Monk Conference Backs Bills to Restrict Interfaith Marriage, Rohingya Voting

Buddhism, Islam, Buddhists, Muslims, Myanmar, Burma, religious tensions, Wirathu, nationalism, interfaith marriage, white cards, temporary IDs, political representation

A banner promoting the new Upper Burma chapter of the Group to Protect Nationality, Religion and the Buddhist Mission is seen at a monastery in Mandalay. (Photo: Teza Hlaing / The Irrawaddy)

MANDALAY — Thousands of Buddhist monks who gathered at a conference in Mandalay will continue to submit signatures to Parliament in support of a proposed law that would restrict interfaith marriages between Buddhist women and men of other faiths.

The monks also said they supported proposed legislation that would restrict the rights of ethnic Rohingya Muslims in west Burma to form political parties or vote.

More than 10,000 monks attended the conference at A Tu Ma Shi monastery on Wednesday. They said the draft interfaith marriage law, which emerged after a monks’ conference in Rangoon last year, would be sent to Parliament with help from the National Democratic Front (NDF). If passed, the law would force Buddhist women to get permission from their parents and local government officials before marrying a man of any other faith. A non-Buddhist man wishing to marry a Buddhist woman would be required to convert to Buddhism.

“Daw Khin Wine Kyi from the NDF party promised to help with the law,” said U Yattha, a leading monk. “We are not actually involved in drafting this law, although some people have accused us of getting involved in politics as monks. We are just helping because it is very important for this law to be enacted, as the marriage law of 1954 is not enough to protect women and children from being converted to other religions or nationalities.”

After Buddhist monks first proposed the idea for the draft law last year, they hired lawyers to take care of writing it. At the time, the bill was promoted as a way to protect Buddhist women from marrying Muslim men and potentially being forced to convert to Islam.

The proposal came amid heightened religious tensions in Buddhist-majority Burma, following a number of anti-Muslim riots across the country that left hundreds dead and nearly 2,000 people displaced. The majority of victims were Muslims, especially Rohingyas in the western state of Arakan.

A nationalist anti-Muslim group known as 969 also collected signatures last year to support the draft interfaith marriage law. The group calls on Buddhists to shun Muslim-run businesses and is led by nationalist monk Wirathu, who resides at a monastery in Mandalay and also attended the conference on Wednesday.

At the conference, leading monks said about 3 million signatures from across the country had been given to NDF lawmakers, for submission together with the draft law, while another 1 million signatures would be sent to the party soon.

“We believe more signatures will come, and of course we will submit them to Parliament,” U Yattha said. “We will continue pushing for the passage of the interfaith marriage draft law—we will not stop until the law is enacted.”

U Eainda Sakka Biwuntha said the goal was not to single out any particular faith.

“The marriage law is not only to protect Buddhists. Other religions will also have legal protections from this law as well,” he said.

“We do not know why only Muslims have raised concerns and taken this proposal as a threat, while others, the Hindus and Christians, are silent. This is a question we want to have answered.”

In a statement released at the conference, the monks said they also supported a separate bill to restrict the rights of temporary ID holders to forming political parties or voting. The bill, expected to be put forward in Parliament in the coming weeks, is seen as targeting Muslims because thousands of Rohingyas were given temporary IDs, or “white cards,” before the 2010 elections, enabling them to vote.

The statement also encouraged media to report impartially on religious conflicts.

“Some of the reporting about the clashes between Buddhists and Muslims has been biased, creating more tension between the two groups,” U Eainda Sakka Biwuntha said. “For this conference, too, if the media reports in a biased way, or if they quote monks who are not spokespersons, we will sue them.”

The monks urged reporters to use the term “Bengali” when referring to the 800,000 or so people in Arakan State known internationally as Rohingyas. Many Buddhists in the state accuse the Rohingyas of being illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and the government also calls them as Bengalis while largely denying them citizenship.

The monks at the conference formed an Upper Burma chapter of the Group to Protect Nationality, Religion and the Buddhist Mission, a nationwide non-government organization that was established last year.

The group says it seeks to support the draft interfaith marriage law, to prevent religious conversions, and to dispel rumors that can enflame religious tensions. “For example, the recent incident in Meikhtila was based on rumors about the fighting between Buddhists and Muslims,” U Eainda Sakka Biwuntha said, referring to anti-Muslim riots that left over 40 people dead last year in March. “The situation was eased because our group members rushed to the area, investigated the reality and spread the truth to the public. …That’s one activity our group will continue to do in the future, for the stability of the country.”

The Upper Burma chapter said it would educate children about Buddhism, encouraging them to respect and maintain their own religion and nationalism.

Other well-known senior monks at the conference included Sayadaw Insein Ywama, Sayadaw Sitagu, Sayadaw Shwe Nya War, Sayadaw Galone Ni, and abbots from Shwe Kyin monastery.

Some monks emphasized the need for peace in efforts to protect Buddhism.

“It is important to be patient and work with forgiveness in order to maintain the Sasana [Buddhist mission],” said Sayadaw Sitagu, also known as U Nyar Neitthara.

11 Responses to Monk Conference Backs Bills to Restrict Interfaith Marriage, Rohingya Voting

  1. Burmese Monks are now involving in Politics disguising with the cover as controlling and safe guarding the Buddhist religion and nation. Muslims houses , villages were burnt in Arakan state last year. People are in IDP camps and could not move from one place to another. Now Government changed their name within one year from Rohingya to Bengali. They know well what those people are Bengali or Rohingya… Monks are also directing the press to use Bengali with same tune of Burmese racist Govt. . What kind of Monks are those. Do they have any sympathy for human being. This is kind of black day for Buddhism.

  2. Myanmar Buddhist monks are now becoming Ayatollahs of Iranian style of Imams. Love can never be restricted by the line drawn by monks. Religions without tolerance and love must go down in history. Buddhism in Myanmar is now a laughing matter. None of us care about how Wirathu and his followers believe. Myanmar girls are crazy for a wealthy people from other religions. The Buddhist women, even married women, still sleep with Muslims as long as their husbands cannot meet their needs. They will keep going to where the money is and where bigger and longer penis is.

    • Or perhaps, they will go where they are treated with more respect and compassion And not with the kind of contempt your comment illustrates. Treat women with care and respect and perhaps they won’t mind your small penis and financial insecurity.

  3. I am sick and tired of these monks getting involved in politics and interfaith marriages, etc. How do you convert non-Buddhist to become a believer in Buddhism? Buddha did not force anyone to believe in Him. Didn’t Gautama Buddha say that we shouldn’t just believe everything he said?

  4. Many thanks.
    Please lookafter to our Burmese girls.

    Their religion is satanic,copy and it is flawed.
    They are threats not only to Burma,but also to the whole world and the whole Universe.

  5. Interfaith marriage may happen in the mainland Burma but not in Rakhine State. Rakhines do not marry Bengalis and Begalis do not marry Rakhiens either. Rakhines do not even marry mainland Burmese Buddhist. The interfaith marriage law is not relevant to Rakhine State. Tradition discourages marrying tow different distinct communities along the Centuries old history.

  6. I am a Christian from Myanmar.
    I oppose to (Restrict Interfaith Marriage) !

  7. They can educate but they can’t legislate.

    Monks should stick to showing the way to Nibban, even engage in politics, but stay out of marriage.

    No one has the right to stop or put restrictions on our women from marrying whomsoever they want to. A taboo may not be violated but a taboo is not even customary law. Preach by all means. It’s all in the mind but they’d be foolish to try and enforce a taboo.

    Wirathu has hijacked the Sangha’s political consciousness and harnessed it to the military yoke instead of fighting to throw it off. Well done!

  8. Finally one speaks out against the weakness of Myanmar women when it comes to important decisions like whom to marry and whom not. Of course Myanmar men do not have such weakness when foreign white skin ladies appear or for any other reason. Myanmar men would know exactly how to protect their interests and rights. – This one can see in all T Shops of Myanmar where more or less only young men are sitting while women bring in the cash for a home household. Also there were not over 630 official rape cases in Buddhist Myanmar and 80 % of such in Yangon alone, done on men,– no,,,, it were weak and by law to restrict Myanmar women which maneuvered them self into a rape situation. Of course not by Myanmar men as they like the Monks all want to protect the Myanmar women, the weak women of Myanmar. Daw Khin Wine Kyi from the NDF must speak out by herself to be believed,- if so it might be more a move to gain votes against a real democratic oriented NLD…..nothing more. Bad article as it did not talked about all the women and women rights groups which oppose such law. Missing important part of the article to be balanced.

  9. Is there a marriage rule in Islam? Why hasn’t anyone asked the questin, yet started touching issues related to the proposed Burmese marriage law? Well in Islam QA, it is said like this:

    The marriage contract in Islam cannot be valid unless it is done by the wali (guardian) of the woman. This is usually her father or someone who acts in his stead if he is not there, such as a grandfather, brother or paternal uncle.
    The marriage contract that you mentioned was devoid of this, hence it is not valid, and what must be done is to repeat the contract in the presence of the guardian if you want to marry this man.
    If the guardian cannot be present, then he can appoint any Muslim man to take his place and do the marriage contract on his behalf.


    It is not stipulated in Islam that the marriage contract must be done in the mosque; rather it may be done in any place, and there do not have to be any witnesses on the woman’s side, as it is sufficient to have two Muslims of good character as witnesses. But the marriage must be announced publicly, and it is not valid to have an agreement to keep it secret.
    It is also not stipulated that the contract should be written down, although this is required nowadays in order to protect the rights of both spouses and to prove the marriage. But not writing it down does not affect the validity of the marriage.
    The husband is obliged to give the wife the mahr (dowry) that has been agreed upon, and to spend on her maintenance enough to provide her with a place to live, clothing, and food, on a reasonable basis. If the husband does not do these things, he is falling short and is sinning according to sharee‘ah, but that does not affect the validity of the marriage contract, if it has been done in the proper manner in the first place.

  10. Disgusting. The Burmese clearly aren’t civilized yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available. Comments with external links in the body text will be deleted by moderators.