Critical Commentary: Buddhist Attacks on Muslims in Myanmar

Posted on October 7, 2013 by

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An article from The New York Times “Myanmar, Revival of Attack on Muslims,” focuses on the disputes going on between the Muslims and the Buddhists in Myanmar. Buddhists throughout the country have gone on an anti-Muslim boycott of stores and have a deep anti-Muslim sentiment which has led to many violent attacks. Although this kind of violence has been going on in Myanmar for some time, this time the attacks took place in Muslim communities that have existed side by side with Buddhist communities for many generations. The attacks were also on a group of Muslims that are recognized by the government as citizens which was not the case in subsequent attacks. When the government of that area was asked for a statement they clearly blamed the Muslims for the violent that occurred.

From the title of the article, one deduces that the Muslims are the obvious victims in the conflict but, in the article, it says that that damage and casualties on both sides in one quote and another quote says that only the Muslims suffered casualties. It is clear that the author, Thomas Fuller, who was assisted by Wai Moe from Thailand, finds the Muslims to be the victims in this situation while the Myanmar government thinks that the Buddhists are at fault. The picture included in the article makes the Muslims look the victims by including a man searching through burnt rubble that was his home to find and belongings that may not have been destroyed. The title, picture, and first paragraph give a first impression that is quite bad of the Buddhists and portray the Muslims as the clear victims. Fuller includes a quote that says that Muslims were the only ones killed which is in conflict which makes the Buddhists seem like the aggressors but also includes an earlier quote in the article that states that both sides had casualties.

The author tended to generalize Buddhists much more than he did the Muslims. He referred to the Buddhists as only Buddhists and never by any subgroup or extremist group while she differentiated the groups of Muslims that were targeted explained that some were recognized as citizens while others were not. The author uses the word violence over and over throughout the article to emphasize the turmoil that is going on with the attacks on the Muslims. Fuller uses the word victims many times as well to put an emphasis on his belief that the Muslims were the clearly being attacked and were not at fault for the conflict. He does not discuss in any way what the negative side effects of this hatred are on the Buddhists in involved.

Fuller uses quotes from two different people in the article and explains why they should have merit, however the information that he includes is contradictory. The president, Thein Sein says that there are casualties and damage on both sides while the Lt. Col of the police force says that the only people that were found dead are people from the Muslim community. Fuller does not try to explain why those statements differ and thus makes it hard for the readers to decide which source is creditable (if either). Moreover, it is extremely hard to for readers to tell facts from opinions because Fuller has an obvious opinion of the Mulisms being the victims which is in opposition to the Myanmar government that blames the Muslims for the violence.

Throughout the article Fuller makes it obvious that the Muslims are the victim or the “good guys” while the Buddhists are the bullies or the “bad guys.” He also clearly thinks that the Myanmar government is not one of the “good guys” by clearly siding with the Muslims and telling the readers that the Myanmar government is blaming Muslims for the violence that Fuller claims the Muslims are the victim.  The article evokes a strong sympathy for the Muslims in this situation because Fuller paints them purely as victims of both violence and discrimination from the government and Buddhists. Including the quote by a villager that says that the Muslims are living in fear makes that sympathy much stronger because it gives the reader a deeper personal connection to the Muslims that are in the areas of conflict. The photograph included at the beginning of the article clearly achieves the personal connection as well. Because the Buddhists that were a part of the violence were generalized to just Buddhists the article, it gives the reader a negative view on Buddhists as a whole instead of extremist groups that do such violence.

Source:

Thomas Fuller, “In Myanmar, Revival of Attacks on Muslims” New York Times 10/2/2013

Link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/world/asia/myanmar-violence-buddhists-muslims.html?_r=0

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