Current News

Less Than Admirable, Ashin Wirathu

(Note He Opted To Be Photographed Looking
Down Upon His Audience
)

Alders Ledge:
June 1 2013

The Joseph Goebbels of Myanmar  (The Darkness Visible series)
Joseph Goebbels portrayed my ancestors as rats in
his infamous propagandist films. His news reels showed Jews as animals or
portrayed us as a plague. This allowed Goebbels to make the quick leap from a
disease to the supposed cure. That was why we were the rats, so that he could
show Europe it was acceptable to exterminate us. Such is the power of
repetitive and persistent propaganda. Through a position of power and influence
the insanity of a few can become the reality of many.
The “venerable”, or maniacal, Wirathu has
become to the 969 movement in Myanmar what Goebbels was to the Nazis. Much like
the Nazis in Europe, 969 under the guidance of Wirathu has forced boycotts of
Muslim shops and merchants along with an unofficial (yet forced) ban upon
intermarriage between Buddhists and Muslims. Wirathu has followed in Goebbels
footsteps by portraying the Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic group that is growing
out of control and supposedly overpopulating the Arakan region of Burma. At
times Wirathu has made the same parallels as Goebbels did when talking about
the Rohingya.
“As far as Muslims go, a snake is a snake.
Snakes are dangerous, so we shouldn’t let them be,” Wirathu- As Reported in The Australian
The desire to dehumanize the Muslim population
of Myanmar falls in line with the perceived need to rid the country of them. It
allows members of 969 and its supporters to accept the neglect and
ill-treatment of their Rohingya neighbors without a second thought about it.
Through this filter the Rohingya can be seen as an enemy regardless of the
shared history the Rakhine and Rohingya have had for generations. It also
permits and suggest that Rohingya should be killed if they cannot be dominated
by other social and political means. This is why Wirathu calls them snakes when
talking to the Western media. 
Goebbels knew that the first step toward the Nazi
“final solution” was dehumanization. The Hutu militias knew that the
constant use of words such as “cockroaches” would wear at the
moderates’ collective conscience. It is a part of genocide. It is a requirement
if the attacking force wants to engage and the rest of society and justify
their crimes. 
In Myanmar Wirathu has long passed this stage. In
2003 Wirathu directly instigated riots that led to the reported deaths of 10
innocent Muslims. It was due to this tendency to incite violence that the old
junta had Wirathu thrown in prison in the first place. Yet under the supposed
democratic reformist Thein Sein the nationalist hero Wirathu was suddenly
released. 
(Desperate to save his shop, owner scribbled 969 on shop door during
Lashio attacks.
)
Where Goebbels saw himself as the match that would
ignite the inferno, Wirathu sees himself as the fire itself. In attacks such as
that in Meiktila, Wirathu’s 969 stormtroopers were at the front lines of the
fight his words sparked. Leading his troops into battle through word alone,
Wirathu is able to throw the weight of the Buddhists monks well organized
battalions out onto the battlefield. Instead of leading his fellow radicals to
the conclusion through imagery, Wirathu instructs them on how and where to
attack. 

This difference has led Wirathu to shift his “economic nationalist”
movement from boycotts to bombs. Laying waste to Muslim villages and shops, the
969 savages show no mercy to their victims. This is the intended product of Wirathu’s teachings. Through a
relentless indoctrination of radical nationalism in place of traditional
Buddhist teachings, Wirathu is able to set fire to the pillars of Burmese
society.

(Mosque Burnt By 969 Fascist In Lashio, Burma)
So how does Wirathu see himself? 
“Do you know the English Defense League? We
would like to be like the EDL. Not carrying out violence, but protecting the
public,” Wirathu –  As Reported in The Daily Mail
The English Defense League is a radical right-wing
group that claims to protest the spread of Islam and “Sharia Law” in
the United Kingdom. Though they claim to be a peaceful organization that only
uses their civil liberties to express concerns over the imagined imposition of
Islam upon the West their actions prove otherwise (example as shown here). The group itself leans toward fascism and
openly promotes the desire for an “ethnically pure” UK. Yet despite
the racial aspect of the EDL this is who the radical nationalist in Burma model
themselves after.
Perhaps it is just the “common enemy”
that draws Wirathu to the EDL. Maybe he doesn’t realize with any real level of
certainty that the all white crowd which the EDL is comprised of wouldn’t
accept Buddhism any more than they do Islam. No matter how pale skinned Wirathu
may consider himself, the English Defense League is just as bitter as he
is. 
But that is beside the point I’m trying to make
here… 
When it comes to his view of what 969 is all about
and why they exist in Burma, Wirathu sees his cause as being just as far
removed from peace as that which drives the EDL. When it comes to the peaceful
teachings of Buddhism this monk has drawn a blind eye. No matter how Buddha
might have seen the Rohingya, Wirathu sees them as less than human… less than
even the insects or snakes themselves. It is a blind hatred for a perceived
enemy that links the EDL to the 969 movement. And it is due to this blind hatred
that no compromise can be reached. 
How can you bridge the gap between love and hate?
Is it in that space between that we call tolerance? 
If Burma is to take the next step toward democracy,
true democracy, the government will have to find a path forward that does not
include hate groups such 969. Radicals like Wirathu must be isolated and cut
off from the mainstream. Their propaganda must be thrown out and their
“economic nationalism” rejected at face value. For if Burma is to
accept even a portion of what Wirathu preaches then there is no hope for a true
democratic movement within Myanmar’s government let alone it’s society at
large. 
When the seeds of hatred are allowed room to grow
the society that tolerated the weed as a seedling cannot be spared it’s fruit
when it matures. There will be consequences for the crimes that have taken
place in Burma. If not through Myanmar’s own actions then the world community
at large must accept responsibility. Sanctions upon the regime must be a
looming threat and the UN’s court system must be prepared to prosecute the
perpetrators. If we fail here… if the crime is forgiven… then the cycle of
this crime will continue. Either way, there will be consequences… we just
have to ask ourselves how bad we want them to be.