ELODIE INTROIA WRITES – Religious violence has flared in Myanmar for more than a year. Now a disturbing neo-Nazi-like movement has emerged that aims to contain the rights of minority Muslims. The man critics say is behind the effort: Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu.
Wirathu’s 969 Movement has been widely described as Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and themselves promoters of violence. The monk claims he opposes violence, but was quoted in a Time magazine cover story this June saying, “You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog…. If we are weak our land will become Muslim.”
“Muslims are only well-behaved when they are weak,” Wirathu told BBC reporter Jonah Fisher. “When they become strong, they are like a wolf or a jackal; in large packs they hunt down other animals.”
Wirathu points to Buddhist women and children killed in religious rioting in the last year as evidence of a Muslim ‘master plan’ to convert the country into an Islamic state.
But as Fisher notes, if Wirathu’s right, it’s a very long-term plan: Of Myanmar’s 60 million people, 90% are Buddhist and only about 5% Muslim. And Muslims have by far gotten the worst of the rioting violence.
Still, Wirathu and seemingly plenty of other Myanmar Buddhists have embraced an economic and social boycott of Muslims. The plan is for Buddhists to shop and marry only among other Buddhists, thereby preventing Muslims from gaining wealth, and eventually marrying young Buddhist women.
In other words, it’s a plan to isolate and segregate.
Wirathu claims that he is ‘only’ against Muslim extremism, and that violence should not be tolerated. However, setting up an anti-Muslim apartheid does not only apply to extremists, it applies to all Muslims, including innocent women and children. The 969 plan includes an identification system requiring people and businesses to display their religion. To this European writer, it sounds all too much like what happened to Jews during the Shoah, and South African blacks in apartheid.
As of now, approximately 140,000 people have been forced to flee the country as refugees. This diaspora Muslim community is stateless and marginalized for no real reason other than religion.
Myanmar is a country evolving politically and in which foreign countries have great economic interests. 969 slows down the democratization process, and until Wirathu is brought to his senses, there should be no reason for the United States and other world powers to get involved economically. Time Magazine, the BBC, the Independent, The New York Times, are all institutions that have shed light on these issues, yet they don’t seem to generate any change… What will it take for human rights and dignity to matter first and foremost?
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