Hardline Buddhist Monks Stop Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday Celebration in Prome

By Kaung Myat Min 16 January 2017

PROME, Pegu Division — A Muslim ceremony to celebrate the 1,491st anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s birth was stopped at the last minute in Prome Township, Pegu Division by a Rangoon-based nationalist group.

Event organizers planned to hold their celebration Sunday afternoon inside a mosque in Prome’s Si Taw Mingalar Ward. But on Saturday, members of the Rangoon Division Nationalist Coalition Group demanded the event be canceled.

The Muslim organizers held talks on Saturday with the Prome Township administrator, the township police chief, and the head of Pegu Division’s Religious Affairs Department. An informal local citizens group, the anti-religious riot network, also joined in the talks.

Concerned authorities wanted to allow the religious ceremony for 30 minutes.

“We negotiated from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, and the Muslim side agreed to hold the ceremony for only 30 minutes,” said Ko Than Htike, a member of the anti-religious riot network. “But then, the nationalist group said later in the evening that the ceremony must be canceled. We negotiated with them [until 11:00 p.m.], but we could not reach an agreement.”

“If they wanted to object, they should have done so earlier,” said Ko Than Htike. “They should not force us to cancel the event at the last minute. Those invited have already started to arrive, and now we have to explain that the event is canceled.”

In previous years, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebration has been held peacefully in Prome. This is the first time the ceremony was canceled, said Ko Kyaw Naing, an event organizer.

“It is an annual donation ceremony that is held peacefully,” he said. “We canceled it at the objection of a group of people because we want to show Burmese citizens and global citizens that our religion is peaceful. Before the event, we received permission from government authorities. Now, we can’t even donate the meals we cooked.”

The Irrawaddy counted eight vehicles—including a light truck carrying Buddhist monks and bearing the Buddhist religious flag—being parked in front of the mosque in Si Taw Mingalar Ward on Sunday. Group members refused to answer questions about why they were stopping the Muslim religious event.

About 20 police were seen providing security near the mosque while pandals were being removed.

Exactly a week ago, a similar birthday celebration held inside Rangoon’s Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was also interrupted by Buddhist monks and nationalists.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.