The conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar has come to a head this year. Myanmar is 90% Buddhist, leaving Muslims the minority in a country transitioning from a military dictatorship to civilian rule. Unfortunately, Rohingya Muslims "have been denied citizenship and are severely mistreated in the western state of Rakhine, where the local government recently restricted Rohingya family size to two children."
From The Times of India:
The Buddhist-Rohingya conflict in Myanmar has created a widening zone of instability in the region, stretching beyond Myanmar to Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. The majority Buddhists of Myanmar have repeatedly attacked Rohingyas, a Bengali-speaking Muslim minority community who are treated by Myanmar as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Bangladesh rejects them as Myanmarese, with the result that they are nobody's people. Even Aung San Suu Kyi has been silent on the issue, drawing criticism from the west. Rohingyas are not a part of the 135 recognized ethnic groups in Myanmar, which complicates the issue.
In recent times, Rohingyas have found themselves as asylum seekers in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Meanwhile, the Islamic world has taken up cudgels on the Rohingyas' behalf, mounting a diplomatic offensive against Myanmar in international forums.
In June and October 2012, there was sustained violence in Myanmar's Rakhine province (which has Sittwe port, crucial to Indian interests) which displaced 100,000 Rohingyas. In March this year, anti-Muslim riots in Meiktila, central Myanmar, left 40 dead and thousands without homes.
Much of the blame for the recent violence in Myanmar has been placed at the feet of a Buddhist monk named Ashin Wirathu. Wirathu is the abbot of Masoeyein Monastery in Mandalay; he was freed last year after serving 9 years for helping to incite anti-Muslim riots in 2003. He is also the head of the 969 Movement, which encourages Buddhists to shun Muslim businesses and communities. Lately, he's been touring the countryside, giving lectures to uphold the 969 movement - and has proudly called himself "the Buddhist Bin Laden."
Wirathu's quoted as saying, "They have the belief that the world should have Islamic faith . . . so it's not only Buddhism, they attack, invade all other religions in the world. Shouldn't we use violence and hardship on those who practice against us? Also shouldn't we retaliate against those who are bad to us?"
He has also helped to draft a law that, if approved, "would require any Buddhist woman seeking to marry a Muslim man to first gain permission from her parents and local government officials. It also requires any Muslim man who marries a Buddhist woman to convert to Buddhism." After that draft was blasted for violating basic human rights, Wirathu withdrew it, promising to submit a new draft that, according to him, would be "much more balanced":
U Wirathu claimed the latest draft was the solution for Burma’s sectarian tensions and would gain support from the approximately 500 monks that are expected to attend the conference.
“If we can ratify this law, there will be no more violence in our country. Buddhist majority people cannot provoke violence against religious minorities, and minority people cannot provoke violence against the majority,” he said.
--from The Irawaddy, June 25, 2013
Thankfully, no one was killed in today's attack. Of course the initial response to an attack like this is - why?
Why here, why now, why at all?
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