Sparked widespread protests across the country, Burmese government banned the TIME magazine portraying Ashin Wirathu as the Burmese bin Laden. Circa said Wirathu leads the radical Buddhist group 969 which says that the country’s Muslim minority threatens national security and racial purity. Violence against Muslims has resulted in 250 deaths and displaced 150,000 people in the past year.
NBC News contributor Fiona MacGregor said Wirathu had been accused of inciting violence against Myanmar’s Muslim minority with fiery sermons claiming the growth of Islam is putting Buddhism and Burmese culture at risk. About 200 people have been killed by violence since religious riots erupted in June 2012 and tens of thousands fled after homes owned were burned by mobs. “I believe Islam is a threat not just for Buddhism, but for the people and the country and the religion,” NBC said citing the monk. Wirathu laughed at the TIME report branding him the Buddhist bin Laden. As cited by NBC he said “People used to write things like that about me on Facebook, call me that, and the ‘bald Bin Laden,’ all sorts of names,” he said. “I ended up calling myself that as a joke … and it got reported from there.”
Members of Burma’s Buddhist majority, including some of its much-respected monks, are increasingly persecuting the country’s long-suffering Muslim minority and adopting an ideology that encourages religious violence, said Washington Post.
It seems a far away from the Buddhism typically associated with stoic monks and the Lama, who has condemned the violence, and more akin to the sectarian extremism prevalent in troubled corners of the Middle East
Telling about the same monk, the New York Time said that after a ritual prayer atoning for past sins, Ashin Wirathu sat before an overflowing crowd of thousands of devotees and launched into a rant against what he called the enemy — the country’s Muslim minority. “You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog,” Ashin Wirathu said, referring to Muslims. “I call them troublemakers, because they are troublemakers,” Ashin Wirathu told a reporter after his two-hour sermon. “I am proud to be called a radical Buddhist.”
The world has grown accustomed to a gentle image of Buddhism defined by the self-effacing words of the Dalai Lama, the global popularity of Buddhist-inspired meditation and postcard-perfect scenes from Southeast Asia and beyond of crimson-robed, barefoot monks receiving alms from villagers at dawn. But over the past year, images of rampaging Burmese Buddhists carrying swords and the vituperative sermons of monks like Ashin Wirathu have underlined the rise of extreme Buddhism in Myanmar — and revealed a darker side of the country’s greater freedoms after decades of military rule.
It was Wirathu who led a rally of monks in Mandalay to defend President Thein Sein’s controversial plan to send the Rohingya to a third country, said the Guardian. One month later, more violence broke out in Rakhine state. Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have been criticized for not taking a greater stand against the violence that has racked Burma in recent months. Some have pointed to the seemingly planned nature of many of the attacks; UN special envoy Vijay Nambiar said the violence had a “brutal efficiency” and cited “incendiary propaganda” as stirring up trouble.