The other side of the story: A tale of “extremist” Buddhist monks

When People tell me that Islam is a religion of peace I admit that my first impulse is to laugh. On the other hand, when people talk about peaceful?Buddhist monks my reaction is to nod in agreement as I associate Buddhism with an ideology that is against harming any living creature, not even a lowly grasshopper.

Tasnim Nazeer an award-winning Muslim journalist, author and producer challenges that belief in an article in the Huffington Post.?

It all comes down to labels. Is a person a freedom fighter or a terrorist? Are they fighting an offensive campaign or a defensive campaign? What is the root cause of the conflict? No matter what the label is it is clear that some Buddhists are turning to incitement and violence?against their fellow Muslim citizens in Asia.

There has been a worrying rise of anti-Muslim attacks and discrimination in Asia. Buddhist nationalism has been on the increase since the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority by the Myanmar government and has seen a concerning escalation into countries such as?Sri Lanka where there is an uproar of hardline mobs, targeting Muslim civilians, their homes and businesses. Followers of hardline Myanmar monk,?Ashin Wirath who formed the 969 group, collaborating with Sri Lanka?s extremist monk?Galabode atthe Gnanasara?hold an extreme ideology that believes in ?struggling to protect Buddhism in Asia from Muslims?.

Is it extreme to try to protect your own country?s culture and religion? Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries stridently protect their culture and religion from the influence of non-Muslim citizens. I wonder if?Tasnim Nazeer considers Muslim countries who ruthlessly enforce Muslim culture to have an ” extreme ideology”?

Violence is clearly extreme but trying to protect one’s culture and religion through peaceful democratic means is a different thing entirely. The problem is that when peaceful means fail, historically people always turn to violence.

[…]? his arm raised and his voice rising to a shriek, he issues an explicit threat to Muslims, using a derogatory term for the minority.

To roars of approval, he vows that if any Muslim, were to lay a hand on a Sinhalese — let alone a monk — that would “be the end” of all of them….] shortly after the speech, Buddhist mobs marched through Muslim neighborhoods, ransacking dozens of homes and shops. Three Muslim men were killed, and sixteen seriously injured in the two nights of violence that followed, police said.

It is such extreme ideologies that have influenced the rise of anti-Muslim attacks and have spurred discrimination against Muslims and other minority groups. There has been over?620,000?Rohingya Muslims, more than half their total number, who have fled from Myanmar?s Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August as a result of violence described by the?UN?as a text book example of ethnic cleansing.[…]

Sri Lanka is also facing a spike of anti-Muslim hate crimes with impending mass riots following an attack by hardline mobs against Muslims. Reports from the ground state that a series of Muslim families have been targeted and their homes and businesses heavily attacked. Sri Lanka?s special task police force were sent to the ground on November 17th 2017 following a large scale mob attack and petrol bombs that were thrown at Muslim houses and mosques.

Innocent Muslim families are being hurt because they are being scapegoated for whatever it is that has sparked the anger and the violence.

Tensions had been flaring up earlier this year in May 2017 when the hard-line group?Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)?General-Secretary?Galagoda Atte Gnanasara?had been encouraging his supporters to lead another campaign against Muslims following the deadly?Aluthgama riots?in June 2014 […]

The riot was apparently caused by an altercation between some young Muslims and a monk (or the monk?s driver) on June 14.

[…] Frustratingly, little is being done to calm the situation and restore peace within the country.

Dr Muang Zarni, a renowned Buddhist genocide scholar, stated that, ?Buddhism nationalism has been on the rise in post-independent countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma where Theravada Buddhism is a mass religion. […]

In an attempt to restore press for peace and call for an end to the growing spate of discrimination against Muslims, the Pope will be visiting Myanmar and Bangladesh respectively this week, as per information released by by the Vatican, the pope will say two Masses in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and one in Bangladesh, which has a predominant Muslim population.[…]