Opposition leader counters extremists' calls for interfaith marriage ban
Aung San Suu Kyi has countered calls that Buddhism should be defended with laws – including rules against interfaith marriage – saying worshippers’ faith was the main safeguard for religion.
During a break in the new session of parliament on Tuesday, Suu Kyi was asked by a reporter “whether she thought a law was needed to safeguard Buddhism because it was now under pressure”.
The opposition leader responded that people’s belief was crucial in safeguarding the religion, adding that no thing or person could damage a particular religion if devotees had strong faith in it. Suu Kyi also spoke about Time magazine’s July 1 cover story, headlined “Buddhist Terror” and focused on the role of extremist Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu in stoking anti-Muslim sentiment that led to recent deadly communal riots.
After expressing her sorrow that the story had linked Buddhism with terrorism, Suu Kyi went on to say that, as religion was integral to social affairs, politicians must take it into account when forming policy.
Communal violence had hit different parts of the country because there was no rule of law and authorities lacked transparency when addressing issues of religion, she added.
Extremist monk Wirathu, as head of the 969 Movement, is leading the calls for legislation to “protect” Buddhism in the face of what he says is a threat from the country’s minority-Muslim population.
Wirathu, 48, has been open and unapologetic about his role in stoking Buddhist extremism that culminated in a wave of anti-Muslim violence resulting in the deaths of more than 200 people and displacement of some 150,000 from their homes in recent months.
He has proposed that interfaith marriages be outlawed.
“Muslims are like the African carp. They breed quickly and they are very violent and they eat their own kind. Even though they are minorities here, we are suffering under the burden they bring us,” he told the US based news website GlobalPost last week.