“Most Muslims destroy our country, our people and the Buddhist religion,” Buddhist Monk Ashin Wirathu said in a recent interview cited by Los Angeles Times on Sunday, May 24.
The 46-year-old monk is notorious for his anti-Muslim rant in the Buddhist-majority country.
Besides his speeches full of Religious Hatred , the extremist Buddhist’s anti-Muslim rhetoric also finds its way online where his Facebook posts warned of “an impending “jihad” against the huge Buddhist majority, spread rumors of Muslims systematically raping Buddhist women, and called for boycotting “Muslim-owned businesses”.
Fueling anti-Muslims sentiment, Wirathu argues that “Good Buddhists shouldn’t mix socially with Muslims,” who he says are snakes and mad dogs.
His “969” radical movement has led to widespread hate crimes and genocidal campaigns against the Muslim minority all across the Buddhist-dominated country, and has brutally rendered more than a million Muslim homeless.
In 2003, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was released in 2011 along with other political prisoners under a general amnesty.
Many believe that Wirathu along with other radicals are behind the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims on overcrowded fishing boats.
The desperate exodus through sea has left hundreds dead and thousands stranded, resulting in one of the world’s worst immigration crisis in decades.
“Wirathu plays a central role with his hate speech and the Islamophobia that it creates, given that the Rohingya are surrounded by a hostile community that can be whipped into violence very quickly,” said Penny Green, director of the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London and author of a forthcoming report on Burma.
“Why are these people leaving on boats? Why would people risk certain death on the high seas? Because the existence they have, and the lack of a future, is worse,” Green added.
Discriminatory “White Cards”
Adding to their misery, Rohingya Muslims will be barred from travelling between villages, starting a small business, or attending school by May 31, the deadline set for them to surrender their temporary “white cards.”
“Freedom of movement is very important,” said Shwe Maung, one of only two ethnic Rohingya members of parliament.
“No movement means no business, no chance for a better life, no money. People will become more and more vulnerable, and want to escape.”
Moreover, the religious minority was also targeted by a new family planning law that has been signed by President Thein Sein a few days ago.
The new law has drawn the ire of several rights groups and activists across the world.
“We shared the concerns that these bills can exacerbate ethnic and religious divisions,” US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The government has been repeatedly accused of being involved in the systematic discrimination against the Rohingya minority.
Extremist monks like Wirathu and his 969 are allowed to spread his message freely across the country without accountability.
The extremist monk is frequently visited by powerful politicians, in actions that reflect the support of the government to such radicals.
“Nothing is better for them than to get the country focused not on the failures of the government to move toward democracy, but on the threat to the country’s dominant religion,” said Roger Normand, founder of Justice Trust.
Described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term “Rohingya”, referring to them as “Bengalis”.
Rights groups have accused the Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas following the sectarian violence last year.
Between 2012 and 2013, Buddhists mob attacks have left hundreds of Rohingya Muslims killed and evacuated more than 140,000 from their homes.
The violence has displaced nearly 29,000 people, more than 97 % of whom are Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.
Many now live in camps, adding to 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June 2012, after a previous explosion of sectarian violence.