Rising Buddhist extremism in Burma

The Buddhist nationalist movement known as 969 has spread rapidly throughout Burma.

The extremist views of its leader U Wirathu, an outspoken Buddhist monk, are seen as central to the ideology of 969, and more and more ordinary people are displaying the movement’s image on cars and shops.

Local people displaying the image connect the symbol with the spreading anti-Muslim sentiment.

“Now Muslim people are very extreme, so we must be extreme too,” said a Rangoon taxi driver.

Monk Sada Ma began the 969 sticker campaign in October last year when religious tension in the country was high. Since then there have been several violent clashes between Muslims and Buddhists across the country and dozens of people have been killed.

But Sada Ma refutes the implication that there is any connection.

“The violence did not begin with 969 or Buddhism. In every situation, people have trouble with conflict and violence,” he said.

Although the 969 movement is portrayed as a Buddhist movement, prominent Buddhist figures reject it.

U Gambira, a leader from the 2007 anti-government protests, said the movement goes against the teachings of Buddha.

“They are using this idea in our religion but it is completely against what Buddha teaches.”

For many people the sticker symbolises the increasing anti-Muslim feeling in the country.

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