In Burma, ethnic cleansing is happening. We have seen more human rights violations and attacks on Rohingya minorities in the past two years than in the last 20. Organized in monasteries and on Facebook, a wave of hate is being broadcast against the Muslim Rohingya community in Burma and a new apartheid system is being introduced.My family regularly get called “dogs” or worse when they walk down the street. The government continues to deny us citizenship, telling us this isn’t our home. We can’t marry the people we love and are told we’re only allowed to have two children per family. We can’t travel from one village to another without permission. No other minority in the world faces such extreme and vicious treatment. We are being treated as criminals simply because we exist.
Radical Buddhist nationalism is sweeping Burma, and at the forefront of the movement is a group more commonly associated with peace and tolerance: monks.The most prominent among them is the controversial cleric U Wirathu, who gives passionate sermons from his Mandalay base calling on Buddhists to stand up against the “Muslim threat.”“I believe Islam is a threat not just to Buddhism, but to the [Burmese] people and the country,” says the monk, whose boyish face and toothy grin belie the name his critics have given him: “the Buddhist bin Laden”.
President Thein Sein and his spokesperson Ye Htut have personally weighed in on the furor surrounding the interview. Their concern is that it could affect government efforts to rebuild harmony between Buddhists and Muslims (quite where these are I’m not sure), or sully the reputation of Buddhism. Nowhere do they address the actual parts of the interview that are cause for alarm, such as Wirathu’s dictate to followers that, “Now is not the time for calm. Now is the time to rise up, to make your blood boil.”It seems the journalist who wrote the piece is the greater of two evils. It reminds me of an article that appeared in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper several weeks after Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which killed close to 140,000 people. ‘The enemy that is worse than the cyclone’ was the headline, and the article an indictment of the work of journalists who had circumvented government restrictions to report on the true extent of the disaster, which the junta had tried to hide. They were deemed worse than the death toll of the cyclone.