Final Project: Buddhist and Muslim Conflict in Myanmar

Posted on December 14, 2013 by


In Myanmar, Muslims and Buddhists have had a long-term religious conflict between each other that has recent become visible and acknowledge in the ‘Western’ world. Both sides (the Muslims and the Buddhists) of the conflict have been portrayed different in different sources. Three sources that give a good spread of the different opinions are the New York Times, USA Today, and The Nation.

The New York Times article gives the perspective of pro-Muslim in this conflict. The article was written by Thomas Fuller. Fuller started covering Southeast Asian news in 1997 and has become the New York Times’ correspondent for the Southeast Asia. The article he wrote—“In Myanmar, Revival of Attacks on Muslims”—mostly covered an attack by Buddhists on Muslims, a general background on the conflict, and the feelings of the conflict from both sides of the conflict. From my perspective, I saw that Fuller was pro-Muslim and that started with the title. With the title, Fuller starts his pro-Muslim bias and continues it throughout the article. The first paragraph starts out with the basic information of the attack, with “resurgence of religious violence in western Myanmar this week has left six Muslims dead and dozens of homes destroyed” (Fuller 1). With the title and first paragraph, Fuller gives a pro-Muslim viewpoint because the article puts Muslims in the victim role and the Buddhists in the offensive role. Because of this bias, it created controversy for the Buddhist and Muslim population. Most people do not realize that Buddhists have the ability to commit violence because most Buddhists are summed up by the stereotype of peaceful, Buddhist monks. But, Fuller describes the attackers as “sword-wielding Buddhist mobs” that stormed through Muslim neighborhoods. The other side of the conflict, the Muslims, have the exact opposite stereotype. They are often portrayed as violent and vicious terrorist that are not afraid to kill their enemies without any mercy. According to this article, that is the exact opposite of the stereotype. This particular village of Muslims did not commit any anti-Buddhist crimes and did not deserve to have a part of their community killed by “sword-wielding Buddhist mobs” (1). I found that Fuller did a good job of reporting. Most of his sources were appropriate and he got responses from a variety of people. They included the President of Myanmar, an army officer, and a spokesman for the Rakhine government. Along with the New York Times article, the USA Today article gives another viewpoint about the Buddhist and Muslim conflict in Myanmar.

The USA Today’s article gives the most neutral viewpoint of all of the articles. The content of the article (“Buddhist mob kills 94-year old women) consisted of talking about the mob killing of women, the background of it, and the resulting consequences of it. The author of the article was not given, but it can be assumed that it was written by an expert of the area or someone relatively close to the situation. The main argument of the article was discussing the general consequences and background of the attack. My first impression of the article was that it was meant be a piece that stated the facts and gave a little analysis of both sides of the Muslim and Buddhist conflict. This was especially true in the title of the article because it did not show any significant bias towards either side of the conflict. The first paragraph further cemented my first impression because it starts to give background on the mob attack. The language of this article was almost all academic language. This helps cement that this article is supposed to show both sides of the conflict and in this attack because having no passion driven words helps create the feeling of neutrality. Honestly, this article felt it could have been part of a police report on the attack because of its lack of passionate words. The main viewpoint being driven is neutrality because the article does a good job of not creating obvious bias and letting the reader figure out his/her own individual opinion about the attack and the overarching conflict between the Muslims and Buddhists. With the concern over “good guys” and “bad guys,” the Muslims are shown as the good guys because they were attacked for no apparent reason other than the current conflict between them. And the bad guys (the Buddhists) attacked and stabbed a very elderly woman to death and burned between seventy and eighty houses (AP 1). Along with this source and the New York Times source, The Nation article provides a different viewpoint of the Myanmar conflict.

The Nation article about the conflict in Myanmar is very different from the previous articles. It does not really talk about religion that much. The article talks more about the economic and social trappings of Myanmar. The author, Than Htut Aung, seems to be a native of Myanmar; therefore, I feel the audience would be able to trust his position and opinions about the country’s religious conflict and how it is influencing everything else in the country. Aung states “The Rakhine conflict and Meikhtila riots shamed Buddhism and Myanmar citizens” (1). Although he does not mention the Muslims and Buddhists explicitly, it can be reasoned and assumed that the reader will realize the religious conflict has had a very major impact on the country and the impact was hugely negative. Because of the conflict, time and resources that would have been used for more productive societal programs were used to help those affected by the religious conflict.  My first impression of this article was that it would heavily bias. This was confirmed by the title, “Myanmar desperately needs talks between old guard and new democrats.” This title gives the impression of the author is going to rant his head it is true. The first paragraph established this even more with it talking about how a half century of military rule basically ruined Myanmar (Aung 1). My impressions are also confirmed with the type of language that the author used. He used a lot of passionate and personal language, while the other articles used a lot of academic language. By using passionate language, the article developed a voice and a proportional bias to it. This helped create the sense that the reader would be reading a political, social, and economic rant about Myanmar and how much the religious conflict is to blame. The main viewpoint being expressed in this article is one of disappointment and criticism. Aung describes how the religious conflict between the Muslims and Buddhists contributed to the decrease in the political, economic, and social state of Myanmar. Along with The New York Times and USA Today, The Nation’s article helps give various perspectives on the conflict between Muslims and Buddhism.

Through the articles of The New York Times, USA Today, and The Nation, the Myanmar conflict between Muslims and Buddhists has been portrayed in various perspectives. Other news sources have varying opinions on the conflict, but they have to realize that the conflict in Myanmar is an example of history repeating itself. Religious conflicts have occurred in the past and will continue to haunt the future until the world becomes accepting of all religions. And I fear that day will never come.












Works Cited

Aung, Than H. “Myanmar Desperately Needs Talks between Old Guard and New Democrats.” The Nation. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

“Buddhist Mob Kills 94-year-old Woman.” USA Today. Gannett, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

Fuller, Thomas. “In Myanmar, Revival of Attacks on Muslims.” The New York TImes. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

Posted in: Buddhism, Islam