The globalization of Buddhist anti-Muslim hate? From Burma’s 969 to Australia and the US

Last month I was contacted, first on this blog and then on twitter, by someone using the name “969 Movement.” Intrigued, I contacted the individual behind the social media postings. I told the individual that I have studied Burmese history and traveled there recently and would love to conduct an interview if possible. In his response (dated July 13) he noted the following:

  • He has had no direct connection with Buddhists in Myanmar,
  • He is an American Buddhist upset with “negative publicity” that Buddhism was getting,
  • He hopes to travel to Myanmar soon to meet with 969 Movement leaders,
  • Along with his twitter handle, he has set up a forum (https://969movement.org/forum/) for discussion, and
  • He invited me to write for his website and/or a future magazine, “an alternative to Tricycle”

I politely declined and wished him well.

Should I have delved deeper? Chastised him for his ignorance? Perhaps. But I was content to see that the whole thing was just one guy, and not part of some international media campaign by the actual 969 Movement in Burma. Alicia Wittmeyer from the Foreign Policy blog also contacted him and writes, “He’s a self-proclaimed “white American national” who has no family connections to Myanmar and has never visited the country. He’s not an expert on its politics either, he tells me — which becomes clear later in our conversation when he draws a blank on the name of Aung San Suu Kyi…” Read the full story here: Meet the American Supporting Myanmar’s Controversial Pro-Buddhist Movement.

And then yesterday my friend and fellow Patheos Blogger James Ford mentioned that he too had received a comment from the 969 Movement. So, for James and anyone else that has received comments from this individual, I figured I’d post this.

When I checked the forum (linked above), I did find this (listed as an ‘inspirational video’) – Warning: hateful content against Muslims:

YouTube Preview Image

The creator of that video elsewhere claims to be Australian. So there we have at least one Australian and one American getting behind the banner of the Islamophic hatred of the 969 Movement. My hope is that such cases are unique, though there is reason to believe that each could gain support (the Australian man’s videos have thousands of views and many supportive comments). As my other friend and fellow Patheos Blogger Danny Fisher showed in June, there is also a tide of Buddhists and others moving against such hatred and discrimination. It is important for all of us to make known in any way, however small, that we do not support this anti-Muslim hate speech, wherever it occurs.

For a bit more background on the current crisis in Burma, here is an excellent documentary made by Al Jazeera last fall/winter:

 YouTube Preview Image

Despite all of this, it is worth noting that the vast, vast majority of Buddhists in Burma and around the world are not Islamophobic and do not endorse policies of fear, hatred, and violence. Responding to the wave of violence against Muslims in Burma last year, I signed, along with nearly 300 other Buddhist teachers, scholars, and other leaders, An Open Letter from the Buddhist Community on Islamophobia which concluded:

In the wider Buddhist community, we ask our fellow Buddhists to refrain from using the Dharma to support nationalism, ethnic conflict, and Islamophobia. We believe that these values are antithetical to the Buddha’s teachings on loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

The vast majority of Muslims the world over are peaceful, law-abiding people who share much the same dreams, hopes, and aspirations as their non-Muslim neighbors. They are our friends, our relatives, our colleagues, our neighbors, and our fellow citizens. Most importantly, they are our fellow sentient beings, all of whom, the Buddha taught, have loved and cared for us in the past. We stand with them during this holy month of Ramadan and denounce Islamophobia unequivocally.

For a ray of hope in Burma, here is a video from Shan State, where Buddhists opened their monasteries to Muslims after violence broke out in May of this year. One Muslim man in the video says, “if the attacks were based on Buddhism, then we would not have been allowed to shelter in a Buddhist monastery… No religion teaches violence.”

YouTube Preview Image

and this:

YouTube Preview Image

And guess who’s speaking out in Burma? Punks. Hell yeah!

  • 969 Movement

    Thanks for sharing this. However I will note that it is ignorant to assume that 969 is limited to Myanmar only. Not only is it active in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India, it will be active throughout the entire Buddhist world.

    • justinwhitaker

      Do you have any evidence for this?

    • April Lamba

      I am happy you pointing out other Buddhists countries. Radical Muslims have been discriminating against all other religions and I am very happy Buddhists have woken up. Sadly its only Liberal in the West who don’t seem to want to believe the main oppressors in the world of minorities are Muslims and Islam.

  • tocharian

    Buddha actually prophesied that 2500 years after his death his teachings will become misunderstood and Buddhism will become contaminated with impurities until it completely disappears 5,000 years after his death.
    (Maitreya, the next Buddha is a long way off!)

    • justinwhitaker

      I’ll take it this was at least somewhat in jest as you noted in another comment that you’re not too religious. Elsewhere it is written that the ordaining of women halved the life of the sasana, so we should actually be at the complete disappearing point now (give or take a few decades) :) My take is that there always were impurities – it’s up to us to do our best to point them out and eliminate them as we go. :)

      • tocharian

        I might not be very religious but I do understand that “impermanence” (anicca in Pali) is a basic feature of this world :)
        OK I was being a bit cynical when I said “impurities”, but I do think that the Buddhist monk U Wirathu, the leader of the 969 movement is not exactly following the 227 rules (vinaya in Pali) that Hinayana monks are supposed to abide by. I thought all true Buddhist monks lead an ascetic meditative life and avoid getting involved in “worldly affairs” such as politics and marriage laws. As you might know Wirathu is pushing for a law to ban inter-faith marriage between Buddhist women and Muslim men. In contrast to some other religions, marriage is not even a religious ceremony in Buddhism (not performed or sanctified by a monk)

        • 969 Movement

          Buddhist monks have always traditionally been involved in social policy decisions in their countries, you are projecting Christian monastic values. Monks are also not “ascetic” the Buddha called the Vinaya the Middle Path. You are also incorrect about marriage ceremony being not religious, different cultures have different traditions.

          • tocharian

            That’s why I said Buddhism is now contaminated with “social rubbish” (Islam nowadays is actually worse). and other impurities. I believe in a clear separation of Religion and State and I don’t respect any religion that stoops down to the level of mundane politics and anything that’s “below the belt” (sexual morals and the like). Buddhism should not be for the masses. Buddhism should be an abstract philosophy which transcends worldly things. The goal is to severe all attachments to this world and achieve Nirvana, the pure state of nothingness (where there are no virgins like in Islam LOL).
            Of course, the ignorant masses easily brainwashed by some Ayatollah or some Wirathu wouldn’t agree with me!

            • 969 Movement

              The very notion that Buddhism “should” be what you say it should be disqualifies you from any meaningful input on the matter. As demographics is destiny, your opinions informed by cultural opinions will be nearly extinct in one hundred years at the present rate of Muslim birthrates.

              • tocharian

                Buddha said Buddhism will be extinct in 5,000 years after his death. I am old so I will probably be “extinct” in about 20 years and I don’t really care what happens to Buddhists in 100 years. Maybe by that time, all the true Buddhists are in Nirvana (if you are begetting children you can’t achieve that!)
                By the way, the very notion that you can “disqualify me from any meaningful input and Buddhism should be what you say” in this discussion shows your bigotry. Where is the humility of a true Buddhist? You are acting just like an arrogant Muslim!

                • justinwhitaker

                  No need to further disparage Muslims, now. Mr 969 here and fellow Islamophobes around the world are doing quite enough of that. But you’re right that our 969 friend shows more than his share of bigotry and brainwashing.

                • mandyswe

                  :)

              • mandyswe

                The present rate of Muslim birthrates in Burma is the same as any other group in Burma. The rate depends on the socio-economics rather than anything but why let the facts other you bigots.

              • mandyswe

                I thought the Buddhist would accept the natural process. the fact is that the true Buddhists have basically disappeared and it is not because of the Muslims.

            • mandyswe

              You should watch this video by a Jewish author on the virgins in Islam:
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOreKVgiO9o

            • mandyswe

              Watch on youtube: watch?v=wOreKVgiO9o

            • mandyswe

              You really need to get deeper about this “72 virgins claim” in Islam. You are not as informed as you think you are.

      • Pooja Stanslas

        just u do a bit of research on malaysia on this topic and u will understand why islamophobia is so rampant

        • mandyswe

          here comes another Indian bigot.

          • Pooja Stanslas

            its funny how you ethnicise the term bigot … shows your intellectual depth

            • mandyswe

              Is that all you got you who brings shame to Indians? I

              • Pooja Stanslas

                thanks for the compliment

                • mandyswe

                  Only stupid heads think that it was a compliment.

                • Pooja Stanslas

                  you are the smartest, sure

  • abidbahar

    Myanmar’s is not Buddhism; it is Theraveda political Buddhism of Sri Lankan variety.This is different from Mahayans Buddhism of Dalai Lama.

    Theraveda political Buddhism is like Buddhist fundamentalism commonly practiced in Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and in Burma. In these countries in the name of their nationalism, the military and the opportunists leaders has the record of scapegoating minorities and committing genocide.

    This is the opposit of Buddhism but at best “Buddhist terrorism!”

    • justinwhitaker

      Agreed – to a certain extent. There is plenty of ‘good’ Buddhism in Myanmar – in fact the vast majority of Buddhists (lay and monastic) have nothing to do with the 969 Movement or Islamophobia. The same is true elsewhere. We have an unfortunately very vocal and very visible minority stirring up hatred and violence and yes, it seems they are often getting at least implicit support from military leaders.

      I think we are all fortunate to see those who oppose this speaking out, and I hope more join them.

      • 969 Movement

        Ignorance is bliss isn’t it Justin?

        • abidbahar

          I know there are some great Burmese Buddhists. I even know their names. But due to Burma’s long isolation from the rest of the world, and its indigenous culture of self serving Buddhist chauvinism, most Buddhists especially in Arakan, see minorities as guest people.

          Some of these xenophobes think the rest of the civilized world doesn’t understand their tricks/ rationales for killing people,thus they do it mostly in the name of Buddhist religion.

          While in Germany, former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Rwanda the world acted with force against the criminals committing genocide, in Burma the Western ambassadors are seen to dine with the war criminals giving lectures. There is a saying that thief s don’t accept sermons.

          Mind you, the military and the 500,00 idle monks are experienced and high calibred hypocrites who commit only Burmese style Buddhist meditated crimes.

          • mandyswe

            Yes, some of these xenophobes think the rest of the civilized world doesn’t
            understand their tricks/ rationales for killing people,thus they do it
            mostly in the name of Buddhist religion.

            yes, Mind you, the military and the 500,00 idle monks are experienced and high calibred hypocrites who commit only Burmese style Buddhist meditated crimes.

    • mandyswe

      Yes, the military and the opportunists leaders has the record of scapegoating minorities and committing genocide.

  • mandyswe

    MA Program? What is it?

  • mandyswe

    Women rights against the Muslims? Do you know how ignorant, actually bigoted you sound?

  • mandyswe

    So a Bamar pretending to be English? Whom do you think you are fooling?

  • mandyswe

    In Turkey too?

  • mandyswe

    Thanks for exposing the bigotry by the so called Buddhists.

  • mandyswe

    But how does persecution of your tribes as anything to do with Islam? Besides, the persecution your tribes suffers in Bangladesh pales to what the Muslims suffer in Burma, not that I am ignoring your tribe suffering.

    • April Lamba

      Typical Liberal answer. The killing of Buddhist, Jews, ex-Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Gays, Adulterers etc by Muslims is NOTHING to you! I have yet to hear anyone except George Clooney talk about the genocide in Sudan by Muslim government and public there. Muslim lives are more important to you than Non-Muslim (~6 billion). Great to know where you, privileged western bigot with the freedom to walk down the street without being beheaded for practicing your freedom of speech, stand.

      Can you PLEASE read some history and look at reality for what it is! Islam, and Muslims are the NUMBER ONE group and ideology that has wiped out, displaced and killed people following different faiths.

      -Ex-Muslim, who finally found a brain and am happy I live in the west where I wouldn’t be killed for being an apostate.

    • April Lamba

      Muslim life >>>>>> Non-Muslim lives. Great nice to know where you stand :)

  • mandyswe

    Of course, the 969′ers wouldn’t like your knowledge on Islam:)

  • mandyswe

    Protection of Buddhism by not following Buddha’s teaching?

  • Nay Thura Linn

    When I was watching the most above documentary, I was wondering why the most interviewees don’t speak Burmese. I just want to make sure it is real.

  • Terry101

    This is madness – the Burmese Buddhists are simply defending themselves against the same evil Muslims who are slaughtering Buddhists in Southern Thailand. (and Catholics in the Philippines etc etc)

    • April Lamba

      100% true! Indonesia is a clear example of how Islam invaded that place, and killed many Buddhists and Hindus. Now as a minority they do not have any protection or rights.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X