The horrific persecution of the Rohingya peoples of Burma is reaching a new and heightened level through the incitement of groups of Buddhist monks.
An influential group of Buddhist monks in Burma is proposing to ban Muslim schoolgirls from wearing headscarves, in the latest sign of growing religious tension in the country.
The Organisation for the Protection of Race and Religion, a panel of monks known locally by the acronym Ma Ba Tha, said the headscarves were “not in line with school discipline”.
Ma Ba Tha held a conference in Rangoon at the weekend. Some 1,300 monks from monasteries around the country gathered to discuss plans to promote a nationalist agenda as the country heads toward landmark elections later this year.
In a list of recommendations released late on Sunday, Ma Ba Tha told its members to lobby the government to put further restrictions on the country’s beleaguered Muslims, and included references to the wearing of either headscarves or burqas.
“We will demand seriously for the government to ban Muslim students wearing the burqa in government schools and to ban the killing of innocent animals on their [Muslims’] Eid holiday,” it said, referring to Muslim cultural practices that Buddhist nationalists believe go against the culture of Buddhist-majority Burma.
Explaining the move, Ma Ba Tha monk U Pamaukkha said: “When they [Muslims] live in Myanmar, they need to obey the law and regulations of the country. We are not targeting or attacking their religion.”
The group also said it would “show the people the right track” when it came to the elections, expected in November, encouraging people to vote for candidates who “will not let our race and religion disappear”.
The group would keep monitoring “crimes by non-Buddhists” and using Facebook to spread news about alleged threats to Buddhism in Burma, its statement said.
Ma Ba Tha was officially formed in June 2013, when bouts of inter-communal violence were spreading around the country, with Buddhist mobs targeting members of the Muslim minority. Riots have been triggered by social media posts reporting alleged rapes of Buddhist women by Muslims.