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Myanmar Muslims mark Eid as monks urge curbs to ritual slaughter

Myanmar Muslims mark Eid as monks urge curbs to ritual slaughter

September 26, 2015

Yangon - Muslims in Myanmar marked Eid on Friday with the ritual sacrifice of cattle amid pressure from Buddhist nationalists to curb the animal slaughter in a country where religious tensions have flared in recent years.

Goats, sheep and cows are slaughtered worldwide to celebrate the major Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha, which is known as the Feast of the Sacrifice.

Small-scale festivities were under way at a Muslim neighbourhood near downtown Yangon, the nation's vibrant and multicultural commercial hub, where volunteers at one local businessman's home chopped meat and donated portions to the needy, mainly Buddhists, who had lined up outside.

A local Muslim community representative told AFP that celebrations were more "limited" this year.

"Authorities have allowed (the sacrifice) but with lots of restrictions," said Aye Lwin of the Myanmar arm of interfaith group Religions for Peace, explaining that this year communities, who must apply for permission to slaughter meat, received fewer animals for the ritual.

Ma Ba Tha, a Buddhist nationalist movement, has stepped-up their anti-Muslim rhetoric in the former junta-ruled state ahead of landmark November 8 elections that Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition is tipped to sweep if the polls are fair.

On Friday, the group's spokesman Parmaukha said the killing of cattle goes against Buddha's teachings.

"They (Muslims) should avoid actions such as these if they want to live in peace and harmony," the monk told AFP, adding that the group had pushed authorities for restrictions to cattle slaughter.

Ma Ba Tha has sought to stoke fears that Buddhism is under threat from Muslims, who make up at least five percent of the country's 51-million population.

Buddhist nationalists have seen their influence grow in recent years as religious tensions fester following deadly 2012 riots between Muslims and Buddhists in western Rakhine state.

The unrest left more than 200 dead and 140,000 displaced in sprawling camps -- mostly Rohingya Muslims.

Thousands of Rohingya have this year been stripped of voting rights after parliament banned people without full citizenship from going to the ballot box.

No major party, including Suu Kyi's opposition, is fielding a Muslim candidate in November's elections, a move decried by rights activists as a massive step backwards for the nation.

Last week countries including the United States, Britain and Japan voiced concerns that rising religious tensions in Myanmar could spark conflict as campaigning for the polls gains momentum.

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