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Confronted with prohibition to Myanmar hard line Ma Ba Tha nuns changing names, SE Asia News & Top Stories
The YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar's ultra-nationalist Ma Ba Tha move on Sunday (28 May) heralded a renaming under a new name following a ban by the Tibetan Government on the anti-Islamic anti-Islamic group. Under the former military-backed regime, the monk-led movements gained power by spreading a kind of hard-line buddhist nationism that exacerbated cult ist tension with the Muslims of the minorities.
However, after alienating themselves from the extremist group for a few month, Myanmar's top religious cleric ordered the Ma Ba Tha to stop all activity or face persecution by mid-July on Tuesday. Threats prevented tens of thousand priests, monastics and laity from taking part in a week-end peak at a Yangon convent adorned with Ma Ba Tha banknotes, many stubbornly stating their intent to keep the move going.
Sunday the group published a declaration that they would use a new name: the Buddha Dhamma Philanthropy Foundation. "The declaration of the Buddha Dhamma Philanthropy Foundation, which has been endorsed by its monastic guide Tilawka Biwuntha, calls on all members in all areas and states of the land to work for the land, the peoples and the faith under the name of the Buddha Dhamma Philanthropy Foundation.
This new name is much less contentious and confrontative than the originals. The name Ma Ba Tha is the acronym for a sentence translated as "The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion" - a name that the group would also give as an offical name. Ma Ba Tha became known through preaching and protesting with the help of the infamous fireblight friar Wirathu, who participated in the week-end event and has a significant Facebook following, which contributed to the fact that Buddhism in Myanmar is endangered by Islam.
Moslems have been living in Myanmar for hundreds of years, but only make up about 5 percent of the total populous. Over the past few weeks Buddhist hard-liners have closed down Buddhist worship activities throughout the entire nation, forcing two Yangon colleges to double their numbers as illegal missions in order to lock their gates. After a struggle erupted in a Moslem quarter of Yangon this past few days, when a dozen men attacked a home that hid Rohingyas, a Moslem group slandered by many Buddhists, the rioters' arrest took place this time.
Early this year, the reigning priesthood, a committee known as the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, forbade Wirathu from being preached for a year, although he was still speaking at the Saturday meeting.