Three Are Detained in Burma For “Insulting” the National Faith With a Promo Image of Buddha Wearing Headphones

Offending the religious sensibilities of Buddhists could land you in jail. For two years.

A New Zealand bar manager has been detained in Burma for using an image of the Buddha wearing headphones in a promotion. Police said the promotion was an insult to the Buddhist religion.

General manager Philip Blackwood, 32, who hails from Wellington; owner Tun Thurein, 40; and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26, were detained for police questioning yesterday and the bar was shuttered after a complaint by an official from Myanmar’s Religious Department, police said.

The Facebook posting for the newly opened V Gastro bar, a tapas restaurant and nightclub in a Yangon embassy area, showed a psychedelic mock-up of the Buddha wearing DJ headphones to trail a cheap drinks night this Sunday, AFP reported.

Something like this, I gather:

Buddha grabs people’s interest … however Buddhists cannot accept it,” a police official in Yangon’s Bahan township told reporters late Wednesday. “This insults the religion. So we opened the case under the Religion Act. We will file a lawsuit,” he said, requesting not to be named. The maximum penalty for attempting to insult, destroy or damage any religion is two years in jail, with another two-year penalty for those who attempt to insult religion through the written word.

Blackwood was due in a Yangon court where he might be charged and deported, a police official told AFP.

After a social media storm the bar deleted the post and wrote an apology on its Facebook page. “VGastro management would like to express our sincere regret if we have offended the citizens of this wonderful city, who have welcomed us so warmly and generously,” it said. “Our intention was never to cause offence to anyone or toward any religious group. Our ignorance is embarrassing.”

To avoid a serious prison sentence, groveling might help. But in my book, it’s the multitude of thin-skinned believers who should be embarrassed — specifically by the fact that their religious faith is so anemic that they view a mildly irreverent picture as damaging to it.

(Image via Imaginus)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.