Fear stalks Yangon’s Muslims after Buddhist-led killings in Myanmar

April 12, 2013

(Muslim men gather in front of a mosque heavily damaged during recent violence in town of Gyo Bin Gauk, some 150 km (93 miles) north of Yangon April 4, 2013.  REUTERS/Damir Sagolj )

An ultra-nationalist Buddhist creed is becoming more visible in Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, after monks from the apartheid-like movement helped stoke a wave of anti-Muslim violence in the central heartlands.

Many Muslims in the city say they are living in fear after dozens of members of their faith were killed in March by Buddhist mobs whipped up by monks from the “969” movement, a name that refers to attributes of the Buddha, his teachings and the monkhood.

Calm has been restored in Meikhtila and other volatile central areas after authorities imposed martial law and dispatched troops. A Reuters examination of the violence showed it was well-organized, abetted at times by police turning a blind eye.

But concerns linger among Muslims in Yangon, a city of about 4 million people undergoing rapid change during Myanmar’s transition from 49 years of oppressive military rule that ended in March 2011.

Fears simmer after 13 boys died in a fire in an Islamic school on April 2. Officials blamed faulty electrical equipment but many Muslims believe the fire was started deliberately.

“At night-time nobody sleeps,” said Mohamed Irshad on his way home from midday prayers at a mosque in Mingalar Taung Nyunt, a mostly Muslim neighborhood. “We have a guard, because some time they might come to attack.”

Read the full story by Jared Ferrie here.
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