Myanmar angered by article on hardline Buddhist
President's office complains over TIME magazine cover
Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu has been labeled the leader of Myanmar's anti-Muslim movement (AFP photo by Ye Aung Thu)
The Myanmar government has issued a formal objection to the latest cover of the Asia edition of TIME magazine showing the Mandalay monk Ashin Wirathu with the headline ‘the face of Buddhist terror.’
In a statement released on Sunday, the office of President Thein Sein warned that the cover and article could harm peace building efforts in Myanmar, following a year of riots involving majority Buddhists and Muslims which have left hundreds dead and injured across the country.
“It tarnishes the image of Buddhism which has been the main religion of Myanmar for thousands of years,” the statement added.
The statement also described Buddhist monks as “noble people” who “strive peacefully for the prosperity of Buddhism.”
The TIME cover article labels Wirathu as the leader of a Myanmar’s anti-Muslim movement in the wake of violence which started in western Rakhine State in June last year. Clashes spread to other cities leaving mosques and Muslim shops and homes in ashes, and prompting the displacement of thousands of people.
Wirathu has given a host of interviews to both domestic and international media in which he has called for restrictions against Muslims in Myanmar.
He recently called for a controversial draft law which would require men to convert to Buddhism before marrying a Myanmar Buddhist woman.
In 2003, Wirathu received a 25-year prison term under the former military regime for inciting anti-Muslim sentiment and was released last year under a presidential amnesty for prisoners.
In the TIME article, which labels him the “Burmese Bin Laden”, Wirathu is quoted as saying during a sermon in Mandalay that “now is not the time for calm.”
Wirathu accused TIME of an unjust portrayal of both himself and Buddhism in Myanmar during an interview at his monastery in Mandalay.
“The article just wants to pit Buddhism against the world,” he said. “I was described in the article as a ‘Burmese Bin Laden.’ But I don’t have blood on my hands like Bin Laden and I am not a bloodthirsty man like him. I have no arms, only a pen, so I’m surprised by the acts of TIME.”
Although friends have urged him to file a lawsuit against the US magazine, he said that he has no plans to do so.
The article has sparked wider discontent among Buddhists in Myanmar, some of whom took to social media sites to express their dissatisfaction with the magazine. An online petition had generated 40,000 supporters by Monday afternoon.
“Buddhist terror means there is an aspect of terrorism within Buddhism,” wrote Nyein Chan, a Myanmar Facebook user. “So this article is more than a critique about Wirathu and a group of monks who hate Muslims.”
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