Buddhist extremism is growing in the Asian nation of Myanmar where an outspoken monk is leading an increasingly violent spiritual movement.
Known as Ashin Wirathu, the Buddhist spiritual leader has been gaining a large, devout following in Myanmar, a nation historically known as Burma, over the past year.
Advocating heavy handed tactics to dealing with the “enemies” of Buddhism — namely, Muslims — Wirathu proclaimed to a reporter, as reported by New York Times, that he is “proud to be called a radical Buddhist.”
Westerners are most accustomed to thinking of Buddhists as peaceful, calm monk-types who practice strict pacifism.
The most popular image might involve some variation on a bald man or men clothed in loose robes participating in silent meditation. Wirathu’s followers, however, provide a stark contrast to this stereotype.
Bearing sharpened swords and shouting religious, anti-Islam vitrol, reports of Buddhists forming lynch mobs and attacking Muslims have been streaming out of Myanmar over the past year, shattering these stereotypes.
Estimates say nearly 250 Muslims have died in these assaults lead by Buddhist extremists, and as many as 150,000 people have been forced from their homes because of the violence and intimidation. It is only expected to worsen.
Though Wirathu denies direct involvement in these attacks and riots, it’s clear to observers that it is his rhetoric and his followers perpetrating the majority of the anti-Muslim violence.
The sermons and speeches of the man who calls himself the “Burmese bin Laden” have begun to spread widely throughout the country this year, with monasteries and schools showing DVDs of him talking about his anti-Muslim views.
An activist in Myanmar has observed that Wirathu’s movement bares alarming similarities to neo-Nazism, reports Washington Post.
With Buddhist extremism sharply on the rise in Myanmar and human rights advocates becoming increasingly critical of Wirathu’s actions, the Buddhist monk justifies his beliefs:
“You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog.”
[Image via ShutterStock]