Burma’s anti-Muslim “969″ movement banned by official Buddhist monk committee

The symbol of Burma's controversial "969" nationalist movement of Buddhist monks, now banned by the country's official monastic committee

Burma’s official organizing body for Buddhist monks has firmly rejected the “969” movement, an effort by some Burmese monks to maintain the integrity of race and the Buddhist religion in the country, but whose anti-Muslim sentiments have been blamed for stirring up communal violence that has left hundreds dead and many more displaced. The most recent incident occurred in late August.

The Irawaddy reports that the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee issued an order August 14 “that it is illegal to form monk networks organized around the principles of the 969 movement, and bars linking the 969 emblem to the Buddhist religion.” (“969” refers to the 9 special qualities of the Buddha, the 6 of the dharma, and the 9 of the sangha.)

The 969 movement’s de facto leader, the monk U Wirathu, who gained worldwide attention after his photograph appeared on Time International’s July 1 cover with the headline “The Face of Buddhist Terror” (see the Buddhadharma News report here), quickly dismissed the order and questioned the legitimacy of the committee.

“[Wirathu] rejected the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee’s ban on formal 969 organizations, calling the body undemocratic. ‘Every procedure and rule in the Sangha Nayaka was written while under the gun,’ he said, pointing out the committee was formed under the former military regime. It was created in 1980 as a way of controlling the monkhood, which has great influence over Burma’s Buddhists, who make up most of the population. The committee and its senior monks remain tarnished by their close links to the dictatorship, which ended in 2011 when a quasi-civilian government took office.”

Read the full stories from the Irawaddy here and here.