The Myanmar government has issued a press release on Sunday night condemning TIME magazine’s July cover story labelling the controversial Mandalay monk, U Wirathu as ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’.
The press release issued by the President’s Office accuses TIME magazine for damaging trust building between religions, and defacing the image of Buddhism which has been the main religion of Myanmar for thousands of years.
The press release says that Buddhist monk U Wirathu is “a Sangha or a Buddha’s son” and as such must abide by the 227 precepts or moral rules. This includes striving peacefully for the prosperity of Buddhism.
The Myanmar government says it does not discriminate between religions and grants freedom of worship. Although the majority of Myanmar people are Buddhists, the 2008 Constitution also recognises Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Animism as existing religions.
The front page TIME article has highlighted the emergence of extremist Buddhist elements in Myanmar, and cites U Wirathu stoking anti-Muslim sentiment in his sermons and through the controversial “969” campaign.
The article has drawn widespread criticism and condemnation in the Myanmar press and online social media. The online petition was launched on the campaign site Avaaz.com and requests TIME magazine to reevaluate their cover issue.
“The combination of these two words “Buddhist and Terror” are very sad feeling for every Buddhists. Our religious is more weaker year by year. Please don’t do like that,” say online campaigners.
U Wirathu responded to the TIME article in an interview with the Myanmar Times saying that what he is doing is for the sake of national security. He questioned why TIME did not label Obama a terrorist for US campaigns against Islamic extremists.
“Why are they saying that Wirathu is a terrorist? What I am doing, saying and writing is for the sake of national security, just as Obama is doing,” U Wirathu told the Myanmar Times.
Though the original TIME article was only available through subscription, Myanmar versions of the story have been circulated widely causing widespread outrage, accusing TIME for only aggravating tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities.
“Our Buddhism preaches peace but not terrorism. You’re the first user of those words so that I really go against it. But those words will cause more tension between Buddhists and Islamists in Myanmar. I believe you’ll never create violent cases. Let’s create mindfulness in the society,” said the Avaaz petition which has so far collected over 52,000 signatures.
A Facebook page calling to boycott TIME has so far received over 12,000 likes.
The government also called for mutual trust building among the religions to avoid undesirable conflicts in Myanmar’s fledgling democracy. It says the government, religious leaders, political parties, media and the people must co-operate with each others to achieve this purpose.
Myanmar government condemns TIME magazine use of ‘Buddhist terror’ – Eleven Myanmar | Eleven Myanmar.