It has been a bad week for Muslim-hating misogynist monk U Wirathu. First the vessel for religious hate and discrimination known as Ma Ba Tha, which he has championed as it pushed its hardline nationalist agenda, was disowned by the country’s principal Buddhist authority, the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee.

Then on July 13, it was revealed that a defamation lawsuit has been filed against the man whose aggressive anti-Muslim rhetoric destroyed the romantic idealism of hippies across the globe when they were forced to recognise that Buddhism, like any other faith, can give rise to irrational extremists.

It has been clear for a long time that U Wirathu has “issues” when it comes to women.

Take, for example, his 2015 declaration that the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, was a “whore” whom he wanted to “hit with his slipper”. The invective seemed more like an audition for a spoof reality TV show When Monks Go Wild than the behaviour of a man who likes to portray himself as a spiritual leader.

It was this gem of international diplomacy that apparently led to the lawsuit against him.

He is no fan of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi either. Despite a ban on monks becoming involved in politics, Ma Ba Tha campaigned both backstage and at times publicly against the Nobel laureate and her party, the National League for Democracy, in the lead-up to last year’s elections.

The state counsellor has at times drawn criticism for her refusal to call for justice, let alone revenge, for those who have done her and many others politically motivated injustices in the past.

But U Wirathu appears to be feeling a little paranoid that she has abandoned such magnanimity and is now bent on revenge – and out to get him personally.

“I have seen that the ruling party and the new civilian government is stepping forward to target me as ‘Enemy Number One’ to destroy the whole Ma Ba Tha group to the end,” he wrote on his Facebook page this week. He described the NLD administration as “a dictatorial woman’s government” that is going to “put me in prison”.

This misogynistic theme runs throughout the organisation. So deep runs the group’s mistrust of women that even when those who offend them quite clearly identify as male, Ma Ba Tha leaders feel the need to attribute female qualities to explain their critics’ upsetting behaviour.

Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein – the man whose request that the State Sangha review Ma Ba Tha has now led to the group being disowned – was recently reproached by Ma Ba Tha leaders for using “words like those of a woman”.

It is unclear exactly which words were considered to be offensively feminine, but if U Phyo Min Thein’s comments were womanly, they have also been effective.

But while it’s tempting to gloat over what appears to be the start of U Wirathu and Ma Ba Tha’s downfall, there is no room for complacency.

Hardline Buddhist nationalism continues to rob people of their rights. Just last week government representatives defended the four so-called “protection of race and religion laws” to the UN committee that oversees countries’ commitment to ending gender-based discrimination. The laws were pushed through by then-president U Thein Sein under pressure from Ma Ba Tha – despite widespread objections that they targeted Muslims and breached women’s rights.

In Rakhine State, people have been protesting against the current government’s attempt to find a neutral term for the Muslim people living there who call themselves Rohingya and who face state-sanctioned rights abuses that some international observers have said amount to crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, in a less horrific but nevertheless telling scenario, a Spanish tourist was facing deportation this week after he was reported for having a Buddha tattoo on his leg. It is clear many in Myanmar would find such an image offensive, but the matter could have been dealt with in a less reactionary manner.

If authorities are serious about tamping down the flames of religious extremism, they need to lead by example and not bow to fear of protests.

Ma Ba Tha may be in disarray and U Wirathu persona non grata for now, but history suggests the spectre of extreme nationalism will continue to hang around, waiting for an opportunity to show itself in the future.

U Phyo Min Thein is to be congratulated for taking on the group and challenging the spread of religious hatred, which threatens not just Myanmar’s international reputation, but more importantly, the peace and security of all its peoples.

But it is the other monks and lay members of the Buddhist majority society who must continue to ensure that their faith is not used as a tool for the spread of religious hatred and misogyny in the future, and the rest of the government which must ensure the law is used to support human rights over prejudice.

Link: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/opinion/21415-it-s-enough-to-make-you-wave-your-htamein-in-the-air-in-celebration.html