Journalist Beseeches Brethren: Stop With the Muslim Hate Speech

human rights, Rohingya, Buddhist, Muslim, media, censorship, racism

Arakanese women protest against a planned visit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Sittwe in October 2012. (Photo: Rakhine Straight Views)

RANGOON — The slight, soft-spoken woman onstage called on the media and the rest of the country to let go of narrow-minded nationalism.

“This is a time to fight for democratization. We have to respect each and every ethnic (group) as a human being,” beseeched Mon Mon Myat, whose meek bearing veils her ferocity as a powerful freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.

It was refreshing to hear these words in a public forum in Burma because—let’s face it—such sentiments have been sorely lacking.

Since religious conflict erupted June 2012, killing at least 240 people and displacing more than 140,000, mostly Muslims, Burma has been engulfed in hate speech.

Vitriolic and inflammatory comments targeting Muslims, who make up a small fraction of the country, have become worryingly common on blogs, web forums and Facebook pages. Internet access is low—some estimates say only 0.2 percent of the population is online—but young people, as well as a large Burmese diaspora worldwide, are increasingly using social media to share news and opinions.

Besieged by a fear that Muslims will take over Burma, Buddhist nationalists as well as some monks have urged people to boycott Muslim-owned businesses and successfully lobbied the government to draft controversial laws, including one that will restrict Buddhist women from marrying Muslim men. No similar restrictions are being planned for Buddhist men.

“The two strongest institutions in our country—the military and monk organizations—are driven by men, and promote nationalism and religion. That influences our media coverage,” Mon Mon Myat said on Tuesday at the second day of an international media conference organized by Hawaii-based East-West Center.

“I found that in the local media coverage, there are few voices on Muslims’ view. I think some owners worry their circulation may decrease if they are seen as sympathetic to the Muslims.”

Rescued From Hate-Filled Conflict

Three years after a quasi-civilian government took office in Burma and introduced democratic reforms that have won near-universal praise, the issue of violence against Muslims is casting a long shadow on the country’s future.

Mon Mon Myat, who wrote an investigative report in 2013 on how social media posts and websites were stirring up hatred, said her analysis of two bouts of conflicts in western Burma’s Arakan state and in central Meikhtila showed there are four steps to the process.

“The first step is that whatever happened, whether it was a rape or a quarrel, it is put on social media and (hatred is) stirred up through it,” she said.

Then the print media pique nationalism, influenced by nationalist editors, businessmen and religious leaders. When it becomes an ethno-religious conflict, the military steps in for the sake of people’s security, she said.

“This scenario creates the military as an essential institution for the country’s stability,” she added.

“First it is an ethnic conflict, later it becomes a religious issue and now even the president has handed over (the drafting of controversial laws) to the government so the president is showing he’s taking the side of the Buddhists,” she later told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It’s not good for our nation because (nationalism) is a tool politicians use to control the people and to sustain their power.”

As the 2015 elections draw near, she fears nationalism will be used even more to create conflict between different ethnic groups and religions.

“The most important thing for the media is they shouldn’t be used (by) the government, opposition or religious groups. They have to be independent and neutral,” she said.

“We’re far beyond the colonial period. We have to wake up from that very narrow-minded nationalist view. Everyone has equal rights and equal dignity and are equal human beings.”

9 Responses to Journalist Beseeches Brethren: Stop With the Muslim Hate Speech

  1. Freelance Journalist : Mon Mon Myat is reasoning enough for her intellectual instincts in pointing out the needs of the journalist in Burma should be able to focus on the ” Democracy and Democratic Reforms Process in the Country “, not to allow themselves at the trapping of the propaganda by the military generals and the tactics of ” Divide and Rule “. More than 6 decades of divide and rule is ” Enough “!!!!!!!!!!!!! They have to go !!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. RESPECT for that woman Mon Mon Myat! This is a true humanitarian.

  3. She is my hero for ability to speak out the controversial thing in Burmese community. All the political forces in Burma are quite reluctant to touch this untouchable issue. Ma Mon Mon Myat had just made the mission impossible possible. I had repeatedly heed the warning to our citizens not to harbor racial/religious hate towards the indian/ Chinese/ bangali, whatever. This bad feeling will only destroy the chance of democracy. We must be able to live together among the different races, hold hands together, fight for democracy. The last thing we need is not to fall into trap of Military fascists and their brain-wash work, and lost the way to democracy forever.

  4. By born human beings are equal. Why the administration can stay neutral? Many folks are bias in the Presidents office. These peoples has no ethic and humanism. General Aung San is the only person to say that not bias minded and some of the politicians later follow his steps. But to day it is regretful that many a peoples in the present administration become completely bad and narrow minded. So long as these kind of peoples stay in the country, this country can not be progress. better to take example of general Aung San.

  5. Mon Mon Myat is highly intelligent as well as brave to come out with this article.

    A short, simple and straight forward article which should inspire the majority Buddhists to speak up against those nationalist extremists whose activities are a great threat Theravada Buddhism in our country.

    Our society needs more “thinking” and “courageous” individuals like Mon Mon Myat.

  6. We burmese people do not deserve with democrasy.We do love just the name of democrasy but we do not accept the core policy of it.

  7. There should be many Mon Mon Myats in Burma today to change the mentality of the people to be cultured civilized in the arena of mankind to respect one another and treat as human beings with dignity, love and compassion, regardless their ethnicity religion and the colour of their skin. I am a Rohingya Muslim and I have my dignity as other human beings do. We are living in one planet and let us all multiply our joys and divide our sorrows and be happy and make this world a better place for all sans discrimination sans intimidation and sans radicalization.

    What is evil? … Killing is evil, lying is evil, slandering is evil, gossip is evil, hatred is evil, to cling to false doctrine is evil, all these things are evil. And what is the root of evil, illusion is the root of evil.

  8. As a human being we should respect each other. Hate , killing, Genocide etc are not solution.We have to stay together, so we need to know each other .

  9. What is the title of Ma Mon Mon Kyat’s report and where can I access it?

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