A powerful group of hardline Buddhist monks in Myanmar is attempting to crack down even harder on the besieged Rohingya Muslim minority by demanding that girls wearing religious headscarves not be allowed in school.
The headscarves are "not in line with school discipline," declared the monks' Organisation for the Protection of Race and Religion, which is known locally as Ma Ba Tha, reports the Guardian.
The announcement came following a conference in Yangon involving 1,300 monks. The group also called for banning the full-body burka in government schools and for a prohibition on the killing of "innocent animals" on the Muslim Eid holiday.
When Muslims live in Myanmar, "they need to obey the law and regulations of the country. We are not targeting or attacking their religion," said Ma Ba Tha monk U Pamaukkha.
The monks also called on voters to choose candidates in upcoming elections who "will not let our race and religion disappear."
A ban on Muslim religious attire in school would weigh heavily on Myanmar's persecuted Rohingyas. Thousands of Rohingyas have fled the Southeast Asian nation seeking asylum. The 1.3 million Rohingyas in Myanmar are regarded as stateless people and unwelcome migrants from Bangladesh. They live in often dire, segregated conditions in the western Rakhine state.
More than 230 people have been killed in religious violence in Myanmar since June 2012 and more than 140,000 have been displaced.
The nationalist Ma Ba Tha was formed in 2013 as violence surged among the communities. David Mathieson, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told the Guardian that the group has become an "unaccountable and arrogant political force based on extremist religious and social views, like a fifth column using Buddhism to serve shady political and economic interests."