Ashin Wirathu

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Ashin Wirathu
ဝီရသူ
Religion Buddhism
School Theravada
Temple Masoyein Monastery, Mandalay
Other names Win Khaing Oo
Dharma names Virasu
Personal
Nationality Burmese
Born 10 July 1968 (1968-07-10) (age 49)
Kyaukse, Mandalay Division, Burma (now Myanmar)

Wirathu (Burmese: ဝီရသူ; born 10 July 1968 in Kyaukse, Mandalay Division, Burma) is a nationalist Burmese Buddhist monk, and the spiritual leader of the anti-Muslim movement in Burma.[1] He has been accused of inspiring persecution of Muslims through his speeches, although he claims to be nothing more than a peaceful preacher and has never advocated violence.[2]

Background[edit]

Wirathu was born in 1968 near Mandalay. He left school at the age 14 to become a monk. In 2001, he became involved in the 969 Movement .[3] Two years later, in 2003, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his sermons,[4] but was released in 2012 along with many other political prisoners.[5] Since the government reforms of 2011, he has been especially active on YouTube and other forms of social media.[6]

Political engagement[edit]

Wirathu led a rally of monks in Mandalay in September 2012 to promote President Thein Sein's controversial plan to send Burmese Rohingya Muslims to a third country.[7] One month later, more violence broke out in Rakhine state.[7] Wirathu claims the violence in Rakhine was the spark for the most recent violence in Burma's central city of Meiktila, where a dispute in a gold shop quickly spiralled into a looting-and-arson spree. More than 14 people were killed, after monasteries, shops and houses were burned down across the city.[8][9] At least two people, including a Burmese Buddhist monk, Shin Thawbita, and a Muslim man were reportedly assaulted and tortured by mobs in Meikhtilar on 5 March.[10][11]

Wirathu is mentioned on the cover story of Time magazine as "The Face of Buddhist Terror" on 20 June 2013.[12] "You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog," Wirathu said, referring to Muslims. "If we are weak," he said, "our land will become Muslim." [2] Referring to Muslim violence and domination in neighbouring nations and the example of the spread of Islam in Indonesia,[13] Wirathu worries about a similar fate for Burma.[14] Wirathu claims that his Muslim opponents labelled him the "Burmese Bin Laden" after the Time article incorrectly reported he described himself in this manner.[15] He said he "abhorred violence" and "opposes terrorism".[15] Wirathu has also expressed admiration for, and a desire to follow the example of, the English Defence League by "protecting the public."[16]

Thein Sein accused Time of slandering the Buddhist religion and harming the national reconciliation process by accusing the outspoken cleric of stoking anti-Muslim violence in Burma. Describing him as a "son of Buddha", the president defended Wirathu as a "noble person" committed to peace. "The article in Time Magazine can cause misunderstanding about the Buddhist religion, which has existed for millennia and is followed by the majority of Burmese citizens," Thein Sein said.[17] In an interview with DVB, Wirathu accused Time of committing a "serious human rights violation" by refusing to present his views in a verbatim question and answer format. "Before I had heard [rumours] of the Arab world dominating the global media," he said, "but this time, I've seen it for myself."[17] Wirathu openly blamed Muslims for instigating the recent violence. Wirathu said Burma's Muslims are being financed by Middle Eastern forces, saying, "The local Muslims are crude and savage because the extremists are pulling the strings, providing them with financial, military and technical power".[18]

On 21 July 2013, he was the apparent target of a bomb explosion, but he remained unscathed. Five people were slightly injured in the blast, including a novice monk. Wirathu claimed that the bombing was an attempt by Muslim extremists to silence his voice.[19][20][21]

He has called for restrictions on marriages between Buddhists and Muslims,[22] and for boycotts of Muslim-owned businesses.[6]

However, not everyone from within his own faith agrees with his teachings. Abbot Arriya Wuttha Bewuntha of Mandalay's Myawaddy Sayadaw monastery denounced him, saying, "He sides a little towards hate [and this was] not the way Buddha taught. What the Buddha taught is that hatred is not good, because Buddha sees everyone as an equal being. The Buddha doesn't see people through religion."[7] Critics also explain what they see as his extremism as little more than due to ignorance, although his views do have influence in Burma where many businesses are "run successfully by Muslims".[7]

Burmese pro-democracy activist Maung Zarni also denounced Wirathu's '969' movement for spreading hate speech [7] and argued that EU countries should take the matter seriously as Burma is a "major EU-aid recipient country".[7]

In September 2014, Wirathu attended a "Great Sangha Conference" in Colombo organised by Bodu Bala Sena. Wirathu said that his 969 Movement would work with the Bodu Bala Sena.[23]

In January 2015 Wirathu publicly called United Nations envoy Yanghee Lee a "bitch" and a "whore"[24][25] and invited her to "offer your arse to the kalars" (a derogatory term for Muslims).[26][27]

Nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu led a prayer and protest at the Mahamuni Buddha Temple in Mandalay on February 23, 2017 to condemn the Thai government’s raid on the Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Bangkok.[28]

Ayeyarwady Region's government has banned Ashin Wirathu, the nationalist Buddhist monk and high-profile leader of the religious organisation known as Ma Ba Tha (Patriotic Association of Myanmar), from preaching in the region.[29]

A regional government's statement said U Wirathu gave a religious talk on February 9 in Kyoneku village tract in Ngapudaw Township, Ayeyarwady Region, breaching rules of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed body of high-ranking monks that oversees and regulates the Sangha or Buddhist clergy in Myanmar.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2017/07/will-fight Two documentaries probe Myanmar’s religious strife
  2. ^ a b Thomas Fuller (20 June 2013). "Extremism Rises Among Myanmar Buddhists". New York Times. 
  3. ^ Alan Strathern (1 May 2013). "Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?". BBC. 
  4. ^ Kate Hodal (28 April 2013). "Buddhist monk uses racism and rumours to spread hatred in Burma". Guardian. 
  5. ^ http://www.irrawaddy.com/interview/nationalist-monk-u-wirathu-denies-role-in-anti-muslim-unrest.html
  6. ^ a b Gianluca Mezzofiore (26 March 2013). "Fanatical Buddhist Monk Saydaw Wirathu Calling for Boycott of Myanmar Muslims". International Business Times. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Kate Hodal (18 April 2013). "Buddhist monk uses racism and rumours to spread hatred in Burma - The Guardian". The Guardian. 
  8. ^ Phyo Wai Lin, Jethro Mullen and Kocha Olarn (22 March 2013). ", muslims, clash with Rakhines in Myanmar". CNN. 
  9. ^ "Inteview with Myanmar's President". CNN. 24 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Rohingya Saga". Korean Press News. 21 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Horrifying Moment Burmese Buddhists Set Fire to Muslim Man in Riots Which Left 43 Dead | American Renaissance
  12. ^ Hannah Beech (1 July 2013). "The Face of Buddhist Terror". Time Magazine. 
  13. ^ "Militant Buddhist monks are stoking sectarian tensions in Myanmar". The Economist. 10 August 2017. Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  14. ^ Raymond Ibrahim (2 August 2013). "Buddhist Extremism?". Front Page Magazine. 
  15. ^ a b Khin Khin Ei (21 June 2103). "Myanmar Monk Rejects Terrorist Label Following Communal Clashes". Radio Free Asia.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. ^ "Radical Buddhist monk accused of inciting riots that have killed hundreds of Muslims". New York Post. 21 June 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Hanna Hindstrom (26 June 2013). "Burma president backs anti-Muslim 'hate preacher' Wirathu". Democratic Voice of Burma. 
  18. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/18/buddhist-monk-spreads-hatred-burma
  19. ^ Shibani Mahtani and Myo Myo (22 Jul 2013). "Blast Near Monk Injures 5 in Myanmar". Wall Street Journal. 
  20. ^ "Burma police: Explosion near Wirathu sermon in Mandalay wounds 5". AP News. 22 Jul 2013. 
  21. ^ Khin Maung Soe and Yadanar Oo (22 Jul 2013). "Myanmar's Nationalist Monk Claims Bombers Sought to 'Silence Him'". Radio Free Asia. 
  22. ^ Shibani Mahtani (22 July 2013). "Myanmar Plan to Curb Interfaith Marriage Gains Support". Wall Street Journal. 
  23. ^ "Ashin Wirathu Thera of Myanmar to work with BBS". Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 28 September 2014. 
  24. ^ Tim Hume (22 January 2015). "Top U.N. official slams Myanmar monk over 'whore' comments". CNN. 
  25. ^ "UN condemns Myanmar monk Wirathu's 'sexist' comments". BBC Asia. 22 January 2016. 
  26. ^ Mangala Dilip (20 January 2015). "Anti-Muslim Myanmar Buddhist Monk Wirathu Calls UN Envoy 'Bitch and Whore'". International Business Times. 
  27. ^ Maddie Smith (22 January 2016). "Myanmar’s Extremist Monk Doesn’t Regret Calling UN Envoy a ‘Whore’". Vice News. 
  28. ^ Zarni Mann "U Wirathu Leads Protest in Solidarity with Dhammakaya Temple", The Irrawaddy, Myanmar, 24 February 2017
  29. ^ EMG Reporter [http://elevenmyanmar.com/local/8252 "Buddhist monk banned from preaching in Ayeyarwady"], Eleven Myanmar, Myanmar, 11 March 2017

External links[edit]