Burma’s 'bin Laden of Buddhism’
A monk leading a nationalist movement challenging the "threat of Islam" in Burma is blamed for inspiring sectarian violence against the country's Mulim minority.
Radical buddhist nationalism is sweeping Burma, and at the forefront of the movement is a group more commonly associated with peace and tolerance: monks.
The most prominent among them is the controversial cleric U Wirathu, who gives passionate sermons from his Mandalay base calling on Buddhists to stand up against the "Muslim threat".
"I believe Islam is a threat not just to Buddhism, but to the [Burmese] people and the country," says the monk, whose boyish face and toothy grin belie the name his critics have given him: "the Buddhist bin Laden".
The 46-year-old has been blamed for inspiring sectarian violence, which began in the long-volatile western state of Rakhine bordering Burma'smostly Muslim neighbour, Bangladesh, but has spread to areas unused to such tension.
Hundreds of Muslims have been killed, mosques burned and many thousands driven from their homes.