Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu — born on July 10, 1968 in the city of Mandalay, Myanmar — is labeled by the international media as an extremist and ultranationalist.
He is known as the “Buddhist Bin Laden,” in reference to the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
At the age of 14, Wirathu left school and enrolled as a junior monk in a local monastery. He stepped into the limelight in 2001 when he became involved with the nationalist 969 Movement, described by the international media as Islamophobic.
That is when he started spreading hatred against the Muslim minority of the predominantly Buddhist country, urging Buddhists to boycott all Muslim shops.
Wirathu was jailed in 2003 by the military junta for 25 years for distributing anti-Muslim leaflets and preaching about evicting Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
But he was released in 2012 under an amnesty and began touring Myanmar, spreading hatred against Muslims through his sermons.
A month after the rally, brutal violence escalated in Rakhine, driving thousands of Rohingyas from their homes.
In July 2013, Time magazine described Wirathu in its cover story as “the face of Buddhist terror.”
In a sermon in 2013, Wirathu said: “You can be full of kindness and love, but you can’t sleep next to a mad dog. I call them (Muslims) troublemakers because they are troublemakers. I am proud to be called a radical Buddhist. If we are weak, our land will become Muslim.”
Sein supported Wirathu, describing him as a “son of Buddha” and a “noble person” committed to peace.
In September 2014, Wirathu attended a conference in Colombo organized by Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Colombo-based Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization. There, he announced that the 969 Movement would work with the BBS.
In the same year, nationalist monks in Myanmar formed the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion (Ma Ba Tha).
Wirathu was part of the nucleus of this group, which gained enthusiastic support and membership nationwide.
Ma Ba Tha successfully pushed for laws making it more difficult for Buddhist women to marry outside their faith.
In January 2015, while addressing a public rally, Wirathu called UN Special Envoy Yanghee Lee a “bitch” and a “whore.”
Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the UN’s human rights chief at the time, said Wirathu’s comments amounted to “incitement to hatred.”
In 2017, just before the military crackdown on Rohingyas that forcefully displaced around 750,000 of them to neighboring Bangladesh, Myanmar’s state body governing Buddhism banned Wirathu from public preaching for a year.
The same body also banned Ma Ba Tha, but it merely changed its name and continued its activities.
But Wirathu continued to tour the country to deliver his anti-Muslim sermons, including in Rakhine, which has a large Muslim minority.
Immediately after the campaign of ethnic cleansing began on Aug. 25, 2017, he was seen in state-run media on a tour of northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the anti-Rohingya violence.
Wirathu supported the military crackdown against the Rohingyas, and in January 2018 Facebook banned him for his sectarian comments and for whipping up hatred against Muslims with his sermons.
In 2018, while addressing a rally in the city of Yangon, he said the day Myanmar officials are brought before the International Criminal Court, which is conducting a “preliminary examination” of the Rohingya expulsion, is “the day that Wirathu holds a gun.”
Although this sort of extremism contradicts Buddhism, he justifies it by saying extreme times require extreme measures.
In April 2019, Thai authorities banned Wirathu from entering the country, and the following month a Myanmar court issued a warrant for his arrest.
He is charged with making inflammatory remarks about the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of hampering the military-backed ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas. The charge against him carries a jail sentence of up to three years.
Police are yet to arrest him as he is on the run. Authorities are preparing to put him on trial in absentia.
You can’t underestimate a snake just because there’s only one. It’s dangerous, whatever it is. Muslims are just like that.
They’re devouring the Burmese people, destroying Buddhism and Buddhist order, forcefully taking action to establish Myanmar as an Islamic country.
Muslims are like African carps. They breed rapidly, have violent behavior and eat its own kind and other fishes. They also destroy natural resources and beauty underwater. Even though they’re the minority, our entire race has been suffering a great deal under the burden of the minority. The majority Burmese haven’t intruded, corrupted or abused them. But we’ve been suffering under their burden. That’s why if there are as many Muslims as there are Buddhists, Myanmar could never be at peace.
The world takes pity on the Muslims as a minority. But study them to understand how bad that small group is, how much trouble they’ve caused.
Our religion isn’t the only thing under threat, the whole country is. Just as they established Pakistan and Bangladesh, in 2010 they were stepping up efforts to establish an Islamic state in Burma. So the whole country is now under threat, not only our faith.