BBC News reports: This week, religious violence has once again flared in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Hundreds of Muslim homes have been burnt to the ground in Sagaing region after being attacked by Buddhist mobs.
In just over a year more than 200 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed and many more displaced as unrest has spread from Rakhine state in the west to towns across the country.
Many are blaming a controversial monk and the nationalist organisation he helps lead for the rising tensions.
In a classroom at one of Mandalay’s most famous monasteries, a teacher is at work. Shin Wirathu is taking a class of young monks at Masoeyin through the five precepts or pillars of the Buddhist faith.
This morning, he is lecturing on the importance of avoiding sexual misconduct.
“Yes venerable monk,” the young men chant in unison, as Wirathu softly delivers his advice on the need to avoid temptation.
When the class is over, he shows me outside. On the wall of the monastery courtyard are graphic posters of the Buddhist victims of recent religious and ethnic violence in Rakhine state in western Myanmar.
They are unpleasant viewing. The pictures from October last year show dead children with their heads cut open and the bodies of women with their internal organs spilling out of their torsos.
Wirathu said he put them up as a reminder to Buddhists that the country is under attack from Muslim “invaders”.
“Muslims are only well behaved when they are weak, ” he said. “When they become strong, they are like a wolf or a jackal, in large packs they hunt down other animals.”
Wirathu believes there is a Muslim “master plan” underway to turn Myanmar into an Islamic state.
If he is right, it is a long-term project. Latest estimates suggest that of Myanmar’s 60 million people, 90% are Buddhist and about 5% Muslim.
“Over the past 50 years, we have shopped at Muslim shops and then they became richer and wealthier than us and can buy and marry our girls,” Wirathu said. “In this way, they have destroyed and penetrated not only our nation but also our religion.”
Wirathu’s solution lies in a controversial nationalist organisation called 969. It calls on Buddhists to shop, sell property and marry within their own religion.
Small, brightly-coloured stickers have been distributed to clearly brand businesses as Buddhist-owned.
Supporters of 969 argue it is a purely defensive organisation, created to protect Buddhist culture and identity. Listening to the rhetoric of Wirathu and 969’s leaders, there is no doubt it is squarely aimed at Muslims. [Continue reading…]