- By Lydia Tomkiw<p> Lydia Tomkiw is a freelance journalist and graduate student at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. </p>
The July 1 cover of Time magazine for Asia has roused a heated response in Myanmar. Featuring a photo of Buddhist monk Wirathu with the headline "The Face of Buddhist Terror," the cover, pictured above, was used for editions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. (The U.S. edition led with "How Service Can Save Us.")
Wirathu has received his fair share of media coverage and visits from Western journalists in recent months. The Mandalay-based monk has garnered attention as a leading voice of the "969" movement, which advocates that Buddhists only do business with other Buddhists. Wirathu’s anti-Muslim rhetoric (He told the Global Post yesterday that, "Muslims are like the African carp. They breed quickly and they are very violent and they eat their own kind.") has been identified as one inciting factor in the recent outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar, which has killed 250 and diplaced tens of thousands, according to the AP.
Wirathu says he was "unfazed" by the cover, telling the AP that, "a genuine ruby will shine even if you try to sink it in mud," but some of his supporters have not been so blasé. A Facebook group called "We Boycott Time magazine for their choice of Wirathu as ‘Buddhist Terror’" formed in reaction to the article. The group’s page asks members to change their profile pictures to an edited cover of Time which calls the magazine "the face of lying, unjust media."
Users have posted messages defending Buddhism: "We are not terrorist, we are peaceful people and hate terrorism," reads one. "For these reason, our Buddhist monks are trying to find ways to avoid from being happening again such kind of unnecessary conflict between different religions."
In a recent interview with the Myanmar Times, a state-run English language newspaper, Wirathu addressed his critics saying, "I really take pity on them. … They are under the influence of media backed by the Arab world. Europeans and Americans are educated people, but sometimes certain illusions are created by the Arab media."
Time does not seem likely to apologize.