from the Sagaing division on the Indian border, said that when “there are more Islamic people in one place, they make problems.” But, he said, “political people” — not monks — are the ones causing the violence. Thein Sein’s administration denies any government or military involvement but has been criticized for not bringing Buddhist perpetrators to justice. Myo Win, a Muslim who runs a nonprofit educational organization in Rangoon, said the problem is the failure of the formerly autocratic government to stop repeated riots. “Some Buddhists are saving Muslim people in their homes,” he said. “This is a problem with the radicals.” ~~

Weren’t Buddhists Supposed to Be Pacifists?

Christian Caryl wrote in Foreign Policy: “The man's body lies on a blanket striped in white and blue. He's wearing a dark brown tank top and a dark blue flowered sarong. Someone has tied his hands behind his back with rope. There are deep red gashes on his head and shoulders -- some of them presumably the wounds that ended his life. The man in the photo is a Muslim. The people who killed him were almost certainly Buddhists. He was a victim sectarian bloodshed in western Burma, which pitted members of the two religions against each other...But wait: Isn't Buddhism a religion that places respect for life and the embrace of peace at the very center of its worldview? The Buddha himself placed compassion at the root of his teachings, and in Burma itself, it was Buddhist monks who set the rigorously non-violent tone of the massive anti-government demonstrations back in 2007. The chants of the saffron-robed protestors were powerfully moving: "May all beings living to the East be free; all beings in the universe be free, free from fear, free from all distress!" [Source: Christian Caryl, Foreign Policy, April 23, 2013 |||]

“It turns out, sadly, that some Buddhist monks don't see this as a binding ethical imperative. Monks have been prominent among those inciting the recent bloodshed. The most notable is U Wirathu, a monk at a prominent monastery who's made a name for himself lately as an apologist for anti-Muslim sentiment and the organizer of the "969" movement, which has been issuing stickers and signs emblazoned with that number (which has symbolic significance for Burmese Buddhists) to identify businesses that refuse to serve Muslims -- exactly the kind of policy the monk is aiming to promote. He's said to have referred to himself as "the Buddhist Osama bin Laden." How can this sort of bigotry possibly be reconciled with the teachings of the Enlightened One? |||

“First of all, the notion of Buddhism as an inherently pacifist religion has a strong element of Western oversimplification. Buddhist teaching has never prohibited believers from fighting in defense of a just cause. As the scholars Michael Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer show in their book Buddhist Warfare, Buddhists have participated in wars ever since their faith came into being. Militant monks have fought for Chinese rulers (and against them) for centuries. Japan's samurai warriors were ardent Buddhists, men who cited the Buddha's teachings on the impermanence of physical existence as a good argument for soldiering. But doctrine is only part of the problem. All religions -- Buddhism included -- tend to create a powerful sense of collective identity among their followers. All of the great world religions emphasize the sanctity of human life, and strive to limit the use of violence to what's admissible in certain cases. But those careful distinctions tend to go out the window when a group of believers feels that its values are under threat.” |||

Religious 'Radicals' Driving Myanmar Unrest: Experts

"It is clear that there are some agents provocateurs with radical anti-Muslim agendas at work in the country -- including influential Buddhist monks preaching intolerance and hatred of Muslims," Jim Della-Giacoma, a Myanmar expert with the International Crisis Group think-tank, told AFP. "Also, the systematic and methodical way in which Muslim neighbourhoods were razed to the ground is highly suggestive of some degree of advance planning by radical elements," he added. [Source: Didier Lauras, AFP, March 31, 2013 >>]

Didier Lauras of AFP wrote: “Monks -- once at the forefront of the pro-democracy movement and viewed with reverence in this devout Buddhist-majority nation -- have been linked to the unrest. Some members of the clergy have been involved in the violence, while others are spearheading a move to shun shops owned by Muslims and only visit stores run by Buddhists, identified by stickers showing the number "969", which has become a symbol of their campaign. >>

"When the profit goes to the enemy's hand, our nationality, language and religion are all harmed," said Wirathu, a monk from Mandalay whose anti-Muslim remarks have come under recent scrutiny. "They will take girls with this money. They will force them to convert religion. All children born to them will be a danger to the country. They will destroy the language as well as the religion," he said in a speech put online. >>

“A wave of hate has swept across social media websites targeting the Rohingya, who have long been denied citizenship by Myanmar's government, which -- like many Burmese -- refers to them as "Bengalis". Recently, however, the violence has also targeted Muslims with Myanmar citizenship, some of whose families came to the country more than a century ago from India, Bangladesh or China. >>

Speaking to AFP, monk Wirathu denied that he was against all Muslims, and said the "969" movement was unrelated to the recent unrest. "We just targeted Bengalis who are terrorising ethnic Rakhine (Buddhists)," the 45-year-old said. "We are just preaching to prevent Bengalis entering the country and to stop them insulting our nationalities, language and religion," he added. >>

“President Thein Sein appeared on national television to address the nation, warning unidentified "political opportunists and religious extremists" that their actions "will not be tolerated." It was a "courageous" speech, according to independent analyst Mael Raynaud. "A Myanmar president addressing the nation directly and talking about religious extremism clearly aimed at Buddhist monks -- that's never been seen before," he said. >>

“In contrast, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who many believe has her sights set firmly on the next election in 2015, has not yet spoken publicly about the recent clashes. "Now is the time for political leaders to rise to the challenge of shaping public opinion, rather than just following it," Della-Giacomo said. Suu Kyi "must be prepared to vocally and unambiguously take the side of peace and tolerance", he added. >>

Time Magazine: Buddhist Terror in Myanmar

Hannah Beech wrote in Time magazine: “Buddhist blood is boiling in Burma, also known as Myanmar–and plenty of Muslim blood is being spilled. Scores of Muslims have been killed, according to government statistics, although international human-rights workers put the number in the hundreds. Much of the violence is directed at the Rohingya, a largely stateless Muslim group in Burma’s far west that the U.N. calls one of the world’s most persecuted people. The communal bloodshed has spread to central Burma. Buddhist mobs have targeted members of the minority faith, and incendiary rhetoric from hard-line monks is fanning the flames of religious chauvinism.” [Source: Hannah Beech, Time magazine, July 1, 2013]

In Burma, the democratization process that began in 2011 with the junta’s giving way to a quasi-civilian government has also allowed extremist voices to proliferate. The trouble began last year in the far west, where machete-wielding Buddhist hordes attacked Rohingya villages; 70 Muslims were slaughtered in a daylong massacre in one hamlet, according to Human Rights Watch. The government has done little to check the violence, which has since migrated to other parts of the country. In late March, the central town of Meikhtila burned for days, with entire Muslim quarters razed by Buddhist mobs after a monk was killed by Muslims. (The official death toll: two Buddhists and at least 40 Muslims.) Thousands of Muslims are still crammed into refugee camps that journalists are forbidden to enter. In the shadow of a burned-down mosque, I was able to meet the family of Abdul Razak Shahban, one of at least 20 students at a local Islamic school who were killed. “My son was killed because he was Muslim, nothing else,” Razak’s mother Rahamabi told me.

Wirathu: The Face of Buddhist Terror

The July 1, 2013 issue of TIME Magazine stirred up a lot of attention in Myanmar and elsewhere with its cover story featuring a serene image of Burmese Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu superimposed with the phrase “The Face of Buddhist Terror”. Wirathu (he goes by one name) is a radical Buddhist monk in his forties who lives and preaches anti-Muslim sermons in Mandalay and central Myanmar. A leading advocate of the “969” campaign, which, among other things, urges Buddhists to patronize Buddhist-run shops, he sees Muslims as a threat to Myanmar its culture. Muslims “are breeding so fast, and they are stealing our women, raping them,” he told Time. “They would like to occupy our country, but I won’t let them. We must keep Myanmar Buddhist.

Hannah Beech wrote in Time magazine: “Sitting cross-legged on a raised platform at the New Masoeyein monastery in Mandalay, next to a wall covered by life-size portraits of himself, the Burmese bin Laden expounds on his worldview. U.S. President Barack Obama has “been tainted by black Muslim blood.” Arabs have hijacked the U.N., he believes, although he sees no irony in linking his name to that of an Arab terrorist. About 90 percent of Muslims in Burma are “radical, bad people,” says Wirathu, who was jailed for seven years for his role in inciting anti-Muslim pogroms in 2003. He now leads a movement called 969–the figure represents various attributes of the Buddha–which calls on Buddhists to fraternize only among themselves and shun people of other faiths. “Taking care of our own religion and race is more important than democracy,” says Wirathu. [Source: Hannah Beech, Time magazine, July 1, 2013 =*=]

“It would be easy to dismiss Wirathu as an outlier with little doctrinal basis for his bigotry. But he is charismatic and powerful, and his message resonates. Among the country’s majority Bamar ethnic group, as well as across Buddhist parts of Asia, there’s a vague sense that their religion is under siege–that Islam, having centuries ago conquered the Buddhist lands of Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, now seeks new territory. Even without proof, Buddhist nationalists stoke fears that local Muslim populations are increasing faster than their own, and they worry about Middle Eastern money pouring in to build new mosques. =*=

“I ask Wirathu how he reconciles the peaceful sutras of his faith with the anti-Muslim violence spreading across his Bamar-majority homeland. “In Buddhism, we are not allowed to go on the offensive,” he tells me, as if he is lecturing a child. “But we have every right to protect and defend our community.” Later, as he preaches to an evening crowd, I listen to him compel smiling housewives, students, teachers, grandmothers and others to repeat after him, “I will sacrifice myself for the Bamar race.” It’s hard to imagine that the Buddha would have approved. =*=

Kate Linthicum wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Ashin Wirathu looks peaceful in his robes as he sits with a cup of tea at his Mandalay monastery. Guests enter throughout the morning, bowing and offering gifts of money and fruit. The monk speaks softly, but his venomous anti-Muslim sermons have made him a star. In an interview in a reception room decorated with more than a dozen portraits of himself, Wirathu said he believed that Muslim men were carrying out a conspiracy to take over Myanmar by seducing Buddhist women. He insisted that he did not advocate violence, but said Buddha had taught that it is acceptable to retaliate when provoked.. [Source: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2013 ++]

“Wirathu was jailed a decade ago for inciting anti-Muslim hatred, then freed in 2010 under a general amnesty that was a key component of the government's reforms. In 2012, when clashes spread from Rakhine state to target non-Rohingya Muslims elsewhere in the country, Wirathu's movement appeared to play a central role. For the most part, Myanmar's leaders have defended Wirathu, with Thein Sein calling him "a son of Lord Buddha." ++

Speeches by the Radical Buddhist Monk Wirathu

Hannah Beech wrote in Time magazine: “His face as still and serene as a statue’s, the Buddhist monk who has taken the title “the Burmese bin Laden” begins his sermon. Hundreds of worshippers sit before him, palms pressed together, sweat trickling down their sticky backs. On cue, the crowd chants with the man in burgundy robes, the mantras drifting through the sultry air of a temple in Mandalay, Burma’s second biggest city after Rangoon. It seems a peaceful scene, but Wirathu’s message crackles with hate. “Now is not the time for calm,” the monk intones, as he spends 90 minutes describing the many ways in which he detests the minority Muslims in this Buddhist-majority land. “Now is the time to rise up, to make your blood boil.”[Source: Hannah Beech, Time magazine, July 1, 2013]

Jonathan DeHart wrote in The Diplomat, “Before a large gathering who came to hear his thoughts on Burma’s Muslims – whom he called “the enemy” – Wirathu recently said: “You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog.” “Muslims are like the African carp,” he told Global Post. “They breed quickly and they are very violent and they eat their own kind. Even though they are minorities here, we are suffering under the burden they bring us.” “This sentiment is not fringe either. As seen by the crowd, which numbered in the thousands, Wirathu has a massive following. Using an intoxicating mix of paranoia, racial stereotyping and unfounded claims, Wirathu has whipped up anti-Muslim sentiment among Burmese Buddhists. He can be seen here speaking at some length in these terms. [Source: Jonathan DeHart, The Diplomat, June 25, 2013]

969 Buddhist Anti-Muslim Campaign

Jonathan DeHart wrote in The Diplomat, “An organic movement has formed as a result, which has come to be known as the 969 campaign. While most distance themselves from comparing the two, some have even likened the movement to a Burmese form of neo-Nazism. The numerological significance of the digits comes from the Buddhist idea that the Three Jewels (Tiratana) comprise 24 attributes: nine special attributes of the Lord Buddha, six core Buddhist teachings and the nine attributes of monkhood. Hence: 969. [Source: Jonathan DeHart, The Diplomat, June 25, 2013]

Burmese Muslims have their own numerological talisman as well: 786, referring to the Quranic phrase, “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful”, which has a numeric value of 786. The number is often seen plastered on the fronts of halal restaurants in Burma. The 969 Buddhists have struck back, putting stickers and signs that bear the number on shops, from food stalls and teashops to street vendors, to distinguish themselves as being Buddhist. There have been instances of Buddhists being beaten by 969 adherents for patronizing Muslim businesses. The numbers are a giveaway. While hundreds of Muslims have been jailed for involvement in the violence, very few Buddhists have wound up behind bars.

Reaction to the Time Magazine’s ‘Buddhist Terror’ Story

Reacting to the “Buddhist Terror” Time cover story, President Thein Sein’s office released a statement that said the story “creates a misunderstanding of Buddhism.” It added, “The government is currently striving with religious leaders, political parties, media and the people to rid Myanmar [Burma] of unwanted conflicts.” Sein went on to call Wirathu a “noble person” who is a “son of Buddha”. [Source: Jonathan DeHart, The Diplomat, June 25, 2013]

Jonathan DeHart wrote in The Diplomat, “While it may be true that conjoining the words “Buddhist” and “terror” may cast the vast majority of the world’s Buddhists in an unfair light, suggesting that real efforts are underway to cease sectarian violence and forge ethnic unity in Burma glosses over a number of troubling facts. Most significant among them: Wirathu actively encourages an extremist attitude towards Burma’s Muslims. While they may not be outspoken on the issue of violence against Burma’s Muslim minority, more tens of thousands signed an online petition to protest TIME’s cover story on the grounds that it misrepresents Buddhism – but not necessarily in defense of Wirathu’s views.

Myanmar Bans the Time Magazine Issue with the ‘Buddhist Terror’ Story

In late June 2013, as ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’ issue of Time was hitting the streets, AFP reported: “Burma banned a controversial Time magazine cover story on Buddhist-Muslim religious violence “to prevent further conflict”, according to a government spokesman, after days of angry reaction to the article. The ban of the piece, which carried a front page photograph of a prominent radical Buddhist monk accused of fuelling anti-Muslim violence with the headline ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’, comes despite the apparent easing of censorship rules in a reforming nation whose former military regime closely controlled the media.[Source: AFP, June 26, 2013]

Government spokesman Ye Htut posted news of the ban on his Facebook page, attributing the decision to a committee investigating deadly religious violence that has rocked the country as it undergoes democratic reforms. “The article entitled ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’ in Time magazine 1 July issue is prohibited from being produced, sold or and distributed in original copy or photocopy in order to prevent further racial and religious conflicts,” Ye Htut’s post said, adding that further details will be in Wednesday’s newspapers.

Social media users in the former junta-ruled nation have voiced dismay at the front page. The presidential office on Sunday said it “creates a misunderstanding of Buddhism” and undercut efforts to dampen tensions after two major bouts of violence in which scores have died — mainly Muslims — and thousands been driven from their homes by mobs. The use of the words “Buddhist” and “Terror” in the article upset all followers of the faith, which is peaceful “and not for terrorists,” a message accompanying an online petition which had garnered more than 60,000 names said.

Anti-Muslim Political Parties in Myanmar

U Shwe Maung, a leader of the 3-year-old Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, supports the law that bans Rohingya women from having more than two children. "If you had two children who were fighting, would you keep them together or separate them?" he asked. [Source: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2013]

Kate Linthicum wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “His party represents Rakhine Buddhists, an ethnic group that is a majority in the state but a minority nationwide. It seeks the expulsion of Rohingya Muslims and more autonomy from the national government, which is controlled by the Burmans, a different Buddhist group whose monarch conquered the Rakhine kingdom in 1784. "We are caught between Burmese chauvinism and Muslim Islamicization," Maung said. Only a short time ago, such a political statement could have landed him in prison. But the lifting of authoritarian controls has allowed new freedom of expression, even when it may be feeding violence.

Speaking Up Against the Anti-Muslim Activities in Myanmar

Jonathan DeHart wrote in The Diplomat, “Burmese dissident Dr. Maung Zarni has listed a number of overt anti-Muslim acts committed by the government, from backing violence against Rohingyas and “cleansing” Muslims from the Burmese military to approving anti-Muslim publications and bolstering the rise of Wirathu himself. Even Burmese Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was accused of remaining silent on the issue of the Rohingyas’ plight for too long until speaking out earlier this month against the controversial two-child policy applied solely to them. While Suu Kyi may have broken her silence when it came to this hotly contested official attempt at controlling Muslim numbers, she has not commented either way on Wirathu. [Source: Jonathan DeHart, The Diplomat, June 25, 2013 <>]

“Others with the urge to vent have taken to Facebook, such as D Day Ang who wrote: “We are not terrorist, we are peaceful people and hate terrorism…please write articles only after gathering sufficient information.” While it remains to be seen what will become of the contentious issue of the magazine in Burma, presidential spokesperson Ye Htut said that, unsurprisingly, the Burmese government might just pull it from circulation and remove it from the public’s view. <>

Joseph J. Schatz wrote in the Washington Post: “Activists this year started an interfaith “Pray for Myanmar” campaign, for example, featuring Buddhist monks and Muslim, Hindu and Christian leaders, although its message lacks the punch of the 969 movement, whose stickers can be seen in shops and on cabs. The Muslim community in Burma is itself divided between hard-liners and moderates. Myanmar leader Thein Sein has not taken a public position on the proposal, but opposition leader and possible presidential contender Aung San Suu Kyi has weighed in against it. But Suu Kyi has resisted international calls to more strongly condemn recent violence, saying she does not want to exacerbate the problem. [Source: Joseph J. Schatz, Washington Post, July 5, 2013]

Efforts by Buddhist Leaders to Stem Anti-Islamic Sentiments by Monks

Joseph J. Schatz wrote in the Washington Post: “When more than 1,500 monks met in June 2013 at a monastery in Insein township, on the northern outskirts of Rangoon, Leaders told attendees that “all of the monks in Myanmar must be in harmony and must be patient and must control themselves.” Yet amid the calls for calm, the monks also discussed a controversial proposal to restrict marriages between Buddhists and Muslims. [Source: Joseph J. Schatz, Washington Post, July 5, 2013 ~~]

“Outside the meeting, a small group of young men wore red T-shirts featuring U Wirathu’s face. In the wake of that episode, even some monks viewed as moderates are rallying to support U Wirathu, who maintains his innocence in the violence. Conspiracy theories abound, and many assume that elements associated with the old regime are whipping up the current violence, exploiting religious divisions to justify a return to military rule. ~~

“Extremists usually speak the loudest, partly because they feel very strongly about the issue, and partly because they attract the most public and media attention,” Ardeth Thawnghmung, a professor in the political science department at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, said during a recent visit to her native Burma. Ashin Dhammapiya, a senior Burmese monk who has studied and taught in California, said that many monks oppose the harsher elements of U Wirathu’s marriage proposal, including a section that would force non-Buddhist men to convert if they marry a Buddhist woman, under threat of a 10-year jail sentence. But, he said, they support the broader intent to “protect the nation.” ~~

Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter Speak Out on Anti-Muslim Sentiments in Myanmar

In September 2013, AFP reported: “As the violence in Myanmar continues, the Dalai Lama urged monks to act according to the peaceful principles of their religion and told them to "remember the Buddhist faith." The Dalai Lama made his remarks to reporters at an annual human rights conference in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. He went on to say that there was "too much emphasis on 'we' and 'they'" in the world, and declared that "this century should be a century of dialogue, not wars." [Source: AFP, September 18, 2013]

It isn't the first time that the Dalai Lama has explicitly denounced the attacks on Muslims. In May he told an audience at the University of Maryland that "killing people in the name of religion is unthinkable" after delivering the Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace. He said, "I pray for them (the monks) to think of the face of Buddha."

A Group called The Elders, led by Jimmy Carter, has urged people in Myanmar to respect human rights. In September 2013, Associated Press reported: “Jimmy Carter and two other former world leaders who are part of a group known as "The Elders" wrapped up a visit to Myanmar with calls to address Buddhist-led violence against minority Muslims and end impunity for the perpetrators. "No one can afford to ignore these senseless, destructive, repeated acts of brutality," they said. "This is a very serious problem for the world community," the former U.S. president said, adding how it is tackled by the quasi-civilian government will be a "key test as to whether Myanmar is going to honor international standards of human rights." The three visiting Elders — Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland — called for an end to impunity and for freedom of religion. [Source: Associated Press, September 26, 2013]

In November 2013, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said the sectarian violence in Myanmar sicken the world. "The whole world has been pulling for Myanmar, even since you opened up," Clinton said while visiting the country for the first time. "The whole world cheers every piece of good news and is sick every time they read about sectarian violence. Because everywhere on earth, people are tired of people killing each other and fighting each other because of their differences." [Source: Associated Press, November 14, 2013]

Myanmar Government and Muslim Response to Anti-Muslim Sentiments in Myanmar

Some government officials are calling for implementation of a ban, rarely enforced during the military era, on Rohingya women’s bearing more than two children. Kate Linthicum wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Myanmar leader Thein Sein has met with leaders in both religions and vowed to stop the bloodshed. But as it continues, some have questioned his commitment. Like many Buddhists, Thein Sein views the Rohingya Muslims, who live along the border with Bangladesh, as illegal immigrants, even though many have been in Myanmar for generations. In 2012 he said the only solution to the conflict was to deport or isolate the Rohingya. [Source: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2013]

In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban threatened retaliation for the violence against Myanmar's Muslims. In Indonesia, Islamic radicals were arrested for plotting to bomb the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta.

Now some Muslim leaders in Myanmar worry about a homegrown radical movement. "I'm afraid," Rohingya activist Aung Win told the Los Angeles Times. "One day these young men could become terrorists if they have to keep living this way." [Source: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2013]

Kate Linthicum wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The risk of radicalization weighs heavy on some, who watch young men circulate graphic cellphone pictures of the violence and the more conservative Wahhabi branch of Islam take root among Myanmar's Sunni Muslim community. In the muddy camps in Sittwe, makeshift mosques receive funding from religious groups in Saudi Arabia.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: East and Southeast Asia, edited by Paul Hockings (C.K. Hall & Company); New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, burmalibrary.org, burmanet.org, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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