I know that Christians and Muslims get most of the attention around here, mostly because the stories of their horrors are most common, but we can’t forget that all religious groups have the same issues. Case in point, I’ve talked about the Buddhist violence against Muslims in Myanmar before, but this seems a bit different. Three owners of a local bar were arrested and sentenced to 2.5 years of hard labor for daring to use a picture of Buddha wearing headphones to promote an event. Why? Because it defamed Buddhism.
I guess they ought to be happy to be alive. If they had been Muslims, they probably wouldn’t be.
The image was posted on the bar’s Facebook page and produced an immediate outrage from hardline Buddhist groups. The restaurant’s general manager, Philip Blackwood, 32, of New Zealand, along with the bar owner, U Tun Thurein, 40, and the manager, U Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26, were arrested and charged with blasphemy and will spend the next two and a half years at the Insein prison in Yangon.
Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, called the verdict “outrageous.” “This is a clear instance of criminalizing free expression,” he said. “This will resonate in a very significant, negative way internationally when people decide how to engage with Burma.”
Of course, blasphemy is an utterly idiotic crime to begin with, the idea that “you said words that make me feel bad about my imaginary friend” is something that no adult should ever entertain. But these are not rational people, these are religious zealots and that is the problem. Religious fanaticism is always what lands stories on Horror Show Sunday. Maybe nobody died this time around, but to imprison people for a drawing? What do these Buddhists think they are? Muslims?
Yet Myanmar is heading down a dangerous road, the government is openly catering to fanatical Buddhists in order to garner votes. “Not only is this a rights violation, but this is very ill advised from a political and social perspective,” Mr. Robertson said. “Burma is heading into dangerous territory.”
But one always is when one caters to religious insanity.