CAIRO - Calling himself Burmese Bin laden', a Buddhist monk is turning to social networks to spread his anti-Muslim hate messages, stoking religious hatred across the divided southeast Asian country and gaining criticism from religious activists, including Buddhists as well.
"He sides a little towards hate," Abbot Arriya Wuttha Bewuntha of Mandalay's Myawaddy Sayadaw monastery told The Guardian.
"This is not the way Buddha taught.
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What the Buddha taught is that hatred is not good, because Buddha sees everyone as an equal being. The Buddha doesn't see people through religion, he added.
Abbot was referring to the saffron-robed 45-year-old Wirathu, who calls himself the Burmese Bin Laden.
Preaching against the country's Muslim minority, Wirathu's videos have gained thousands of views on YouTube.
The monk, who presides over some 2,500 monks at this respected monastery, has thousands of followers on Facebook and his YouTube videos have been watched tens of thousands of times.
He also leads an extremist nationalist "969" campaign, encouraging Buddhists to "buy Buddhist and shop Buddhist", seemingly with the intention of creating an apartheid state.
The monk, who was imprisoned in 2003 for inciting anti-Muslim hatred but freed in 2010 under a general amnesty, takes pride in preaching anti-Muslim hate message.
Burmese Muslims have faced repeated bouts of sectarian violence in the Buddhist-majority country.
Since his release, Wirathu has gone back to preaching hate with many activists blaming him for inciting the fighting last June between Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, where 200 people were killed and more than 100,000 displaced.
Wirathu also led a rally of monks in Mandalay in September to defend President Thein Sein's controversial plan to send the Rohingya to a third country, after which more violence broke out in Rakhine state one month later.
Last month, more than 43 people were killed and several mosques burnt in sectarian attacks in central Burma after an argument between a Buddhist couple and gold shop owners in Meiktila.
Wirathu's discriminatory rhetoric has been widely criticized by Burmese activists.
"If a similar hate movement like Burma's '969' movement - which spreads hate speech and hate symbols - [existed] specifically against, say, the Jews in Europe, no European government would tolerate it," Burmese activist and London School of Economics visiting fellow Maung Zarni said.
"Why should the EU not take it seriously, in a major EU-aid recipient country?"
Rumors have also spread that Wirathu was being used by Burma's military generals to stir up trouble in the nascent democracy, a charge he denies.
"These are my own beliefs," he said. "I want the world to know this."
"Once we [have] won this battle, we will move on to other Muslim targets," he said in what was deemed a brazen call to arms.
Burma's Muslims -- largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.
But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net