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Hundreds of Buddhist monks and Rangoon residents denounced Time magazine’s July cover story on Buddhist nationalism, while praising Thein Sein’s government for banning the article during a rally in the commercial capital on Sunday.
Carrying banners inscribed with statements in Burmese and nonsensical English translations, the protestors marched around Independence Monument in Sule Park and slammed the article that dubbed Burma’s infamous monk Wirathu as “The Face of Buddhist Terror”.
“The government and Religious Ministry previously made official statements to denounce the magazine’s cover, but we would like to practically inform the people in Burma and across the world – both in Burmese and English – that Buddhism is not a religion of terror and that it doesn’t allow or encourage killing,” said Parmouhka, a monk from Magwe who helped organise the demonstration.
“Buddhism is the religion of peace, we would like to help people and government leaders of different religions across the world to better understand it, so they can all become Buddhists.”
According to a report in Reuters, the demonstrators were granted official permission in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.
Last week, the government banned Time’s July cover story, which investigates the rise of Buddhist nationalism in Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Officials said the ban aimed to prevent sectarian violence from erupting again in the country.The magazine’s cover featured Burma’s most notorious monk Wirathu, who is renowned for unleashing vitriolic sermons against the country’s Muslim minority and leading the Buddhist nationalism movement.
Much like Yugoslavia and Iraq, sectarian tensions have exploded in Burma in the absence of iron-fisted rule. On 27 June, hundreds of Buddhist monks gathered in Aung San Monastery in Insein township, where they officially formed an organisation to ‘Safeguard the Race and Buddhist Religion.’
The agreement follows similar conferences in June that have seen the promotion of a draft law that would prohibit interfaith marriage between Buddhists and Muslims.
Riots pitting Buddhist Arakanese against Muslim Rohingya erupted in May 2012, displacing more than 150,000 people and killing hundreds. Since then, sectarian tensions have spread from the country’s southwestern coast to the Shan plateau in northern Burma.