Religion News Service on “Buddhism’s Fundamentalist Streak”

The Religion News Service’s reporters Anuradha Sharma and Vishal Arora have done a report on “the growing influence of Theravada Buddhist nationalists in Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand,” and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review has posted the article in full on their blog. Here’s a snippet:

To many Americans, Buddhism is about attaining enlightenment, maybe even nirvana, through such peaceful methods as meditation and yoga.

But in some parts of Asia, a more assertive, strident, and militant Buddhism is emerging. In three countries where Buddhism is the majority faith, a form of religious nationalism has taken hold:

* In Sri Lanka, where about 70 percent of the population is Theravada Buddhist, a group of monks formed the Bodu Bala Sena or the Buddhist Power Force in 2012 to “protect” the country’s Buddhist culture. The force, nicknamed BBS, carried out at least 241 attacks against Muslims and 61 attacks against Christians in 2013, according to the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

* In Burma, at least 300 Rohingya Muslims, whose ancestors were migrants from Bangladesh, have been killed and up to 300,000 displaced, according to Genocide Watch. Ashin Wirathu, a monk who describes himself as the Burmese  “bin Laden,” is encouraging the violence by viewing the Rohingya presence as a Muslim “invasion.”

* And in Buddhist-majority Thailand, at least 5,000 people have died in Muslim-Buddhist violence in the country’s South. The country’s Knowing Buddha Foundation is not a violent group, but it advocates for a blashemy law to punish anyone who offends the faith. It wants Buddhism declared the state religion and portrays popular culture as a threat to believers.

Read the rest here.

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  • Greg

    The tone of the article implies that the 5,000 that have died in the south of Thailand were Muslim. I seriously doubt this.
    Furthermore, it seems that being fearful of Islamic political motives
    is justified. When we look at the development of Muslim communities in
    places like Europe what we find is a community that self segregates and
    attempts to apply sharia law. The self segregation of a community
    provides the powder keg that is only waiting to be lit by either side
    which only seems to perpetuate a further and further divide. Why is it
    that every country that has a population of Muslims have within it a
    group of people eager to commit violence? The Quran is the word of God
    and the life of the prophet is the perfect interpretation of the Quran.
    When the prophet had problems, he appealed to violence and thus
    provides a model for conflict resolution with more conflict. Why can’t
    we accept that Islam is like a loaded weapon sitting around the house? If anyone resists Islam I assume they’re in the right until proven otherwise. If they are in the wrong then we could compare how bad the current system treats people to the one that Islam would bring about. Not as bad as the proposed Islamic solution? Not bad enough to overthrow then.

  • Greg

    In reference to the title: “Buddhism’s Fundamentalist Streak” I think this is a false idea as these groups are not appealing to a fundamental interpretation of Buddhism. In fact, they are appealing to something outside of Buddhism, which could be Nationalism or maybe it’s just an appeal to no longer being able to tolerate Islamic fundamentalism.