New Media Project, Religious Violence in Southeast Asia

Posted on December 10, 2013 by


Prezi Presentation:

Mp3 Analysis:

Violence between Buddhists and Muslims

by Adam Larson

            During the last few months there has been a spike in the media on the violence that has been going on between Muslims and Buddhists in Southeast Asia. From the standpoint of the average Westerner this is a highly overlooked issue within world religious news. It is a common stereotype held that Muslims are people that condone violence and aggression, and that Buddhists are peaceful and non-violent. However, in this situation it is the Buddhists that are condoning the violence towards the Muslims. There have been multiple deaths and many people injured among the destruction.

Buddhism is known to be a peaceful religion and the Buddhist’s who practice are against aggressive thoughts. So it seems odd that Buddhists would be pursuing destructive behavior towards Muslims. However, it is also know that Christians are peaceful people that follow non-violence teachings, and still there have been an extraordinary amount of violent acts that have been committed by Christians throughout history. Just as Christians are not perfect, the same goes for Buddhists. They are not perfect people and these actions of violence are not agreed upon by all Buddhists. Here is one of the presumed reasons for why these Buddhists are committing these violent acts according the BBC, which seems to be one of the only neutral sources. Every religion wants to protect its world view, and with the vast differences between these two groups it was only a matter of time before a nationalist group within the Buddhist community would condone an approach to gain authority within the growing and impoverished areas. This ultimately led to an outburst of growing tensions by a triggered event. “Buddhist militants and the government insist the Rohingya are not citizens but instead are Muslim ethnic Bengalis who have illegally migrated from neighboring Bangladesh during past decades”.

There are deep underlying issues that have been going on for years between the Muslims and Buddhists, and the government has done very little to advise relations between the two clashing groups according to the media. The outbursts of violence all starts with triggered events. One of the events that triggered an outburst was that a girl in a village was presumed to have been raped by a Muslim man, and another outburst was caused by the building of a new mosque with in a predominantly Buddhist village. There is no higher authority within these poor areas that is able to intervene when things get out of hand. One act of violence has the ability to keep growing and growing until it is out of hand. In many of these attacks on Muslims, the police are so out numbered all they can do is watch to preserve their own safety. It is not only the Buddhists who are committing these acts of violence, Muslims are committing acts of violence as well, but in comparison they are so miniscule they seek no media coverage.

It still appears out of character that a religion based on peace and non-violence philosophies would fall to these actions. To better understand this better I will give a background to what Buddhist and Muslim beliefs are. Buddhism is a religion indigenous to Southern Asia. There are many traditions and beliefs that come from Buddhism but all of these different traditions and beliefs within Buddhism link to basic principles. These principles come from the last Buddha to have walked the earth; his teachings were to eliminate suffering, lust, and to reach the goal of enlightenment within this lifetime to end the reincarnation cycle by obtaining Nirvana. In addition to these principles the Buddha taught about the five promises. The first one being that “I promise not to kill any living being” The Buddha believed in non-violence towards all living beings and promoted love towards all life. To be considered a Buddhist one must follow the teachings of the Buddha.

On the other hand we have Muslims who make up the religion of Islam. Muslims believe in the teachings of Muhammad who believed to be the last prophet of God and they follow the texts in the Quran. They believe that the Quran is the living word of the one and only God. There are many other rituals and practices that come with being a Muslim like the five pillars of faith which include Belief, Worship, Fasting, Almsgiving, and Pilgrimage. The main goal of Islam is to submit to God. This is a completely different structure of beliefs compared to the Buddhists.

In many of the articles that I reviewed, all but one directed every single blame of violence solely on the Buddhists. It appears that the media is grouping all Buddhists as a whole for being responsible about the violence that is occurring in Southeast Asia, when in reality it is and extremely small percentage of the Buddhist world population. They do not seem to recognize that Buddhists all over the world are mourning about the violent acts that are going on, as well mourning for the people that are the victims of these crimes. It is Buddhist national groups who are calling for the boycotts and anti sentiment views towards Muslims according to the New York Times. A common phrase showing up in a majority of the articles are; “sword-wielding Buddhist mobs rampaging through Muslim neighborhoods.” Another thing that the media keeps on doing with this is blaming the government in Southeast Asia for not taking control over the situation. The reality is that this region of the world is terribly impoverished and they do not have as powerful or constructive of a government as the West does. The government is well outnumbered and they do not have the tools or the media power to bring these two opposite groups together within the small villages that these people reside in. We have to keep in mind that there are Muslims who are committing heinous crimes as well, but only a small percentage compared to the Buddhist population. This issue is being caused to do poor timing, a poor economy, and a poor education among the population. The media is merely presenting the eye popping headlines on the surface of the situation and not informing readers of the deep underlying issues.


Posted in: Buddhism, Islam