Ashin Wirathu: The Buddhist bin Laden

Ashin Wirathu: The Buddhist bin Laden
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Ashin Wirathu: The Buddhist bin Laden
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Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have faced military-orchestrated persecution supported by Wirathu. (AFP)
Ashin Wirathu: The Buddhist bin Laden
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Buddhist monk Wirathu delivers a speech during a rally to show support to the Myanmar military in Yangon on May 5, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019

Ashin Wirathu: The Buddhist bin Laden

Ashin Wirathu: The Buddhist bin Laden
  • Wirathu stepped into the limelight in 2001 when he became involved with Myanmar's nationalist 969 Movement
  • In 2017, Wirathu supported the military-orchestrated persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine

DHAKA: Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, who was born on July 10, 1968, in Mandalay, Myanmar, has been labeled an extremist and ultranationalist by international media.

The outspoken preacher is known as the “Buddhist bin Laden,” in reference to the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Wirathu stepped into the limelight in 2001 when he became involved with the nationalist 969 Movement, which is described by the international media as Islamophobic.
That is when he started spreading hatred in Myanmar 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.
In September that year, Wirathu led a rally of monks in Mandalay to promote then-President Thein Sein’s controversial plan to send Rohingya Muslims to another country.
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 2017, he supported the persecution of Rohingyas in Rakhine, which was orchestrated by the country’s military.

BIO

Nationality Burmese

Place of residence Masoyein Monastery, Mandalay

Occupation Buddhist monk

Legal status Wanted for speeches against Myanmar’s government and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Media Facebook and YouTube

In May 2019, Myanmar authorities issued an arrest warrant against Wirathu for speeches against the government and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of hampering the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas. He is on the run, and authorities are preparing to put him on trial in absentia.
Munshi Faiz Ahmed, chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, told Arab News: “Myanmar’s military was in need of a mass medium to reach the country’s Buddhists. Monks have more influence on Buddhists in Myanmar than politicians, so the powerful military recruited Wirathu to serve its purpose as the extremist monk has some fanatic followers.”
Ahmed, who was Bangladesh’s ambassador to China, described it as a “nexus of two evil forces.”
He said: “On one side, the ambitious Wirathu wanted to increase the number of his followers, and on the other side the military wanted to consolidate its power. So the army generals started backing the extremist monk in his spreading of hate against the Rohingya Muslims.”
Ahmed added: “Extremists such as Wirathu always use religion to create unrest in society. He became more powerful as democratic practices are almost absent in the governance of Myanmar.”
Prof. Delwar Hossain, an expert in South Asian politics and a teacher of international relations at Dhaka University, sees Wirathu’s rise as a “historic problem.”
Hossain said Myanmar’s first constitution, which was formed in 1948, was mostly democratic and liberal, and recognized the rights of 135 ethnic groups, including the Rohingyas.
“The problem started when the military junta took power in 1961 and discarded the constitution,” he added.
“Myanmar has been ruled by the army since 1961, and the spirit of Buddhist nationalism has been patronized in the country for many decades. Wirathu is the latest outcome of this Buddhist nationalism.”
Hossain said the spread of hate crimes against Muslims in Myanmar represents a “mutual understanding” between the government and extremist groups.
Myanmar is transitioning from military to political government. It had general elections in 2012 and 2016, and the next one is scheduled to take place in 2020.
“In this transition, the country’s influential monks want to establish more influence in the political arena,” Hossain said.
He identified “the absence of civil society” in Myanmar as one of the main reasons for the rise of extremist monks such as Wirathu.
“For many years, the country has been mostly run by an autocratic system that has created an acceptance of ultranationalist beliefs among the people,” said Hossain.
Prof. Amanullah Ferdous, an leading social scientist and political observer, said Wirathu is “nothing but a puppet” of Myanmar’s authorities.
“He is instructed, managed and guided by the influential forces of the country,” Ferdous said.
“Wirathu is blessed by the Myanmar Army and Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy. He has connections with China also.”
Ferdous said Wirathu has gained significant influence in Mandalay, Rakhine and adjacent areas through his sectarian comments.
Myanmar’s authorities have used Wirathu’s ultranationalist hate crimes to “orchestrate the ethnic cleansing against Rohingyas,” Ferdous said.


Libyan election talks get underway in Rome

The meeting in Rome will include representatives from across Libya, as well as members of the UN Support Mission in Libya. (Reuters/File Photo)
The meeting in Rome will include representatives from across Libya, as well as members of the UN Support Mission in Libya. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 26 July 2021

Libyan election talks get underway in Rome

The meeting in Rome will include representatives from across Libya, as well as members of the UN Support Mission in Libya. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Members of respective parliaments meet to discuss ways of enhancing Libyan-Italian cooperation

ROME: Intra-Libyan talks on adopting the legal framework for the country’s next general election began in Rome on Monday, July 26, and are expected to continue until July 29.

A source in the Italian Prime Minister’s office told Arab News that members of the Libyan special commission arrived in Rome on July 25, “to discuss … an electoral law for the next general elections” scheduled for Dec. 24, 2021.

The commission, which holds a largely technical role from a legal perspective, will present a proposal to the Libyan House of Representatives in Tobruk for its final approval.

The meeting in Rome will include representatives from across Libya, as well as members of the UN Support Mission in Libya.

Parliamentary spokesman Abdullah Blehik told Italian news agency Nova that House Speaker Aguila Saleh “will not participate in meetings aimed at developing a constitutional foundation for the parliamentary and presidential elections.”

Piero Fassino, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, told Arab News: “We are very happy that the meetings will be held in Rome — it signals that the new democratic Libya sees Italy as a reliable partner on the path towards democracy and the final end of the violence in that country.”

Fassino recalled that in the past few weeks, several meetings had taken place between members of the Italian and Libyan parliaments, which were attended also by Saleh.

“When he met us, Aguila Saleh stressed that cooperation with Italy is very important as it is the closest European state to Libya, and there are so many common interests between the two states,” Fassino added.

“We believe that this meeting, starting today in Rome, shows another real sign of the wish to enhance our cooperation.”


New Zealand to accept alleged Daesh militant, 2 kids

New Zealand to accept alleged Daesh militant, 2 kids
Updated 26 July 2021

New Zealand to accept alleged Daesh militant, 2 kids

New Zealand to accept alleged Daesh militant, 2 kids
  • PM Ardern: New Zealand could not remove citizenship from anybody if it left them stateless
  • The woman and her children were arrested when they tried to illegally cross from Syria into Turkey

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand on Monday agreed to repatriate an alleged Daesh militant and her two young children, who have been detained in Turkey since February.
The decision follows a bitter dispute with Australia over which country needed to shoulder responsibility for the woman, who had been a dual citizen of both countries until Australia stripped her citizenship under its anti-terrorism laws.
The woman and her children were arrested when they tried to illegally cross from Syria into Turkey, according to Turkey’s Defense Ministry. Turkey identified her only by her initials, S.A., while New Zealand media say she is Suhayra Aden, who was 26 at the time of her arrest.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had taken into account its international responsibilities and could not remove citizenship from anybody if it left them stateless.
“I made very strong representations to Australia that she should be permitted to return there. Her family moved to Australia when she was 6 and she grew up there before departing for Syria in 2014 on an Australian passport,” Ardern said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Australia would not reverse the cancelation of citizenship.”
Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the woman lost her citizenship as a result of her own actions, and that ending citizenship for dual nationals engaged in terrorist conduct was an integral part of Australia’s response to terrorist threats.
“The government’s first priority is always to protect the Australian community,” Andrews said in a statement.
Ardern said the safety and wellbeing of New Zealanders was the government’s paramount concern. She said there had been extensive planning with the police and other agencies.
“I can assure people great care is being taken as to how the woman and her young children are returned to New Zealand and how they will be managed in a way that minimizes any risk for New Zealanders,” Ardern said.
Authorities declined to say when the family would be repatriated, citing legal and security concerns.
Ardern said anybody suspected of being associated with a terrorist group should expect to be investigated under New Zealand laws, although the case remained a matter for the police.
New Zealand police confirmed an investigation was underway but declined further comment on whether the woman would face any criminal charges.


Southern India’s only chief minister from PM Modi’s party resigns

Southern India’s only chief minister from PM Modi’s party resigns
Updated 26 July 2021

Southern India’s only chief minister from PM Modi’s party resigns

Southern India’s only chief minister from PM Modi’s party resigns
  • BJP has failed to make inroads in other southern states despite running the country since 2014
  • Modi recently dropped many senior ministers from his cabinet as he tries to reinvigorate his administration

BENGALURU: The chief minister of India’s Karnataka, the only state ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in the country’s prosperous south, resigned on Monday in the latest political shake-up in the Hindu nationalist group.
B.S. Yediyurappa, a four-time chief minister of the state, home to India’s technology capital of Bengaluru, had helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) form its first government in India’s southern region in 2008.
The party has failed to make inroads in other southern states despite running the country since 2014. Aside from Yediyurappa’s resignation, Modi recently dropped many senior ministers from his cabinet as he tries to reinvigorate his administration dented by a huge second surge in coronavirus infections.
Yediyurappa, 78, quit because he was older than its cut-off age of 75 years for ministerial positions, BJP spokeswoman Malavika Avinash said.
“I had no pressure from senior party leaders. I am voluntarily submitting my resignation,” Yediyurappa said in an emotional address broadcast live on local television channels.
Bengaluru hosts offices of big multinational companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Goldman Sachs.
Analysts said the BJP will have to move fast to name a successor or risk being outmaneuvered by the opposition.
“If the BJP cannot come up with a name soon enough, it would give the opposition a chance to swoop in,” said Narendar Pani, dean, School of Social Sciences at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru.
“The challenge for the BJP will be to find a successor who will have the same kind of pull and can bring various groups together.”
The BJP changed the chief minister of the northern state of Uttarakhand twice this year, months ahead of local elections. Karnataka elections are due only in 2023.


Malaysian doctors stage walkout amid worsening COVID-19 outbreak

Malaysian doctors stage walkout amid worsening COVID-19 outbreak
Updated 26 July 2021

Malaysian doctors stage walkout amid worsening COVID-19 outbreak

Malaysian doctors stage walkout amid worsening COVID-19 outbreak
  • The doctors are on contracts for a set period and say their treatment is worse than that of permanent government staff

SUNGAI BULOH, Malaysia: Hundreds of junior doctors at state-run Malaysian hospitals staged walkouts Monday demanding better conditions as the country faces its worst coronavirus outbreak yet.
Dressed in black and holding signs with slogans including “equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunity” and “we are your future specialists,” they protested at medical facilities nationwide.
The doctors are on contracts for a set period and say their treatment is worse than that of permanent government staff, even as they have found themselves on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.
They complain of a lack of job security, poor benefits and that very few are eventually offered permanent positions.
We want “equal rights, to be a permanent doctor,” said a medic at a government hospital that treats virus patients outside Kuala Lumpur.
“We would definitely not be here if we were treated fairly... we should be appreciated for what we do,” the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
The medic was among dozens who took part in the action at the hospital, which lasted around half an hour.
Local media reported that several hundred participated across the country, but some doctors complained they were threatened by police and senior hospital staff in a bid to halt the protests.
Those involved said senior doctors took over their duties before they walked out, to ensure that patient care was not jeopardized.
Malaysia is currently battling its most serious outbreak, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. Officials have reported over one million cases and about 8,000 deaths.
There are over 23,000 doctors on these contracts in Malaysia — about 45 percent of the total medical doctors in the public health care system, according to official estimates.
Last week, the government said it would extend junior doctors’ contracts for up to four years in a bid to forestall the protests.
But they stopped short of offering permanent jobs, and the organizers of Monday’s walkout criticized the move as “short-sighted.”


Tight security around Nigeria court as separatist’s trial resumes

Tight security around Nigeria court as separatist’s trial resumes
Updated 26 July 2021

Tight security around Nigeria court as separatist’s trial resumes

Tight security around Nigeria court as separatist’s trial resumes
  • The case is one of two on Monday in which Nigerian authorities are seeking to prosecute citizens campaigning for autonomy

ABUJA: Nigerian security forces blocked traffic and tightly controlled access to an Abuja courthouse where the trial of a separatist leader was due to resume on Monday, Reuters witnesses said.
Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a banned organization campaigning for secession in southeast Nigeria, was due to appear at the Federal High Court to face 11 charges including treason.
The case is one of two on Monday in which Nigerian authorities are seeking to prosecute citizens campaigning for autonomy in different regions of Africa’s most populous nation.
The cases underline the government’s concern over growing discontent and insecurity in various regions of Nigeria.
In Cotonou, Benin, Nigerian authorities are seeking the extradition of Sunday Adeyemo, known locally as Sunday Igboho, a Yoruba activist it accuses of plotting a violent insurrection in the southwest of the country. Security forces raided his compound in Ibadan on July 1, claiming they found a stockpile of weapons there.
Kanu was first arrested in 2015, but disappeared while on bail in April 2017 after two years in jail fighting charges. His social media posts during his absence outraged the government, which said they sparked some attacks on security forces in southeastern Nigeria.
His whereabouts were unclear until security agents produced him in an court in Abuja on June 29, saying that he had been detained abroad, but not where. His lawyer alleged he was detained and mistreated in Kenya, though Kenya has denied involvement.
IPOB wants a swathe of the southeast, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, to split from Nigeria. An attempt to secede in 1967 as the Republic of Biafra triggered a three-year civil war in which more than a million died, mostly from starvation.