The Face of Buddhist Terror

It's a faith famous for its pacifism and tolerance. But in several of Asia's Buddhist-majority nations, monks are inciting bigotry and violence — mostly against Muslims

Adam Dean / Panos for TIME

U Wirathu, the spiritual leader of the 969 Buddhist Nationalist movement, and his entourage leave after giving a sermon, at a monastery in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) on May 22, 2013. U Wirathu is an abbot in the New Maesoeyin Monastery where he leads about 60 monks and has influence over more than 2,500 residing there. He travels the country giving sermons to religious and laypeople encouraging Buddhists to shun Muslim business and communities.

His face as still and serene as a statue's, the Buddhist monk who has taken the title "the Burmese bin Laden" begins his sermon. Hundreds of worshippers sit before him, palms pressed together, sweat trickling silently down their sticky backs. On cue, the crowd chants with the man in burgundy robes, the mantras drifting through the sultry air of a temple in Mandalay, Burma's second biggest city after Rangoon. It seems a peaceful scene, but Wirathu's message crackles with hate. "Now is not the time for calm," the 46-year-old monk intones, as he spends 90 minutes describing the many...

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