(The Darkness Visible series)
(Note He Opted To Be Photographed Looking Down Upon His Audience)
Joseph Goebbels portrayed my ancestors as rats in his infamous propagandist films. His news reels showed Jews as animals or portrayed us as a plague. This allowed Goebbels to make the quick leap from a disease to the supposed cure. That was why we were the rats, so that he could show Europe it was acceptable to exterminate us. Such is the power of repetitive and persistent propaganda. Through a position of power and influence the insanity of a few can become the reality of many.
The "venerable", or maniacal, Wirathu has become to the 969 movement in Myanmar what Goebbels was to the Nazis. Much like the Nazis in Europe, 969 under the guidance of Wirathu has forced boycotts of Muslim shops and merchants along with an unofficial (yet forced) ban upon intermarriage between Buddhists and Muslims. Wirathu has followed in Goebbels footsteps by portraying the Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic group that is growing out of control and supposedly overpopulating the Arakan region of Burma. At times Wirathu has made the same parallels as Goebbels did when talking about the Rohingya.
"As far as Muslims go, a snake is a snake. Snakes are dangerous, so we shouldn't let them be," Wirathu- As Reported in The Australian
The desire to dehumanize the Muslim population of Myanmar falls in line with the perceived need to rid the country of them. It allows members of 969 and its supporters to accept the neglect and ill-treatment of their Rohingya neighbors without a second thought about it. Through this filter the Rohingya can be seen as an enemy regardless of the shared history the Rakhine and Rohingya have had for generations. It also permits and suggest that Rohingya should be killed if they cannot be dominated by other social and political means. This is why Wirathu calls them snakes when talking to the Western media.
Goebbels knew that the first step toward the Nazi "final solution" was dehumanization. The Hutu militias knew that the constant use of words such as "cockroaches" would wear at the moderates' collective conscience. It is a part of genocide. It is a requirement if the attacking force wants to engage and the rest of society and justify their crimes.
In Myanmar Wirathu has long passed this stage. In 2003 Wirathu directly instigated riots that led to the reported deaths of 10 innocent Muslims. It was due to this tendency to incite violence that the old junta had Wirathu thrown in prison in the first place. Yet under the supposed democratic reformist Thein Sein the nationalist hero Wirathu was suddenly released.
(Desperate to save his shop, owner scribbled 969 on shop door during Lashio attacks.)
Where Goebbels saw himself as the match that would ignite the inferno, Wirathu sees himself as the fire itself. In attacks such as that in Meiktila, Wirathu's 969 stormtroopers were at the front lines of the fight his words sparked. Leading his troops into battle through word alone, Wirathu is able to throw the weight of the Buddhists monks well organized battalions out onto the battlefield. Instead of leading his fellow radicals to the conclusion through imagery, Wirathu instructs them on how and where to attack.
This difference has led Wirathu to shift his "economic nationalist" movement from boycotts to bombs. Laying waste to Muslim villages and shops, the 969 savages show no mercy to their victims. This is the intended product of Wirathu's teachings. Through a relentless indoctrination of radical nationalism in place of traditional Buddhist teachings, Wirathu is able to set fire to the pillars of Burmese society.
(Mosque Burnt By 969 Fascist In Lashio, Burma)
So how does Wirathu see himself?
"Do you know the English Defense League? We would like to be like the EDL. Not carrying out violence, but protecting the public," Wirathu - As Reported in The Daily Mail
The English Defense League is a radical right-wing group that claims to protest the spread of Islam and "Sharia Law" in the United Kingdom. Though they claim to be a peaceful organization that only uses their civil liberties to express concerns over the imagined imposition of Islam upon the West their actions prove otherwise (example as shown here). The group itself leans toward fascism and openly promotes the desire for an "ethnically pure" UK. Yet despite the racial aspect of the EDL this is who the radical nationalist in Burma model themselves after.
Perhaps it is just the "common enemy" that draws Wirathu to the EDL. Maybe he doesn't realize with any real level of certainty that the all white crowd which the EDL is comprised of wouldn't accept Buddhism any more than they do Islam. No matter how pale skinned Wirathu may consider himself, the English Defense League is just as bitter as he is.
But that is beside the point I'm trying to make here...
When it comes to his view of what 969 is all about and why they exist in Burma, Wirathu sees his cause as being just as far removed from peace as that which drives the EDL. When it comes to the peaceful teachings of Buddhism this monk has drawn a blind eye. No matter how Buddha might have seen the Rohingya, Wirathu sees them as less than human... less than even the insects or snakes themselves. It is a blind hatred for a perceived enemy that links the EDL to the 969 movement. And it is due to this blind hatred that no compromise can be reached.
How can you bridge the gap between love and hate? Is it in that space between that we call tolerance?
If Burma is to take the next step toward democracy, true democracy, the government will have to find a path forward that does not include hate groups such 969. Radicals like Wirathu must be isolated and cut off from the mainstream. Their propaganda must be thrown out and their "economic nationalism" rejected at face value. For if Burma is to accept even a portion of what Wirathu preaches then there is no hope for a true democratic movement within Myanmar's government let alone it's society at large.
When the seeds of hatred are allowed room to grow the society that tolerated the weed as a seedling cannot be spared it's fruit when it matures. There will be consequences for the crimes that have taken place in Burma. If not through Myanmar's own actions then the world community at large must accept responsibility. Sanctions upon the regime must be a looming threat and the UN's court system must be prepared to prosecute the perpetrators. If we fail here... if the crime is forgiven... then the cycle of this crime will continue. Either way, there will be consequences... we just have to ask ourselves how bad we want them to be.
(not all sources listed)
Daily Mail UK