“Bin Laden of Buddhism” Backpedals on Statements
In what many are describing as a public relations ploy, radical monk Wirathu, the self described “Bin Laden of Buddhism,” has denied claims that his radical, often violent rhetoric was a condemnation of Muslims. In a statement to AFP (Agence France-Presse), the 45 year old monk went on to say that the “969” campaign, for which he has been the primary spokesman, was not responsible for the recent violence and rioting that has erupted in past weeks.
“We just targeted Bengalis who are terrorizing ethnic Rakhine (Buddhists)” said Wirathu,” We are just preaching to prevent Bengalis entering the country and to stop them insulting our nationalities, language and religion.”
Continuing, Wirathu pledged to promote peace and religious tolerance going forward, however many remain highly skeptical. Juxtaposed against his generally radical anti-Muslim message, the sudden shift in rhetoric has left many wondering if the growing attention focused on the plight of the Rohnigya people hasn’t inspired this as an act of self preservation, as opposed to a sudden change in thinking.
His statements come as international attention and pressure mount to address the ethnic violence, which many are now referring to as outright genocide. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is planning to raise the issue of Burmese ethnic cleansing at the both UN Security and Human Rights councils, in coming weeks. As the largest permanent international bodies within the UN, their involvement in the matter could open the door to possible criminal charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for any found to have been instrumental in the recent waves of violence and destruction.
Over the past month, independent journalists working in conjunction with the Anonymous as part of the OpRohingya campaign, have worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the Burmese ethnic cleansing in Western media outlets. Expressing rage at what they see as a media blackout, a series of “twitterstorms” managed to catch the attention of the Vice and The Daily Beast magazines, after causing the hashtags #RohingyaNOW and #RohingyaSOS to trend in the top three spots worldwide for over an hour. NPR, CNN and others soon followed in their reports.
Speculation has been raised that numerous financial interests, including a number Western banks and the Chinese oil giant PetroChina, are largely to blame for the muted reactions to the crisis. Myanmar’s government has only recently issued direct statements to address the widescale rioting. Burmese President Thein Sein, in a speech last Thursday, issued a stern warning to agitators such as Wirathu, though did not name him specifically.
“I would like to warn all political opportunists and religious extremists who try to exploit the noble teachings of these religions and have tried to plant hatred among people of different faiths for their own self-interest: their efforts will not be tolerated. We will take all necessary and effective action to stop their operations in accordance with our Constitution and our existing laws. All perpetrators of violence will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.“
Despite no new reported efforts have been made by security forces or the government to seriously quell the violence since the curfew order last week, activists remain undeterred to demand action. More rounds of “twitterstorms” are in the works to further spread the word about the situation in Burma and the “Rohingya Journalism Fund” continues to work towards supporting journalists on the ground.
As for monk Wirathu, only time will tell if this attempt to backpedal signals any real shift in attitudes, or if it proves to be nothing more than cover for the ardent and radical Buddhist nationalist.
(photo from: http://moemaka.blogspot.com)