The Star reported recently on the International Buddhist-Muslim Forum on Peace and Sustainability, held recently at the Institute of Islamic Understanding in Malaysia. Noteworthy for readers of this blog were statements from Dr. Harsha Kumara Navaratne, chairman of the International Network for Engaged Buddhists, who was quoted as saying to the gathering:
The people in Sri Lanka live in separate areas, attend separate schools and speak separate languages. This isolation contributes to mistrust and fear… If Buddhist and Muslim communities can overcome the challenges that confront them, there is tremendous potential for the growth and development of ideas and values that may help to transform the region… If we allow violence to erode relations between followers of the faiths, it could destabilize peace in the region. Thus, we must come together to maintain relations.
In addition, our friend Dr. Maung Zarni took to Al Jazeera English to address Buddhist Islamophobia specifically. Responding to recent statements from Aung San Suu Kyi, Dr. Zarni said:
Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the contemporary world’s most celebrated icons of human rights, non-violence and reconciliation, crossed the line into Myanmar’s world of “Buddhist” Islamophobia. Disturbingly, on BBC Radio Four’s flagship program, “Today”, she characterised the waves of organised violence and Nazi-like hate campaigns currently being committed by her fellow Buddhists – the lay public and clergy alike – as violence of two equal sides, claiming that Burmese Buddhists live in the perceived fear of the rise of great Muslim power worldwide.
As a revered dissident, Aung San Suu Kyi’s idea of ‘freedom from fear’ inspired millions both in Myanmar and world-wide. I think she herself has succumbed to a different type of fear, namely Islamophobia.
Far from recent waves of violence being horizontal communal violence, the truth is that the country’s Rohingya Muslims – numbering 1.3 million out of the country’s 60 million people – have been the subject of a slowly unfolding genocide. This is the conclusion I have drawn from a three-year study that I have just completed with a researcher colleague at the London-based Equal Rights Trust.
You can read Dr. Zarni’s entire piece here.