I regret that there are new reports of violence in Burma. News stories (unconfirmed by the government) say that just a few hours ago a Buddhist mob attacked an isolated village and killed at least a dozen Muslims, including children.
There are also reports that a large faction of monks, including leaders of the anti-Muslim movement, have formed a new group called Organization for the Protection of Race, Religion, and Belief. I notice they put "race" first, which doesn't surprise me. One of the planks in their platform is to prevent Buddhist-Muslim intermarriage, for example.
People, this is creepy.
I occasionally get emails or comments telling me I don't understand the situation in Burma, and that the Muslim threat must be put down because it is threatening Buddhism. That's nonsense on its face. First, Buddhism itself does not depend on being the majority religion in Burma, even were that majority status threatened, and I can't see that it is. I see data all over the place saying that the population of Burma is 90 percent Buddhist and maybe 4 t 8 percent Muslim. Get real.
What seems to have happened is that the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma was long scapegoated by the government and other powerful figures for whatever was going wrong in Burma, and they've been treated as non-citizens in Burma even if they were born there, and they've been subjected to all manner of violations of their rights. Any problems coming from the Rohingya population no doubt resulted from the long-standing discrimination against them.
How many times have we seen this same scenario in other countries with other majority-minority issues? Can we not learn anything from each other?
It's obvious that animosities rooted in racism and nationalism are being dressed up in Buddhist robes to make them respectable. I doubt the Burmese Buddhists involved in the violence are fooling anyone but themselves.
The Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project recently released a report saying that religious violence around the globe reached a six-year high in 2012. And religious violence tends to be higher where the government is actively involved in keeping religion under control or even repressed. This begs a chicken-and-egg question -- which came first, the violence or the control? In the case of Burma, it seems the violence came second.