Islamophobic 969 Movement Faces Prohibition in Burma

969 Movement monk speaking in Burma
Wimala Biwuntha shows a 969 logo during the introduction speech ceremony in a monastery in Rangoon. Photo: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

It appears that the much maligned “Buddhist Terrorist” organisation known mostly for its charismatic leader U Wirathu and its use of the 969-logo (referring to the 9 attributes of the Buddha, 6 of the Dharma, and 9 of the Sangha) may be on the way out in Burma.

According to the Irrawaddy, in a directive dated to August 14, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (SSMNC),a government oversight committee composed of high ranking monks ruled that the 969 movement’s teachings do not abide by its standards, deeming any networks of 969 movement monks to be illegal and barring any further connection of the 969 movement logo to Buddhism.

The ruling was unanimous among the 47 leading monks of the SSMNC.

Speaking on behalf of 969 from Mandalay, the monk U Khemasarah said, “We don’t take part in political affairs, steal others’ possessions, attack or lie to others. So you cannot say we violate the ethics of a Buddhist monk. We just make our special efforts in order to preserve our race and religion.”

If he had just added “at the expense of other races and religions in our country” the point might have been a little clearer, even to him. The 969 movement is a Buddhist nationalist organization based in Burma. It currently feeds off of the mix of opening freedoms there and historic racial/religious tensions with Muslims. Like many instances of religious chauvinism and hate, the organization is wrapped in the pious cloth of nationalist self-defence and the upholding of it’s own religious -in this case, Buddhist- principles.

While Muslims, Christians, and the dominant Buddhists have lived peacefully side-by-side in many cities and towns in Burma for long periods of time, violence instigated along religious grounds is not uncommon there (or in other predominantly Buddhist countries such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc.). If the ruling stands and the 969 Movement’s legitimacy is wiped out in Burma, it would mark a rather quick (historically speaking) and decisive blow against inter-religious hatred. Some of my recent posts mentioning Burma/969 can be found here:

Buddhism and Violence on the BBC

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

Ethnicity, Ideologies, and the unraveling of modern Burma

Burma, Imperialism, and the Buddhist-Muslim violence

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