The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Buddhist nationalist group in Burma calls for restrictions on interfaith marriage


The Irrawady (Zarni Mann) reports:

A powerful group of Buddhist nationalist lobbyists [The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, locally referred to as Ma Ba Tha] has planned nationwide rallies in support of a controversial bill that some say would effectively outlaw interfaith marriage in Burma….

The draft legislation would require Buddhist women to receive permission from parents and authorities before marrying a man of another faith, who would then be forced to convert to Buddhism. It is part of a package of four bills drafted by the Ma Ba Tha on the premise of preserving racial and religious norms. The other three bills would ban polygamy, enact population control measures and restrict religious conversion.

According to this Irrawady article, the movement indeed seems influential:

President Thein Sein has asked Parliament to discuss public proposals for a new law to restrict interfaith marriages, after receiving a letter from prominent monks showing more than 1 million signatures of support for such a measure.

However, Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann has decided to throw the question back to the president, saying lawmakers will not discuss the matter further until a bill is drafted and considered by relevant government bodies, including the religious affairs ministry, the home affairs ministry and the immigration department of the foreign affairs ministry, as well as the national human rights commission and the union high court….

"A lot of Buddhist people are afraid their Buddhist religion will disappear if the Muslim population grows. Our Buddhist monks are worried the Muslim population will influence the country," the [Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP)] lawmaker Pe Than said.

"Personally, I would not block the bill because we need to protect our race. But it's important to clarify that we only need to protect our fence, rather than disturbing or offending people of other religions," he added, referring to concerns that Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh are illegally crossing the border and living in Arakan State, where his constituency is based…

The article links at the bottom to still other articles on the subject. Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.