“The Hateful Monk”

From Gavin Jacobson’s review in The New York Times Review of Books on the documentary The Venerable W by Barbet Schroeder, an Iranian-born Swiss filmmaker:

“W. is tougher viewing than its predecessors. Archival material and scenes Schroeder filmed undercover are spliced with footage from YouTube and Facebook captured on camera phones and personal video recorders. Most of this documents atrocities committed in Rakhine state in 2012—when clashes between ethnic Arakanese and Rohingya Muslims forced 125,000 of the latter into displacement camps—and anti-Muslim riots in central and eastern Myanmar in 2013. There are graphic images of burning homes, men beaten to death with wooden clubs, and people left to burn alive. All the while state police stand back and let it happen—Amartya Sen has called the violence committed against the Rohingya a “slow genocide.”

Using video uploaded to YouTube and Facebook helps convey one of Schroeder’s most important points about Wirathu. What was frightening about Idi Amin was his combination of absolute power and volatility, a man whose dormant rage erupted without warning. With Jacques Vergès, it was his gifts of seduction and dexterity of logic that made him something like Woland from Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita—a Devil with impeccable tailoring. What’s disturbing about Wirathu is how, as one anti-Wirathu monk puts it, he wants people to “experience his words before accepting them.” The aim of his public sermonizing is to transform the impressionable into unthinking agents of his intolerance, which accounts not only for his call-and-response style of preaching, and the fact that, as the film shows, he regularly instructs children, but also for his extensive use of Twitter and Facebook, and the Islamophobic DVDs he produces and distributes throughout the country…”

The horrendous impact of this man, and of Aung San Suu Ky’s complicity in this hatred and genocide, continues to this day, and harms every single person in Myanmar: 

“Nearly 40,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state a week ago, the UN estimates.

Scores of people are reported to have died since Rohingya militants attacked police posts on 25 August (2017).

Subsequent clashes have sent civilians from all communities fleeing.

Many Rohingya are trying to cross the Naf river to reach Bangladesh. On Friday, 16 more bodies were found washed up on the shore…”

Their discovery brings the number of people believed to have died in capsized boats to about 40.

Mainuddin Khan, police chief of the Teknaf border town, told AFP news agency that the group included a young girl, and said they “had been floating in the river for a while”…

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