[Buddha-l] Burmese Buddhist anti-Muslim nationalism: 969?

Jo ugg-5 at spro.net
Sun Mar 31 11:22:45 MDT 2013

Hi Jamie,

786 is number code for the phrase,  "Bismillah ir Rahim ir Rahman" "In the
name of God, the beneficent (gracious), the merciful (or compassionate)"
--translations vary, as usual.  This phrase is recited before anyone begins
Various Muslim explanations online say that someone encoded the entire
Arabic alphabet numerically. I doubt if the idea of numerology (magic) cuts
it today.  I found one Salafi site condemning its use as 'innovation'.
Maybe back in the day some Muslims  played with numerology, just as some
also toyed with astrology. 

What I found (not time for a huge search) suggests that this is a Shi'a
innovation, but not sure of that either.  My late Indian husband's Sunni
family always wrote this number at the top of all letters to him.  It's also
at the very top of a Muslim Burmese poster I have, placed just under the
star and inside the crescent moon (star & crescent being a common Muslim
visual identity trope).  However, 786 has never been performed for the sake
of identity--but the new Buddhist fanaticism is mocking it as such. If seen
on Muslim merchant signboards, it was simply to invoke blessings by calling
on God's name! 

Reciting Bismillah before starting anything in a way is somewhat of a
magical performance, but then what religion does not make use of magic?

As to Burma: many Burmese today are imbued with cultural magic of various
sorts--protective tattoos, Buddhist amulets, lucky days, on and on.
>From the article on the monk Wirathu, : "Soon, Wirathu warns, this Muslim
alliance could outbreed Buddhists, steal away Buddhist women, overwhelm
political offices and prohibit Buddhist ceremonies altogether." It's
abundantly clear that 969 is being used as an identity code as a way to mock
786 and also to enforce segregation. The article says:
" for decades, Muslim merchants have decorated their signage with the
numbers 786, an allusion to Islamic numerology." This is the author's
ignorance talking.

These are the very same paranoid warnings being pushed about Muslims by the
BBS group in Sri Lanka. One suspects an international movement afoot here.

Moving to the political economy level, I see this recent organized hysteria
about Muslims in both Burma and Sri Lanka (whose Buddhist institutions are
in mutual communication) as a political response to their awareness,
finally, that Saudi and Gulf Sunni emirate money has been used to promote
Islam, wherever Muslims are a major component of a country's population. The
Bangladeshis have been on to this for about a decade already--the SE Asians
are only today catching on.  Looks very like there is collusion between the
Burma 969 and the Sri Lanka BBS group.  

Add to this recent awareness of Arab petrodollars influencing local Muslim
groups, the issue of the Rohingyas in western Burma......a politically
difficult situation, where their Muslim religion is being used as an added
reason to kick them out, as not Burmese. It has to be said that the presence
of most of the Muslims in Burma today is due to movement of Muslims from
India to Burma during the British Raj.  After Burmese independence,
hundreds of Indians--Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims-- were tossed out
of/voluntarily left Burma, returning to India. [This fact not noted in these
articles.]  Some Muslims had married Burmese women, and so stayed on.
Hundreds of Indian-origin people even walked out of Burma into India, a long
trail during which many of the aged died. When I visited Burma in 1985, I
saw a large former Sikh gurdwara in one small town, converted to commercial
uses; oddly, I don't recall seeing any mosques, maybe because I was focused
on pagodas. 

My (only a) guess is, that most of today's Muslims in Burma are of mixed
descent. So in historical terms, they aren't "racially" Burmans, only
part-Burman. But in Burma today, if you are not Buddhist, you are not
racially or otherwise Burman. Racism based on ethnicity is raising its head
in a lot of formerly ethnically harmonious regions.
Meta-politically, chalk a lot of these ethnic conflicts up to expanding
populations competing for increasingly limited resources, made even more
limited by the fact that global competitors have been allowed buy huge
tracts of resources in SE Asia, China being one of the biggest players, but
western oil companies not far behind. 


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