CAIRO - Tightening the noose around the Muslim minority in Burma, a monks' campaign is seeking to restrict inter-faith marriages between Muslims and Buddhists, sparking a heated controversy in the Asian country.
"We see this as discrimination against Myanmar (Burma) women," Zin Mar Aung, the head of the Rainfall women's organization, was quoted as saying by Bangkok Post.
Two monks are championing a campaign to draft a law restricting inter-faith marriages in Burma.
The campaign stipulates permission from parents and local government officials to allow a Buddhist woman to marry from a Muslim.
Any Muslim man marrying a Buddhist must convert to Buddhism, the main religion in Burma.
Violators would face up to 10 years in prison and having their property confiscated.
Supporters of the campaign argue that preventing interfaith marriage would help improve inter-communal relations in Burma.
But the Rainfall organization and seven other women groups said they opposed the campaign to get the parliament to pass a law restricting inter-faith marriages.
The monks are seeking to collect 300,000 signatures in support for the campaign to forward it to parliament for enacting the law.
"I have dreamed of this law for a long time," influential Buddhist monk Wirathu said.
"This is to protect Buddhist women."
Tension between Muslims and Buddhists has been high in Burma since last year's sectarian violence which killed more than 200 people and displaced thousands.
Anti-Muslim violence engulfed central Burma last April over an argument between a Buddhist couple and gold shop owners, leaving at least 42 people dead.
Monks were blamed for inciting hatred against Muslims by preaching a so-called 969 movement which represents a radical form of anti-Islamic nationalism that urges Buddhists to boycott Muslim-run shops and services.
Rights groups have accused the Burmese police of turning a blind eye to attacks against Muslims.
The violence has raised doubts on the success of Burma's transition from 49 years of oppressive military rule that ended in March 2011.
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, widely considered as foreigners.