Ashin Wirathu is a Burmese Buddhist monk at a monastery in Myanmar’s second largest city, Mandalay. He’s also the spiritual leader of the anti-Muslim organization, the 969 Movement.
Wirathu is using his sermons to preach religious hatred against a sect of Rohingya-Muslims in Myanmar, a country that is 90% Buddhist. The face of this movement to oppress and expel Muslims, TIME Magazine labeled him ‘the face of Buddhist terror‘ last July. Unphased by all the criticism, he laughs at reports calling him the ‘Buddhist Bin Laden.
Although there are 135 ethnicities in Myanmar, Wirathu says these Muslim expats from Bangladesh want to take over their Buddhist land. He claims the movement is defensive, but the concentration camps beg to differ. Located in northern Myanmar, Rohingya-Muslims are forced to live in deplorable conditions. The government claims the camps are only for Bangladesh refugees, but many of the residents claim Burmese birth. In these camps marriage requires permission, food comes irregularly from the World Food Programme, and Burmese citizenship is denied per a law passed in 1982.
The situation is only metastasizing, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has begun to raise the question of genocide.
Most recently, the Arakan Project, a research based advocacy group, published reports that police killed 49 Muslims in Northern Rakhine from January 9-13th. The dead included Rohingya women and children.
As Wirathu’s hatred continues to spread to other parts of the country through his traveling sermons, he is also working to gain support of some dangerous legislation. He is working to pass the “Law for the Protection of Race, Religion, and Language”, a law requiring any Buddhist woman who wants to marry a Muslim to receive permission from her parents and local government officials. Any unions made without these approvals carry the punishment of up to 10 years in jail for the Muslim male and loss of his property. The amendment is currently up for debate within Myanmar’s legislative body.
Some government officials are going so far as to push for a ban on Rohingya women’s right to bear more than 2 children.
Profile on Wirathu– VICE