July 26, 2013

Buddhist monk blames Muslims for Myanmar bombing

Richard S. Ehrlich

(RNS) A radical Buddhist monk in Myanmar said a bomb that exploded near him, wounding five devotees, came after a death threat by a “Muslim religious leader” who wanted to silence his campaign to prevent Buddhist women from marrying Muslim men.

Ashin Wirathu’s portrait appeared on the July 1 cover of Time magazine’s Asia edition, above the headline, “The Face of Buddhist Terror: How Militant Monks are Fueling Anti-Muslim Violence in Asia.”

“Since their plan to fight me via Time Magazine has failed, they are now targeting my ‘dharma’ (Buddhist teaching) events, and the devotees, with explosive devices,” Wirathu told the respected Irrawaddy magazine.

Wirathu is widely described as Southeast Asia’s “Buddhist bin Laden” for his harsh denunciations of anyone who doesn’t support his religious ideas.

Critics say he is fueling clashes between Buddhists and Muslims that have claimed at least 240 lives — mostly Muslims — during the past year in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

No one claimed responsibility for the small, hand-made bomb which exploded near Wirathu on Sunday (July 21) night at a Buddhist temple in the central city of Mandalay.

“I think the culprit might be the Islamic extremists and the terrorists,” Wirathu, 46, told Irrawaddy.

In a digital disc being passed around Mandalay, a “Muslim religious leader says that the Prophet Muhammad is asking for the heads of Wirathu and (fellow monk) Pyinnya Tharmi,” Wirathu, 45, told Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar Service.

“It was an effort to shut my mouth,” Wirathu said.

Wirathu leads the “969″ anti-Muslim movement, which supporters hail as a nationalist effort to protect Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.

It includes countless followers who paste the group’s logo onto their shops, often to show that they support 969′s call for Buddhists to boycott Muslim businesses and shun them as customers.

In mid-June, Wirathu demanded the government enact legislation to prevent Muslim men from marrying Buddhist women.

“It is important to have this law to protect our Buddhist women’s freedom,” he said.

He insisted Muslims were forcing Buddhist brides to convert to Islam and plotting to multiply Islam’s 4 percent of the population into a larger, financially dominating demographic.

Wirathu wants Muslim men to be legally required to convert to Buddhism if they marry a Buddhist woman.

Divisiveness between the two religions includes racial animosity against mostly darker-skinned Muslims, whose ancestors are often ethnic Bengalis, compared to Buddhists who are Burman and other ethnic groups.

—Richard S. Ehrlich

© 2013 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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Danny's picture

It seems that if you've seen one religious fanatic, you've seen them all. Seen them all.
Can we ever bridge the religious divide?
Sure, when we stop reifying religion--which includes "Buddhism", of course...

Hktony's picture

Danny do you live in Burma? You seem to have a clear insight into the problems faced by Burmese people. Do you know his monk personally to call him a terrorist? Would you go there and tell him this to his face- You are a terrorist! Do you actually know what is happening in Burma and the relationship between Buddhists and Muslims? Do you know why he needs to protect Buddhist women from Islam? How dare you say he is a fanatic? ! without evidence ! He maybe intolerant but what evidence do we have except snippets of news from a liberal press who make ignorance a prerequisite for any news reports! Before you point at this monk you better take a closer look at home or fanatics!

Danny's picture

Hktony,
All I know is what I read in the papers...and I would hardly call Time magazine "the liberal press"--but judging from your extreme reactionary "Ayn Rand" sounding comment on "A moral Politics", I would guess that most everything out there looks like liberal press to you.
with metta

misterkhampa's picture

The term "Buddhist" becomes less meaningful by the day. I may stop identifying myself that way -- it means too many things to too many people. And to many it means something it doesn't mean to me. Might be better to say I'm a LodroThaye-ist or a Karmapa-ist or a Trungpa-ist or a Dogen-ist or a Nagarjuna-ist, or a PemaChodron-ist. If that's what they find in my wallet at the accident I guess I won't have last rites -- that would be better than having some fixated violent maniac in a robe praying over me.

marginal person's picture

Excellent insight. The admonishment,"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!", speaks to the human compulsion to systemize. The immensity of life defies systemization. Billy says it well. "there are more things in heaven and hell, Horatio, then are dreamed of in your philosophy".

Dominic Gomez's picture

More accurately, to kill a Buddha means to not worship one as a god.

marginal person's picture

Thank you, Horatio.

Dominic Gomez's picture

There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave to tell us this.

Anonymous's picture

Another Dominic Gomez quote ... boring.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thanks for taking time to consider it...Interesting. :-)

alalaho's picture

i was disturbed and saddened when i first learned of this situation. but to practice dharma and implement into our lives is to understand that this is samsara. there is ego-clinging. this event just brings me face to face with everything i have been studying.
examining this, we can see clearly into the self-clinging condition. my country. my culture. my Buddhism.
just because one is a Buddhist, does not mean one is following the teachings of the Sage.
for me, i look at this situation and review my own condition. judgement. anger. it's good practice for me.
i also remember what my teacher said once. Buddha was not a Buddhist.

she also said, we can't fix samsara. :)

Dominic Gomez's picture

As well, everyone has their own particular karma. At the very moment one is experiencing it one is creating it.

celticpassage's picture

Usually, but it is possible to walk without leaving footprints.

Dominic Gomez's picture

I don't know about us real people, but ghosts leave no trace at all.

celticpassage's picture

Clearly you haven't watched David Carradine's Kung Fu.

Dominic Gomez's picture

A ghost would've floated over the paper and left undisturbed pebble and hand.

alalaho's picture

very true Dominic. as i was writing my post i contemplated that very notion. we are the all-creating king. :)

jardine057's picture

Confused! How can you be a Buddhist if you take actions that are opposite of love, kindness and compassion - even toward those who are against your beliefs? When faced with these types of situations is when your true self comes out. Sad situation.

Anonymous's picture

@Jardine057: Follow your own path and spare "Confused" your judgement on him. In the meantime you can look up "Spiritual Materialism" for fun.

conroy.r's picture

"THERE was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so surely established, which (in continuance of time) hath not been corrupted:"

This, from the preface to the Book of Common Prayer of 1549, is a succinct description of the problem. -isms of all sorts drift slowly off course and end up being quite different to what their founders intended, conforming slowly but surely, to a social and political agenda.

As one preacher said, "If Jesus and the apostles walked into choral evensong in this cathedral, do you think he would turn to them and say 'Yes - this is exactly what I had in mind.'?"

As Thich Nhat Hanh says, we mustn't let Buddhism stop us being Buddhists.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Emptiness in monk's clothing. The poor fella could only self-define with what information was available to him.