Buddhist hardliners attempt to stop Myanmar Muslim ceremony

Photo: Mizzima

Hardline Buddhist nationalists tried to stop a Muslim religious ceremony in Yangon on Sunday, witnesses and organisers said.

Dozens of people, led by a handful of maroon-robed monks, marched to the YMCA in Myanmar's commercial capital to shut down a service marking the Prophet Mohammed's birthday.

"We have celebrated this festival for my whole life. Now this seems like an attack on freedom of religion," Kyaw Nyein, secretary of the Ulama Islam organisation, told AFP.

"The monks tried to stop the ceremony without saying what we had done wrong... Why aren't authorities taking action?"

Witnesses, who asked not to be named, said the monks barged into the ceremony shortly after it started demanding it be shut down.

Police were called, but did not intervene to stop the hardliners.

After negotiations between the monks and the organisers, the ceremony was held for just 30 minutes while five delegates from the protestors were allowed to observe the ceremony.

Tin Maung Win, vice president of the festival organising committee, said Buddhist nationalists were trying to stir up political dissent against the NLD government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said the religious extremists supported the military-backed USDP party and see the new elected government, which took power last year after winning the first free election in some 50 years, as being too soft on Muslims.

"We have held the festival here for seven years without any violence, but today it happened. This is because of political interests," he told AFP.

(Additional reporting AFP)

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