London, UK — A group of 30 people, including ultra-nationalist monks and individuals in masks, gathered in front of a venue where Burmese Muslims were commemorating the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Mohamed on Shan Kone Street in Yangon’s Sanchaung Township. The protest took place at around 4pm on the 21st of November 2018. The protesters gathered to call for authorities to ban the event. When local authorities were unable to take clear and effective action, the Buddhist community of the ward said they would call the local monks to intervene and resolve the matter, which resulted in the crowd dispersing and the authorities then allowed the event to resume.
When the event was first announced, a group calling itself “Defenders of the Buddhist Religion” sent a declaration of their objections to the event to several government departments on the 19th of November. On the day of the event, the protesters who opposed the event gathered at around noon at the Bahan Myo Oo Sasana Monastery, where the headquarters of the “Patriotic Buddhist Monk Association” is based. From there the protesters went to Shan Kone Road in Sanchuang Township at around 4pm. At the same time, ultra-nationalists posted hate messages on social media that called for the local community to support their actions, seemingly with the intention of inciting religious unrest or even violence.
“We condemn the failure of the authorities to prevent the attempts by the members of ‘Defenders of the Buddhist Religion’ to disrupt the event to commemorate the birth anniversary of the Prophet Mohamed. This is the third year of the NLD government’s tenure and the third year where they have failed to prevent protesters from stopping or interrupting ceremonies by Muslims celebrating the birth of Prophet Mohamed. Clearly, there is no intention by this government to protect the rights of Muslims to freely practice their religion, ” said BHRN Executive Director, Kyaw Win.
During the first year of the new NLD government, a similar anniversary event for the birth of Prophet Mohamed and an interfaith friendship forum was planned to be held in Tharkayta Township but was cancelled due to pressure from ultra-nationalists groups. Similarly, during the second year of the NLD government’s tenure, an event on Prophet Mohamed’s birth anniversary planned to be held at the YMCA hall in Yangon was forced to cancel due to pressure and threats from ultra-nationalists groups.
The incident on the 21st of November coincided with an interfaith forum held in Nay Pyi Taw on the same day, which was presided over by the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. By not intervening against these disruptions the authorities effectively permit restrictions on Muslims, which prevent them from exercising their religious rights. This shows that the interfaith dialogue is not sincere.
Burma signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 and these events are in violation of article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscious and religions.” Also, article 63 of the current constitution of Burma states, “The State shall provide protection for all the recognized religions as much as it is possible.” Further, paragraph (d) of article 354 of the Constitution states that every citizen has the rights to develop their language, literature, culture they cherish, religion they profess, and customs.
However, the policy of persecution of Muslims practiced by the successive governments in Burma is against the principles described in these documents. The actual situation is starkly in contrast with these principles and these documents are kept only in the law books without application.
Background on the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
BHRN is based in London and operates across Burma/Myanmar working for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in the country. BHRN has played a crucial role in advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
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