Don’t Imprison Writer for Speaking Out Against Religious Extremism

jail-cell-by-Michael-Coghlan

Target: Thein Sein, President of Myanmar

Goal: Support man imprisoned for “insulting religion.”

A writer was sentenced by a Myanmar court to two years of prison and hard labor after making comments against Buddhist extremism, according to an article in Reuters. In a speech, Htin Lin Oo criticized Buddhist monks who he felt had delivered hate speeches; as a result, he will spend the next two years behind bars. This is a terrible blow to free speech in Myanmar, which has recently seen a spike in Buddhist nationalism. In Myanmar, previously known as Burma, tensions have been running high between Buddhists and minority Muslims. These are problems that could be remedied by free and open debate, but officials insist on imprisoning this man for his willingness to participate in religious discussion.

Rather than suppressing these criticisms, the government of Myanmar should be doing more to encourage inter-religious dialogue. Free and open discussion on the topic of religion is a good way of resolving religious tensions, but brushing the issue under the rug and throwing people in jail for their beliefs is not productive. As Rupert Abbot, a research director at Amnesty International says: “The growing influence of extremist Buddhist nationalists and their hateful rhetoric in Myanmar is deeply troubling…the government seems intent on compounding the problem by imprisoning those speaking out against religious intolerance.”

The sentence that Htin Lin Oo has been given constitutes a human rights violation. Sign this petition to encourage Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, to do everything in his power to facilitate the release of Htin Lin Oo. Nobody should ever be imprisoned for expressing their opinion on an important issue.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Thein Sein,

I was deeply troubled to hear the story of Htin Lin Oo, who was recently sentenced to two years in prison for criticizing Buddhist monks who he felt had been delivering hateful lines of rhetoric. This sentence is a blatant violation of free speech and should be repealed immediately. Inter-religious dialogue in Myanmar should be encouraged, not penalized. By imprisoning people who speak out on religious topics, Myanmar is essentially brushing these important issues under the rug and making it taboo to discuss them. This is the exact opposite of what is needed.

Instead, citizens need a free and open discussion on the topic of religion. It worries me to hear stories like this, because it is an overt human rights violation to imprison someone for their beliefs, no matter how unpopular they may be. I would like to urge you to do everything in your power to reverse this man’s sentence.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan

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