Posted on November 8, 2012 by


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Critical Commentary

Sarah Johnson

American Reporting on the Muslim-Buddhist conflict in Myanmar

History: Buddhists and Muslims have been fighting in Myanmar for decades. It has recently flared up again starting in May due to three Muslim men raping and killing a Muslim woman. In this project, I plan to explore how different articles portray the Muslims and Buddhists and see if American news favors one side over the other.

The LA Times reported that the recent issues stemmed from a conflict in June. They reported, “The June violence followed reports, aired in the state media, that three Muslim men allegedly raped and murdered a Buddhist woman in late May. In response, a mob killed 10 Muslims, setting off a wave of violence.” Notice the vocabulary they choose. The Muslim men raped and murdered a Buddhist woman. A Buddhist mob killed ten Muslims. They subtly chose stronger language when the Muslims were the perpetrators.

You can read the full article at

CNN reported, “The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who say they have been persecuted by the Myanmar military during its decades of authoritarian rule. Myanmar doesn’t recognize them as citizens. Unrest between the Rohingya and majority Buddhists has tested President Thein Sein’s administration, which is trying to seek reconciliation with Myanmar’s different ethnic groups and move the country toward more democratic governance.” This passage of the article points out that the Muslims are the minority. They have been killed by the government because the government doesn’t consider them citizens. The article portrays the Myanmar government as cruel. This would be unheard of in Western culture. Reading this article, readers feel sorry for the Muslims because they are unwanted to the point of being killed. After, they point out that the government’s goal is to have peace among ethnic groups. Killing citizens typically doesn’t equate to peace. They put the Myanmar government in a better light when it’s trying to move forward. That addition makes the article more anti-Muslim. It’s okay because the government is trying to achieve peace (even if it’s by killing off the minority). The government is run by Buddhists.

You can read the full article at

The New York Times attacks the government of Myanmar. “Nonetheless, there is hope that the country is veering away from authoritarianism and Soviet-style economic management that has left the majority of the country’s 55 million people in dire poverty.” When an American article compares something to the Soviet Union, it’s never a good thing. Authoritarianism is not positive language either. The vocabulary turns the country’s government into a cruel military run dictatorship that can’t take care of its own citizens. Keep in mind that the government is run by Buddhists.

“The fighting in late October again put Muslims on the run. Hundreds of Muslim villagers fled onto boats, according to a community leader. The United Nations said people were also heading to the already overcrowded refugee camps it helped set up after the earlier clashes.” The people of the world are helping out the Muslim refugees. The people of the world feel sorry for the minority.

The article also says, “Even before the latest clashes, the Buddhist-led government has faced international criticism over its treatment of a Muslim group in the west called the Rohingya, members of which have been denied citizenship although many have lived in Myanmar for generations.”

You can read the full article at

In conclusion, the stereotypes of Buddhists being peaceful and Muslims being violent are not shown in the latter two articles. Most American media is on the Muslim side. They portray the government as evil on many levels (maybe more evil than the Soviets?). Muslim people have to flee their own country because the Buddhist government won’t call them citizens. The people of the world have come together to help.

Even though the recent flare of violence started with the Muslims, CNN and the New York Times say that it’s still the government in the wrong. The Muslims have so much to be angry about; it isn’t as big of deal if they killed a Buddhist.

Posted in: Buddhism, Islam