Thein Sein Asks Parliament to Discuss Interfaith Marriage

Wirathu, 969, interfaith, Buddhism, Myanmar, Burma, Islam, religion, intolerance, race, religion

Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — President Thein Sein has asked Parliament to discuss public proposals for a new law to restrict interfaith marriages, after receiving a letter from prominent monks showing more than 1 million signatures of support for such a measure.

However, Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann has decided to throw the question back to the president, saying lawmakers will not discuss the matter further until a bill is drafted and considered by relevant government bodies, including the religious affairs ministry, the home affairs ministry and the immigration department of the foreign affairs ministry, as well as the national human rights commission and the union high court.

Shwe Mann, who is chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said in a session of Parliament on Thursday morning that he would write a letter to Thein Sein himself, urging the government to take responsibility in the matter.

“He told Parliament that this issue relates to each ministry, and each ministry needs to be involved in writing a draft law that can be proposed for discussion in Parliament. They are kicking this issue back and forth,” Pe Than, a lawmaker for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), told The Irrawaddy on Thursday afternoon, adding that the usual procedure was for ministries to draft and send bills to Parliament for discussion.

A Buddhist nationalist movement known as 969 is calling for restrictions on interfaith marriage and has collected 1.3 million signatures in support. Leading monks in the movement hired lawyers last year to write their own version of a bill, which, if enacted, would require Buddhist women to get permission from parents and government officials before marrying a man from any other faith. The bill, which has been opposed by human rights activists, also calls for non-Buddhist men to convert to Buddhism before marrying Buddhist women.

“A lot of Buddhist people are afraid their Buddhist religion will disappear if the Muslim population grows. Our Buddhist monks are worried the Muslim population will influence the country,” the RNDP lawmaker Pe Than said.

“Personally, I would not block the bill because we need to protect our race. But it’s important to clarify that we only need to protect our fence, rather than disturbing or offending people of other religions,” he added, referring to concerns that Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh are illegally crossing the border and living in Arakan State, where his constituency is based.

He said protections for race and religion were part of the 2008 Constitution, in the form of a prohibition on polygamy, but that enforcement remained lax and a legal upgrade was needed.

Win Htein, a lawmaker from the National League for Democracy (NLD), declined to comment when asked for his views of restrictions on interfaith marriage. “Issues of race and religion are very dangerous,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“Some ethnic MPs do not like to talk about this issue in Parliament,” he added. While most people in the country are Buddhist, Christianity and Islam are widely practiced by certain ethnic minority groups.

Thein Sein received a letter last year with 1.3 million signatures in support of a bill to restrict interfaith marriage. The letter was sent by the Organization for the Protection of Race, Religion and Belief, a group of senior monks who support the 969 movement. The president asked Parliament earlier this week to discuss the proposal.

The monks are calling for four new laws to “protect race and religion.” In addition to an interfaith marriage law, they are requesting a law for population control, a law to govern religious conversion, and a law to outlaw polygamy.

The 969 movement is led by Wirathu, a controversial monk in Mandalay who has held public sermons around the country urging Buddhists to boycott Muslim-owned businesses. The 969 sermons have been criticized as hate speech, with allegations that they have been linked to outbreaks of Buddhist mob violence against Muslim communities.

16 Responses to Thein Sein Asks Parliament to Discuss Interfaith Marriage

  1. It is none of their business.

  2. The Burmese are majority ethnic of Burma. If one million signatures discriminate the religions of minority ethnics, we will definitely go back to U Nu administration. U Nu tried to make Buddhism as state religion which was staunchly fought back by the Christians from Kachin, Chin and Karen ethnic groups. Unless we all have equal footing in the Union, Muslim’s affairs will not end there but it will go beyond Islam. “Interfaith Marriage Ban” may work for radical Buddhists but it will bring distrust and divisions among public life. If we do not want to value unity in diversities, building the Union of Myanmar will not make sense. In other words, trying to rebuild the Union of Myanmar will have no meaning. Kachins, Chins, Naga, Was, Kayahs, Lahus and many Karens are Christian. So, the majority Burmese better rethink what is constructive and what is destructive in pushing this kind of hostile bill to the Hlutdaw.

  3. There’s no need for people who declare themselves as Buddhists to fear for the disappearance of Buddhism unless they themselves have forgotten how to be genuine disciples of Buddha. Restricting interfaith marriages and/or inter-racial marriages will only create more resentment and chaos in Burma.

    Below are Buddha’s words from Kalama Sutta:

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
    Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
    Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.
    Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religous books.
    Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
    But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason, and is favourable to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

    The Burmese Parliament should focus more on improving public education, public health, developing the country’s infrastructure and improving the lives of the majority of its citizens living in rural areas and along the country’s borders.

  4. Majority Buddhists women are marrying with European and US men not local Muslims much. It is too much negligible quantity marry with local Muslims.

    Amyo-barthar-Thar-tha-nar was the policy of Doo-Bama Asi-ayone, but General Aung San opposed it, due to many reasons. The more you afraid of your religion, the more peoples want to marry other faith especially europeans and US.

  5. After killing hundreds of thousands of ethnic Karens, Kachins, Shans, Mons, Chins and so on, the Myanmars are worrying that they might lose their majority status. What a shame? Muslim are just 4% of the nation’s population. Ne Win, Saw Maung and Than Shwe cared too much about their own power. They used tens of thousands of soldiers to guard their own lives while the border was left open to aliens like whores. The Bengali people entered into Burma through Arakan. Many of them stayed in Arakan but many went to Karen State which is bordering to Thailand and in case they are raided it is easy to sneak into Thailand. Many of the Bengali people married with the Karen women and the Karen women are converted into Islam from Buddhism or Christianity. Many Karen women are now Muslim. Now, the fire is not even started, the Burmese are crying loud that their daughters might become Muslim. What a shame? Because of the Burmese untrustworthiness, countless ethnics’ lives had been lost physically and many souls also have been lost spiritually. Do the Burmese people people care how much the ethnic nationals have lost? Now, the Burmese are crying so loud that they are about to be extinct from the face of the earth. Bengali’s issue will become more problematic to the ethnic groups in the near future. Instead of creating more problems, kick the Bengali people out of Arakan and try to be a decent people to the ethnics who own their own lands and soils in the Union of Burma. Burmese are not greater than the ethnics.

    • Advocate shaikh niazul razy

      Rohingya is not bangali, they are ori[phegin from arakan. so there are no illegal bangali in burma. but there are many illegal burmies live in bangladesh such as chakma, rakhaine, rohingya, marma etc. they are creating problems in chittagong hill trucks. burmies govt should take back them.

  6. In the Islamic countries, it is generally made into law of the fact that whoever marries a Muslim, automatically converts into the religion, be a man or a woman, because no one is allowed to marry outside Islam. Only a Muslim can marry another Muslim. In the same manner, Myanmar can institutionalize a law making it compulsory for every non-Buddhist to become Buddhist even if it is just moments before marriage. Any Muslim man or woman who marries outside of their community (Islam) is subjected to heavy prison terms and gigantic fine. This is also should be taken into account when the new law is made in the Parliament. Since Burma is a Buddhist majority country, the law will bring the rule of Buddhism into practice and bring eternal peace and harmony among the citizens. Burma can opt for other democratic forms of marriage in the international community only when countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and our neighbour Bangladesh stop implementing the law making it compulsory for non-Muslims to convert into Islam when he or she marries a Muslim.

    • You are thinking like a fallen star. Myanmar can do better than the Muslim countries, my man. If you try to copy from Islamic nations how to run Union of Myanmar, you are an idiot.

    • Advocate shaikh niazul razy

      as a lawyer in bangladesh i can say there is no such type of law in bangladesh. in bangladesh a muslim woman/male can marry a non muslim male/woman without conversion to their religion under the special marriage act.

  7. Bangaliu, who is Banghlai legally, how can Panglong Thar will know Arakan Histroy? If he wants to know reallity please contact me at Bangkok. Does he know India was under Mugol Empire? It was one country before creation of Pakistan and later another country created Bangladesh for political gain.

    Arakan was a kingdom influenced by Mugol Empire and Orangzit Dynasty of Bangol of India. These Muslims stayed ther since centuries. Foreign Histroian and Arakan famous Histrorian SAaya U San Tha Aung and Rakhine Sayadaw XXXXX had clearly written.
    I have the copies.

  8. Kalama Sutra was meant for peace for all and not for troublemaking by the Muslims. So if we think about the ‘observation and analysis’, we will come to know that Buddhism must be reinstated in every nook and corner of Burma to bring ‘benefit for one and all’. It is not an extremist idea as in the Islamic faith because the Muslims preach only for peace for the Ummah or Muslim brotherhood. To make peace universal, one need to study and follow the rules laid down by the Tipitaka. For this reason people should not only read the Kalama sutra but alsow practise it, irrespective of race, sex or religion. Only then people can experience bliss and happiness as in the Kalama sutra:

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
    Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
    Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.
    Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religous books.
    Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
    But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason, and is favourable to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

  9. Faith and religion are personal. State has no business in those two things. If I want I can be a Buddhist today and a Muslim tomorrow. No law must be imposed on me. I can be an atheist. Freedom of religion must not be suppressed with different laws. Freedom of religion is one of the backbones in democratic society. That freedom must be defended and protected by the law and the government.

  10. 1. Anyone who lives in Myanmar should obey existing laws of the country and swear allegiance to the nation.
    2.Every religion and faith should be respected and accepted.
    3.Any forced conversion should be regarded as abuse.There must be an effective law and law enforcement to protect families.
    4. Child education is OK , it may have prevented this current turmoil.

    • You are totally right. We are aware of the fact that the islamists even tried to islamize the neighborhood of Birmingham as recent as last week, when the Trojan Horse was unearthed. The islamist way of practice is close to islamic apartheid, it is said now by the western democracy loving people. why? It is because of the fact that the Muslims are the ones who raise hue and cry in cases of interfaith marriage and not the Burmese. Even though there are a number of laws regarding the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist marriages in Burma, people excepting the Muslims hardly have had any headaches. But with the rising Islamist threat, the use of bullying as tricks to dominate the markets of Burma where Muslims are seen … and forcible conversion, the law, an equitable law must be in place of Burma to stop human right violations. And of course for making eternal peace and harmony reign.

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