Final Project: Buddhist riots against Muslims in Burma

Posted on December 13, 2013 by


There have been many riots in South Asia over the past year. It started last year when Muslims destroyed Buddhist monasteries after a Buddhist boy posted something Muslims deemed offensive. From that Buddhists have been rioting against Muslims, with most riots being in Burma, and have continued to escalate. The Muslim riots against the monasteries were not the only thing that started this, another thing that started these riots were reportedly when a Muslim man raped a Buddhist woman.  This started one of the biggest riots of the year of Buddhists against Muslims. I’m going to talk about how the media has fueled this by taking sides and how their articles have taken sides against certain people not just against religions.

The first article was written by Khin Maung Win in the Huffington Post. Even in the first paragraph he starts by describing how the Muslims were by saying that they were terrified when they ran to hide in the forests. The only religion that he starts out with in the first paragraph was Islam. The violence he says was caused by sectarian violence, and immediately mentions the government by saying that it was during the President’s tour. So, the beginning of the article sets the Muslims on one side and the government on the other. They don’t mention that the Buddhists were rioting until the second paragraph. So, too me it seems like they are deflecting the blame right away from the people that are actually rioting to the government. He continues throughout the whole story to deflect blame from the rioters to the government. He mentions how the government are not doing enough to contain the violence but instead letting it spread across the country. Win mentions how even the day before President Sein traveled to Thandwe, that the village was quiet because of extra security, but in the surrounding villages there was unrest and riots were sprouting up from a village as close as twenty kilometers away from Thandwe. The story mentions how soldiers and police did not make even a single attempt to stop the riots and violence towards the Muslim citizens. This riot had over 700 citizens involved and some were even swinging swords and killed an elderly Muslim woman. One officer said that this riot had 70 to 80 houses set on fire. But, a different officer said only 19 houses were destroyed. This just made the government seem like they aren’t even on the same page and that there is no unity with the people that are meant to protect these citizens. This article just casts the government in a bad light and seems to be giving Buddhists a pass on all the riots.

The next article was written by Shaikh Azizur Rahman in the South China Morning Post. This article first talks about how Muslims riot against Buddhists and burn down their monasteries because a Buddhist boy posted a picture that they deemed offensive and used that picture to justify the violence committed. It says originally that Buddhists did not think that the government, which is made up mostly by Muslims, would do anything to help the Buddhists. But, they were totally wrong. The government acted swiftly and sincerely to the situation by rebuilding everything that was destroyed. The only thing that the government was not able to do was replace the ancient Buddhist artifacts that were in the places destroyed. But, they did the next best thing and imported other ancient artifacts from other nearby monasteries. This right off the bat puts the government in a bright light for trying to right the wrong other people made. It also mentions how other Muslims spoke out what the other Muslims did to these places and mentioned how what the government rebuilt these places would help heal these wounds. So, the article did not make all Muslims out to be the villains just a select few. I liked how this article was made because most articles would just condemn the religion because of what a small percentage did instead of what Rahman did. He also wrote both sides of the story about how it began and how the different people reacted to these violent riots. How the government was immediately able to step in and try to help the people attacked and condemned the violent acts even though it was done by people of the same religion. With the government’s swift action it actually shined a positive light on Islam in this reporter’s story.

The last article that was written in The Nation started as the first article written by Win started which was by saying that terrified Muslims were hiding in the forest from violent sectarian attacks. This article however didn’t mention how Buddhists were the attackers until the third paragraph, but like the first article they mentioned the president in the first paragraph. So, right away they start out by implying that the government was the villain of the story instead of the rioters. The author implied that the government was the villain by the language he used by saying that these violent acts were happening even as the President was making his tour of the divided country. This implies that the government was doing nothing to put an end to the violence. In the second paragraph of the story it straight forward says that, “the violence underscored the government’s failure to stop the unrest from spreading”. This story however wrote about how Muslims were retaliating against the Buddhists. So, this article, more than the other article, is trying to give Buddhist rioters a pass and put blame on the government. But, in case talking about the retaliation by Muslims put them in a bad light the author makes sure to have the Muslims are the victims with his language after mentioning the retaliation. He uses words like “anti-Muslim campaign” to describe the riots and brings in how many people and houses have been destroyed by ending this with the majority of these statistics were Muslims. To end the story the author uses powerful words. “Muslims, who account for about 4 percent of Myanmar’s roughly 60 million people, have been the main victims of the violence, but they have been prosecuted for crimes related to the clashes far more often than members of the Buddhist majority.” So, if you have any doubt on who the villain and who the victim is the author makes sure you know who is who in this story and that is that the Muslims are the victims and the government is the villain.

There are many different views in the media about all of these riots. Some go against Islam, some go against Buddhists, but a lot also go against the government for not doing more to stop it. I tried to show with this project how there are different views on why all these riots are going on and most of the one’s I found blame the government. The government doesn’t always make the mistake as I tried to show in the second story that I viewed, but it sometimes acts swiftly and tries to improve the situation and put an end to the violence like in Bangladesh. All though these riots are about extremists from two different religions somehow the media can always throw in the government as a wildcard in the discussion. That is the point I am trying to make with this project.


At these sites you will see some pictures from the riots.

Globalpost, 8/2013,r:21,s:0&tx=764&ty=422

NSNBC, 3/23/2013,r:15,s:0&tx=193&ty=293

huffingtonpost, 8/1/2012







Work Cited

KHIN MAUNG WIN, Myanmar Muslims Hide From Buddhist Mobs Amid Sectarian Violence, huffingtonpost, 10/2/13


Shaikh Azizur Rahman, One year on, Bangladesh restores Buddhist temples destroyed in riots, South China Morning Post, 10/1/13


Muslims go into hiding after Myanmar riots, IBNLive, / 10/3/13


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