Religious intolerance

The situation in Burma is getting much better, but that could be derailed:

Myanmar society has been in a state of flux since a nominally democratic government came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of harsh military rule. A liberalized economy has accompanied the political changes. And the advent of democracy has enabled hate speech to flourish.

“There are so few sanctions now on those who provide contrarian or critical or indeed radical ideas about how society should be structured,” said Nicholas Farrelly, a research fellow at Australian National University. “There is this awakening of different sentiments; some of those are very progressive and democratic, in other cases they are profoundly reactionary and or authoritarian in spirit.”

Into the breach has stepped a phalanx of well-organized Buddhist monks. Aside from their religious standing, their credibility derives from historically playing a vanguard role in politics — once upon a time against British colonial rule, in more recent decades against military dictatorship.

Describing themselves as nationalists, their sermons no longer target the powerful, but instead play on deep-seated fears of the darker-skinned outsiders, Muslims of South Asian heritage who allegedly pose a threat to racial purity and national security.

Preaching all over the country, even in areas with no discernible Muslim populations, monks belonging to the radical Buddhist movement called 969 urge Buddhists to boycott Muslim businesses and not to marry, sell property to or hire Muslims. They accuse Muslims of rape, terrorism and other depredations. The group’s graffiti, T-shirts and stickers are seen everywhere — including Lashio.

So, some Buddhist clergy have used their credibility gained from their historical record of opposing oppression to oppress Muslims. Wonderful.

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