Why do some people hate Buddhism

Myanmar : Buddhist monks fuel hatred against Muslims

U Sei Tun says whether you can live together peacefully with Muslims in the long term is not a particularly wise question. Of course you cannot. Muslims did not respect the law and, unfortunately, were prone to violence. We used all our strength to marry as many women as possible. "I'm not claiming that they are animals," says U Sei Tun. "I just claim that they reproduce like animals."

In Myanmar's economic metropolis, Rangoon, you don't have to look far to find people with attitudes like U Sei Tun's. The man runs a cell phone shop on the edge of Maha Bandula Park, opposite the golden Sule Pagoda shines in the midday sun. If it were up to him, the government would finally have to crack down on the Muslims. Otherwise Islam will continue to spread. "This is dangerous. You know the IS, don't you? "

An estimated five percent of Myanmar's 53 million people are Muslims. Some of them belong to the Rohingya ethnic group, hundreds of thousands of whom were displaced in the province of Rakhine last year, and thousands were raped and murdered. But hatred is also materializing in Rangoon, 400 kilometers southeast of the scenes of these acts. Two Koran schools were closed by the police under pressure from radical Buddhists, the official reason being that the safety of the students could no longer be guaranteed. In another neighborhood, a Buddhist mob was looking for Rohingya who allegedly fled to Rangoon and were hiding there. When the men couldn't find one, they indiscriminately attacked Muslims in the neighborhood. In all cases monks were involved.

Isn't Buddhism the most peaceful and gentle of all religions, the teaching of harmony and inner balance? How can it be that devout Buddhists in Myanmar are so intolerant - and apparently use the same arguments in their agitation as German haters of Islam?

The Muslims of Rangoon live in their own neighborhood a little west of the Sule Pagoda. Almost all men here wear beards, some women wear headscarves. The afternoon prayer will soon begin in the Chulia Dargah Mosque. Outside, vendors offer prayer beads and paintings with Mecca motifs; inside, the faithful wash their hands and feet in a large basin. Fans rotate on the ceiling. If you get into conversation with believers here, almost everyone has a depressing story to tell. There is the taxi driver who says that some guests refused to get into the car with a Muslim. There is the student who would most like to emigrate to neighboring Malaysia. He was recently approached by strangers on the street: whether he was a Muslim. The men would have looked upset. He said no. Now he regrets his cowardice.

Another says that there has always been suspicion of Muslims. They are not allowed to work in public administration, serve in the military, and not a single one sits in parliament. However, real hatred only grew after the Afghan Taliban blew up the famous Buddha statues in Bamiyan in the spring of 2001, a few months before the 9/11 attacks. This dominated the news in Myanmar for weeks and shaped the idea that Muslims are uncivilized and that their own culture must be defended against them.

More than 20 communities in Myanmar have now declared themselves “no-go zones” for Muslims. Mosques were set on fire in various parts of the country, including near Rangoon. Sometimes the police stood by and did not intervene. Most of the time, Buddhist clergymen were among the arsonists.

The monk who is considered the ideological role model for the inciting Buddhists is called Ashin Wirathu. The 49-year-old is the head of a monastery in Mandalay and a leader in two Islamophobic groups: the ultra-nationalist “Ma Ba Tha” (“Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion”) and the so-called “Movement 969”. The number combination stands for the nine virtues of the Buddha, the six attributes of his teaching and nine rules of the monastic community. You can discover them in many ways in Rangoon, in red letters on snack bar facades or on T-shirts at souvenir stands.

Ashin Wirathu wants to drive all Muslims out of Myanmar, calling them "rabid dogs" and "cannibals". Muslims are responsible for almost all crimes in the country: drug trafficking, robbery, rape. Above all, he accuses them of wanting to destroy the culture and identity of Myanmar. Ashin Wirathu was already in prison for his propaganda and was released as part of a general amnesty. His movement is now close to the military, which, despite the opening and elections, continues to have massive influence in the country.

The believers in the Chulia Dargah mosque twisted their faces when they heard Ashin Wirathu's name. They say the times were better when the monk was still considered an extremist outsider and troublemaker. Some of his demands are now widely supported by the population. For example, after a legal reform: Muslim men should only be allowed to marry Buddhist women if an authority approves it.

One of the believers has brought a daily newspaper. The "Global New Light Of Myanmar". Today's edition has a special part: a search call with profiles of 250 suspected terrorists. Page by page there are photos from surveillance cameras printed there, including the names of those wanted: Marmart, Abu Au, many Mahammads. The men are said to belong to the Muslim rebel group "Arsa", which, according to the government, wants to instigate a jihad and establish a caliphate in the Rohingya area. It is undisputed that this group exists and that it attacked police stations dozens of times last year. Their motives, however, are unclear. The leader claims he is fighting for autonomy and a secular state in which Muslims no longer have to fear for their lives.

The military responded to the Arsa attacks with the worst wave of violence to date against Muslim civilians. Officially, it is said that the soldiers only defended themselves in the Rohingya territory. This is what Ashin Wirathu, the head of the radical monks, said when he recently toured the province to see for himself. If Muslims were harmed in any way, it was necessary. In Myanmar, however, the reading is also widespread that no fighting took place in the state of Rakhine. The Rohingya have set fire to their villages themselves in order to then pretend to be persecuted and to apply for asylum in Europe.

The United Nations, aid organizations and journalists are still denied access to the part of the country. Nevertheless, the extent of the ethnic cleansing is becoming increasingly clear: numerous massacres could be documented by interviewing survivors and analyzing aerial photographs.

The group "Human Rights Watch" has succeeded in one of the most precise reconstructions of the horror. The study traces the events in Tula Toli, a village in the north of the Rohingya area. According to this, soldiers led all residents to the nearby river bank and promised nothing would happen to them. First, they separated men from women and children. The men had to line up, were shot at with rocket launchers and machine guns, and their bodies were buried in a hole. The children were slain in front of their mothers, some with their bare fists, some with spades. Then the women were taken to bamboo huts, raped, finally shot, the huts set on fire.

A few survived the shots and made it through the burning bamboo walls. A few others ran away before the military cordoned off the village. Human Rights Watch recorded the testimony of these survivors and compared them with satellite images. The evidence is overwhelming, says Phil Robertson, who conducted the study, over the phone.

And there are a lot of Tula Tolis. In total, the military destroyed more than 340 villages. A number of deeds could probably never be solved, especially since the government is currently destroying evidence: Bulldozers are leveling the sites of the massacres, including mass graves, and it can be assumed that Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of government and once celebrated Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is actively involved in these cover-ups participate. Her silence was puzzled for a long time - whether she approved of the expulsions or was just too weak to assert herself against the military. "It is now clear that Aung San Suu Kyi is part of the problem."

According to Robertson, the bulldozers' leveling work has a second reason: The last remnants of infrastructure would be destroyed in order to make it impossible for the Rohingya who had fled to Bangladesh to return. The governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh have officially agreed on the plan to gradually resettle the displaced people in their homeland. 1500 per week. In an area to which international observers will not have access in the future either.

"A deal over the heads and interests of those involved," says Robertson. "Based on what we know, I would not recommend any Rohingya to accept this offer." It is presumably life-threatening. Human Rights Watch also made demands of the international community in its study of the Tula Toli massacre. Among other things, it urgently needs to impose sanctions. This is exactly what the EU states have now announced, six months after the bloodiest wave of displacement. But the measures are limited to EU entry bans and property freezes against high-ranking military officials and export bans on weapons. “We're frustrated,” says Phil Robertson.

The Muslims in the Rangoon mosque fear that acts of violence will also increase in the metropolis that used to be considered liberal. It would be easy to find pretexts. It is enough if a Muslim girl accidentally hits a monk on her bicycle to enrage a crowd. That is exactly what happened once in a suburb of Rangoon. In the end, 70 houses burned, two mosques were torn down, and one person died.

The Dalai Lama has condemned the violence committed by his fellow believers in Myanmar. Killing in the name of religion is unthinkable. "But now even Buddhists can be tricked into it." Ashin Wirathu, the radical monk, says he does not respect the Dalai Lama. He is just a political puller.

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