Burma Buddhist Committee Bans Anti-Muslim Organizations

Nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu is greeted with respect at a monks’ conference in Rangoon in June. (Photo: Jpaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — A government-appointed body that oversees Burma’s Buddhist monkhood has issued a directive intended to check the influence of a monk-led movement accused of stoking violence against minority Muslims.

At least 237 people have died in sectarian violence since June last year and more than 150,000 have been displaced. The vast majority of the victims were Muslim.

The bloodshed, mirrored by increasing attacks on Muslims in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, has threatened to undermine political and economic reforms the government initiated two years ago after half a century of military rule.

In an order dated September 2, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee of monks responsible for regulating the Buddhist clergy prohibited the creation of formal organizations based around the 969 movement.

“They didn’t receive any permission, yet they want to form an organization and make nationality-protection laws,” Ashin Baddanda Guna Linkara, the committee’s vice-chairman for Rangoon, told Reuters.

The committee did not object to monks promoting the 969 ideology, which urges Buddhists to protect their faith against a perceived threat from Islam, he said, but the movement’s leaders had gone too far by drafting proposed laws, including one that would stop Buddhist women marrying outside their religion.

The numerals 969, which refer to the attributes of the Buddha, his teachings and the monkhood, have come to symbolize a movement aimed at isolating Muslims, who make up 5 percent of Burma’s 60 million people.

Monks who lead the movement make speeches urging Buddhists to boycott Muslim-owned businesses, the message spread through CDs and DVDs sold widely in shops and on street stalls. Stickers bearing the movement’s logo are plastered on businesses across the country, letting customers know they are Buddhist-owned.

The movement’s leaders say they do not condone violence against Muslims but its rise has accompanied the communal unrest since last year.

In a September 10 statement, the movement’s most visible leader, a monk named Wirathu, said he was “heartbroken” by the violence and pledged to help make peace between the communities. He has previously called mosques “enemy bases” and urged Buddhists to boycott Muslim businesses and shun interfaith marriage.

Speaking to reporters after signing the statement, he rejected the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee’s ban on formal 969 organizations, calling the body undemocratic.

“Every procedure and rule in the Sangha Nayaka was written while under the gun,” he said, pointing out the committee was formed under the former military regime.

It was created in 1980 as a way of controlling the monkhood, which has great influence over Burma’s Buddhists, who make up most of the population.

The committee and its senior monks remain tarnished by their close links to the dictatorship, which ended in 2011 when a quasi-civilian government took office.

In September 2007 the committee issued a directive prohibiting monks from participating in “secular affairs”, a clear message to the thousands of monks leading the “Saffron Revolution” pro-democracy protests across Burma at the time. The directive was largely ignored.

Some monks have taken part in clashes between Muslims and Buddhists over the past year. But Ye Htut, a spokesman for President Thein Sein, has told Reuters that only a handful of Burma’s 500,000 monks hold extremist ideas and pointed out that monks helped save the lives of Muslims during the clashes.


9 Responses to Burma Buddhist Committee Bans Anti-Muslim Organizations

  1. For once, Maha Sangha Nayaka has done it right, despite its slow action.
    But the official briefing that the action was taken on account of proposing the law forbidding intermarriage, but the fact that the committee did not object to the 969 activities that lead to riots, arson and murders, is something not quite right. Nationalism akin to patriotism (aligned with compassion, not passion) is the only view that is acceptable in true Theravada Buddhism; no discrimination as to race or religion is permissible. Extreme nationalism is chauvinism (same as racism and tribalism), a taboo amongst civilized people, Myanmar, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or any other.
    The word “nationalism” itself is now only given to an unenlightened, narrow, shallow and self-centered view..

  2. Discrimination and racism have no place in modern democratic society. Buddhism came from Kala people and the enlightened one was a Kala too. Discriminating Burmese people’s lord by the Burmese is a laughing matter.

    • Kala, however, does not seem to be enlightened any more with all of those gang rapes going on. Maybe it is a good thing that Burmese Buddhists do not buy into the kala culture on wholesale. Also, when you compare the nimble infrastructure of Kala nation to those in East and South East Asia, there isn’t just any incentive for the Burmese to tag along with the Kala culture no matter how enlightened it may have been.

  3. The world is in turmoil with the Muslims. Now everybody knows that Islam is dangerous religion for other religions, peoples, communities, countries and the world. They invade a country, a community and a society by increasing their birth rate, marrying other communities’ women, spreading religions, giving money and converting into Islam. Myanmar still has time to stop all these activities by the Muslims. If the Myanmar Government and the peoples make strict rules and regulations and kick out the invalid Muslims without any delay, it will be a good sign for future of Myanmar. The Myanmar Government should not listen to the request for accommodation of Muslims made by the western countries including America. Although America is a super power country, the western countries including America sometimes are in trouble because of these Muslims too.

  4. Muslims are dangerous! They took everything, women, land and money. What a stupid mind?. The GAS, valuable stones and teaks, all are taken and are taking by Muslims? You cannot get light, electricity in your country but other people are enjoying and profiting from Burmese GAS and Natural resources. Blame Muslims will not solve the problem. Only Military and their lackey will blame Muslims to divert the people minds from their sole goal of amassing their bank their balances with public funds and resources.

    • If you feel that way against the Muslims, have you ever stopped to wonder what the ethnic minorities think of the Burman? Would it be justified for the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Chin, Wa et. al. to start to resort to violence against the Burman?

      What the Muslims are accused of having taken from Burman is peanuts compared to what Burman has stolen, robbed and exploited from ethnic minorities.

  5. Budhha wanted to Unite Hindu and Muslim
    The Buddhist are Half Hindu and Half Muslim
    What is the fuss about
    Budhha you worship is A Kala
    When you curse Ma aye …… Kala
    You curse Budhha
    To each is own
    Religion
    Colonialism is the Worst Form Terrorism….
    Read Quran in English translated by Yousef Ali
    to understand Islam
    Further!
    Sir Winston Churchil A Bull Dog Consulted Quran in Second World War
    Bush and Blair ( An American Poodle ) are responsible for The Muslim World on Fire

  6. @Lulan … It is people like you who are ignorant and intolerant of other people’s culture, religion, and history that are causing trouble and turmoil all over the world.

    Like you, all fanatics and extremists think only their way of life and philosophy is the right way and all others are enemies to be got rid of. No wonder the world is in such turmoil — there are far too many of you spouting nonsense, spreading hatred and inciting violence.

  7. Well said..kala. It shows how racist to use this word.
    Then shall we assume that the phaya Buddha who is based in India (also kala). Burgess buddisht are living and working in so called Muslim countries like Gulf rich states, Saudi, Kuwait, Dubai and also in Malaysia and Brunei. They all are feeding their families in Burma with those earnings. Why in those Kala countries? Give up and return to Burma then.
    You want democracy and support neo nazi policy
    then your are dreaming. Valuable jaded gems minerals and teaks are already gone to China very long time back by illegal export. Nothing left in Burma. Now the lands of poor people are occupied by China as well. Don’t blame Muslims. They earn and and they pay taxes. They have sacrificed their life for Burma’s independence as well. Read the history and you will find U Rashid comrade of Bogyoke Aung San.

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