Last week, Kenan Malik wrote a blistering op-ed for the New York Times about how the anti-Muslim violence perpetrated by Buddhists in Myanmar should burst idealized notions about Buddhism. “Myanmar’s Buddhist Bigots” is not easy reading, but it is necessary reading. Do take a look.
I think Malik’s thesis is quite right, but it should also be noted that Buddhist scholars and practitioners (and scholar-practitioners) are and have been trying to help remove rose-colored glasses.
Thomas Tweed, for example, has written astutely for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review about how the media has “represented the religious rituals and public engagement [of Buddhists and Muslims] differently,” failing to do justice to reality. Pattana Kitiarsa and John Whalen Bridge’s Buddhism, Modernity, and the State in Asia: Forms of Engagement reveals a tendency among many to promote a “Buddhist exceptionalism” in which “Buddhist actors and institutions transcend politics.”
In addition, Buddhist leaders and luminaries have penned at least three open letters on Myanmar; the International Network of Engaged Buddhists has helped to facilitate the formation of the International Forum on Buddhist-Muslim Relations, a commision of inquiry; and Jōdo Shinshū priest John Iwohara spoke at the Myanmar Muslims Genocide Awareness Convention 2013, reminding the assembled that “the pain and loss of losing a loved one is the same for everyone.”
[UPDATE: Another must-read op-ed about the Rohingya just dropped at the New York Times this morning from the intrepid Nicholas Kristof, who will be doing a series of reports from Myanmar with the winner of his annual “win-a-trip” journalism contest.]