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Ramadan prayers in Yangon shut down

MANDALAY (UCAN): Some 100 monks led nationalist supporters into three Muslim quarters in south Dagon township, on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, during the nights of May 14 and 15 and demanded that three temporary prayer sites, set up for Ramadan, be shut down. Under pressure, Muslim leaders closed down the prayer sites but have said the sites were allowed by the Yangon Division government.
On May 16, the police chief of Yangon Division said the Muslims could continue their Ramadan observance and that security would be provided police. However, no prayers were held at any of the sites that night, according to Muslim sources.
There are an estimated 10,000 Muslims in the township but no mosques.
Kyaw Nyein, secretary of the Ulama Islamic Organisation, said the nationalists were not from the township and that it was a planned act.
“It is obvious that some groups who are behind those nationalists are attempting to create a religious conflict,” Kyaw Nyein said.
On the night of May 16, prominent monk, Ashin Seindita, from the Asia Light Foundation in Pyin-Oo-Lwin, along with other interfaith advocates met with the township’s Muslim community.
Zaw Min Latt, a Yangon-based Muslim resident, said Seindita thanked the local community for showing fortitude.
“The monk called for patience and to show love,” Min Latt said.
Al Haj Aye Lwin, the chief convener of a Yangon-based Islamic school, said hate speech against Muslims remains a problem despite the government trying to rein in nationalist groups.
“Our Muslims have been targeted for political gain … the main intention of such political opportunists is to hurt the civilian-led government,” Aye Lwin said.
Hardline Buddhist monks from the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, known as Ma Ba Tha, encouraged the anti-Muslim violence in 2012 which left more than 200 people dead and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in Rakhine State. An estimated 120,000 people still live in temporary camps for displaced people.
Known for its anti-Islamic rhetoric, the organisation has renamed itself the Buddha Dhamma Philanthropy Foundation.
Myanmese Muslims account for 4.3 per cent of the population in the Buddhist-majority country, according to the 2014 census. They arrived in the ninth century and most are of Indian, Chinese or Pathi descent.

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