The Myanmar Conflict
Digital Paper Composed by Aiyana Dass & Megan Kauffman
The purpose of this digital paper is to analyze the different perspectives and media coverage on the conflict in Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims. Three separate articles will be explored, each showing a Muslim perspective, Buddhism perspective or neutral perspective. Myanmar, a south Asian country, has been having large outbreaks of violence that have been occurring throughout this last year due to tensions and religious conflict between Buddhists and Muslims. The majority of the population is Buddhist and most of the attacks have been on Muslim communities started by Buddhist radicals. There has been no major action taken by the government to stop the violence that is occurring. These outbreaks have occurred within the past months and have been catching headlines on many different media sources around the world.
Map displaying Myanmar
Protesters Against Ethnic Cleansing & Violence
Article Analysis: Bias Against Buddhists
From the article title, “Revival of Attacks on Muslims,” it is clear who is viewed as the victim in the Myanmar conflict. This New York Times article gives perspective on the conflict that depicts Muslims as being innocent in comparison to Buddhists. The article starts with a death count and damage report from a recent Buddhist attacks in the Myanmar town of Thandwe. A villager who witnessed the incident was quoted saying he saw “sword wielding Buddhist mobs rampaging through Muslim neighborhoods.” The author, Thomas Fuller, included that these violent acts are a “disturbingly familiar pattern.” It is clear that this article is pointing out Buddhists as the source of the violence. It discusses how Buddhists have been terrorizing Muslims by burning down their homes, boycotting their shops and even going so far as to kill Muslim children.
The only explanation this article gives for the violence that is occurring comes from the International Crisis Group, a research organization. They believe that the conflict between Buddhists and Muslims has likely increased because of “the depth of anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, and the inadequate response of the security forces.” It is made clear in the article that Muslims are being attacked and killed by Buddhists and Muslims do not appear to be fighting back.
No type of religious stance is taken in this article, but is Muslims are portrayed as the victims of the violence and Buddhists as ruthless instigators of violence. The article is able to give a good amount of examples of Muslims being attacked by Buddhists, and creates the clear idea that Buddhists want to eliminate Muslims from Myanmar.
Burning of Muslim Neighborhood
Muslims Advocating for Non-Violence
Article Analysis: Bias Against Muslims
The CNN article entitled, “Violence for the Sake of Peace,” reported the violence in Myanmar with a negative perspective on the Muslims in Myanmar more than the Buddhists. The report discusses how Buddhists have been the victims of Muslims. Further explained is the Buddhist retaliation towards Muslims as being something they intended not to do since it is against the Buddhist’s peaceful religion, but was necessary to happen in order to retain peace. The language used by the author, Peter Shadbolt, in the article clearly places the Buddhists as the innocent victim and the Muslims as the instigators.
The report pins the Muslims as the masterminds behind the conflict by talking about an incident that occurred in the Thailand Yala province in 2007 when suspected Muslim militants shot eight Buddhists through the head in broad daylight. After this incident, Thailand’s Queen Sirikit was quoted saying, “We have to help people there (Thailand) to survive.” By people, she meant Buddhists, and by helping them “survive,” boosted her support for OrRorBor, an exclusively Buddhist militia. The article is written in a way that sounds like any violence created by Buddhists is only in retaliation and used as a way of protection.
After discussing one incident of Muslim violence, the article switches gears to talking about how Buddhists view violence in their religion, and how it relates to the cycle of birth and death. This section of the article makes Buddhists seem like extremely peaceful people that are against violence and are being pushed towards it against their will. Buddhism religion is deeply averse to killing, because they believe it creates negative karma. The CNN reporters got input from Michael Jerryson, an assistant Professor of religion and co-editor of the book Buddhist Warfare, who talks about how Buddhist monks bless the soldiers, not in support of violence, but to give them clear heads and good intentions. Also discussed is how the Dalai Lama spoke up the same idea of good intentions about the soldiers in Tibet. By including these sources with this information, the article seems to be attempting to disassociate any possible negative image of violence from the Buddhism religion.
Finally, the article discusses how the government justifies the idea of violence for the sake of peace. It states, “Buddhists states often mesh nationalism with Buddhism justifying war on the grounds that a fracture in the nation state is a tear in the sacred fabric of a land which represents the well-spring of their belief.” It furthers the impression that the Buddhist violence is only in defense, and although it might be against their religious beliefs and creating bad karma, they are doing it for the greater good. It says that the real root of the problem is economic, rather than sectarian. By this they mean that since many Buddhist states have economic strength, they are less likely to have civil insurrections.
Thailand Queen Sirikit In Support of Buddhists
Buddhist/Muslim Conflict caused death & destruction in Burma
Article Analysis: No Bias Towards Either Buddhists or Muslims
The Wall Street Journal article entitled “Myanmar Reports Latest Incident of Sectarian Conflict,” written by Shibani Mahtani, gives non-bias examples of violence instigated by both Muslims and Buddhists. An incident is reported in Myanmar in which a Buddhist mob torched homes and shops of Muslims after a Muslim man attempted rape on a Buddhist woman. The article does not show prejudice or place blame on any one side. This source does a descent job of remaining neutral and being informational with its reports. It was stated that, “over the past year, growing tensions have left more than 250,000 people displaced and more than 200 dead.” These statistics are mutual and represent a total count of occurring violence between both Muslims and Buddhists.
The reason given for the outbreaks of violence are said to be because of the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment. It seems as though the 5% Muslim population of the Buddhist country is feeling “vulnerable and isolated.” Extremists seem to have gotten caught up in the violence as the outbreaks have been increasing in size and altitude. The violence is not being contained and the casualties are escalating in numbers.
Temples & Places of Worship Destroyed
The three analyzed articles from the New York Times, CNN, and Wall Street Journal depicted a variety of views on the conflict between Muslims and Buddhists that is currently occurring in Myanmar. There seems to be numerous views on whether Buddhists or Muslims are the victims of this religious war. Each has committed numerous crimes against the other that has led to many deaths and destruction. The bias offered in today’s media coverage can easily influence viewers to form a non-neutral opinion on current events.
Fuller, Thomas. “In Myanmar, Revival of Attack on Muslims.” The New York Times. New York Times, 2 Oct. 2013. Web. 5 Dec. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/world/asia/myanmar-violence-buddhists-muslims.html?_r=1&>.
Mahtani, Shibani. “Myanmar Reports Latest Incident of Sectarian Conflict.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones and Company, 25 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324591204579034934065058304>.
Shadbolt, Peter. “Conflict in Buddhism: ‘Violence for the Sake of Peace?'” CNN.Cable News Network, 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.<http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/22/world/asia/buddhism-violence/>.