Myanmar has come under increasingly vocal criticism for its inaction against a wave of religious violence that has targeted its Muslim religious minority in recent months. On Tuesday, the government did take one decisive step “to prevent further racial or religious rioting,” though it’s not what rights activists may have had in mind: Yangon announced that it would be banning the July 1st issue of Time magazine which features on its cover the Burmese monk Ashin Wirathu, accompanied by the headline “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”
Wirathu, who is known for his inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims (“Muslims are like the African carp. They breed quickly and they are very violent and they eat their own kind”), has been spearheading the 969 movement in Myanmar which calls for Buddhists to boycott Muslim merchants and limit their business to fellow Buddhists. The campaign has been catching on with its “969” logo (based on Buddhist numerology) becoming ubiquitous throughout the country. The monk is also behind a movement to introduce a the “Safeguarding National Identity” law, which would ban interfaith marriage. Wirathu’s virulent sermons against Muslims have mostly been ignored by authorities — hardly surprising as the broader rise in Buddhist nationalism within the country has provided the perfect political environment for its military leadership to obstruct reformists.