Buddhism used as a basis for prejudice and discrimination

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As reported in The Irrawaddy the NLD official Htin Lin Oo has been condemned for criticising the use of Buddhism in Burma to promote religious nationalism.

The Patriotic Buddhist Monks Union issued a statement saying that:

‘In the past, NLD was the party which all Burmese citizens relied upon, supported and respected. But deliberately offending people who do not support the NLD anymore for various reasons would lead to a great blow to the NLD’s image.’

In a speech lasting over two hours certain parts of Htin Lin Oo’s speech have become the object of criticism on social media. In one part he states:

‘Buddha is not Burmese, not Shan, not Karen—so if you want to be an extreme nationalist and if you love to maintain your race that much, don’t believe in Buddhism.’

Htin Lin Oo has urged people to listen to the entire speech, seemingly aware of the offense he has caused to some monastics. However, it could be argued that such sentiments are badly needed in the religious debate within Burma.

Buddhist ‘race protection laws’

As this report points out ‘Burma’s constitution outlaws discrimination on race, religion, birth and sex ‘ but here are monks and nuns arguing in favour of laws restricting marriage between Buddhist women and Muslims. As one nun says ‘I joined this demonstration with the aim of protecting our religion’. One could also suggest that nowhere in the Buddhist Canon is there any sentiment that would support such discriminatory laws.

Some have argued that the military are behind these protests which places the Buddhist Sangha in an alliance with the military against any form of outside influence. There could be some validity to this but the complexity of differing narratives is not so easily disentangled.

Off the Cushion: EPISODE #7: “When Does Ethnocentric Buddhism Become Buddhist Terror?”

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I had the pleasure in taking part in an episode of the excellent Rev. Danny Fisher’s ‘Off the Cushion’ series. Episode 7 is on the topic of “When Does Ethnocentric Buddhism Become Buddhist Terror?”

This week, as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares for his second visit to Burma, we look at the escalating violence against Rohingya Muslims by Burmese Buddhists in the country. Dr. Paul Fuller talks to us about his proposed term for understanding this phenomenon: “Ethnocentric Buddhism.” In addition, Myra Dahgaypaw, Campaigns Coordinator for the U.S. Campaign for Burma, pulls back the curtain on the much-discussed 969 Movement and its leader U Wirathu. Plus: United to End Genocide’s Director of Policy and Government Relations, Daniel P. Sullivan, tells us about the #JustSayTheirName campaign and how it might help stop this conflict.

A very big thank you for Danny for inviting me to contribute. I’m also very grateful for the opportunity to consider some of these ideas with Myra Dahgaypaw and Daniel P. Sullivan.