Lest Anyone Forget …

Myanmar is a hotbed of sectarian violence right now, with – of all religious groups – Buddhists responsible for the vast majority of the death and destruction that’s taken place over the last year and a half.  I wrote about some of this back in July , after the radicalization got so bad that calls to violence stopped requiring the official declaration of anyone in a position of power; it just happened on its own if enough Buddhists were around and one of them saw something that set them off.  Combine this with the completely inadequate response on the part of the secular government, and you have a recipe for genocide on your hands.

The first of the two most recent incidents took place on Monday in the town of Thanwe, in the northwest part of Myanmar.  What started over a trivial disagreement eventually attracted a torch wielding mob of about 200 angry Buddhists.  Eventually, the police arrived to break things up before anyone was killed.  Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as well on Wednesday, where five Muslims, including a 94-year old woman, were killed in the violence, and dozens of homes were burned to the ground.

In Thabyuchaing, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Thandwe, more than 700 rioters, some swinging swords, took to the streets, police officer Kyaw Naing said. A 94-year-old Muslim woman died from stab wounds in the clashes that followed, the officer said, adding that between 70 and 80 houses were set on fire. Another officer, however, said only 19 homes were burned.

The state of Rakhine is the hardest hit region in the country for anti-Muslim violence at the hands Buddhist radicals.

In April, the government said 192 people were killed in June and October 2012 clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, most of whom Myanmar regards as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite roots going back generations.

The United Nations has described the Rohingya as “virtually friendless”.

One of the countless Muslim homes burned since June 2012

Clashes between Rohingya and Rakhines in June 2012 led to unrest elsewhere in the country, where other groups of Muslims have been targeted, including Kamans, who are of different ethnicity from Rohingyas.

The one part that stuck out in the first article was the part where one Muslim politician found himself personally involved in one of these outbreaks.  It apparently started when he was accused of “insulting Buddhism” after he found one of their motorcycles in front of his house and asked them to move it.  I don’t think I’m generalizing when I say that pulling the “OMG you’re insulting my religion” card sounds like a typical Middle Eastern / Southwest Asian Muslim thing to pull on someone.  I mean, it works … nothing whips people with blind faith into a frenzy more effectively than the thought of someone insulting their God or their faith as a whole.

Still, this serves as a useful reminder that the religion itself isn’t quite as important as the harm that can be done with it.

This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Profiles in Fundamentalism, Religion in the News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Lest Anyone Forget …

  1. I remember reading about this and your post, but I didn’t know it will still a problem. That’s so disappointing to say the least, especially since Buddhists have been known for their peacefulness. Just goes to show one is not any better or more peaceful or more tolerant than another. It seems to prove the old adage that people are all the same no matter where you go. I even wonder if the Buddhists could be substituted with atheists. I would hope not….We like to think that we are part of some sort of evolution to a better, higher consciousness, but maybe we are just coming full circle back to the beginning, when there was no religion or concept of god.

    • We may have that association with Buddhism here in America and in this generation thanks to Zen and the humanitarian work of people like the Dalai Lama, but there’s certainly been enough violence and bloodshed over the centuries in its name to put them well within the ranks of any other religion.

      Speaking in general terms, people will always have the capacity for violence and oppression. That said, it’s a lot easier to get support when you have a good rallying cry, and religion commonly fits the bill. As we’ve seen this past century, ultra-nationalism or “state worship” does a pretty damned good job too, especially if you’ve been beaten down by all of your neighbors and there’s few places to go but up.

      I honestly don’t think atheism will run into these problems on its own. If, on the other hand, there’s a political or philosophical movement that either directly or indirectly adopts atheism as one of its tenets, then there’s just as much of a possibility it can turn violent like any other group … especially if it adopts very strict dogma and makes a clear distinction between ally and enemy. Again, look at the theists’ favorite talking points about Stalin and Mao. There, atheism was the result of both rulers consolidating their power and removing anything that could sway the will of the people. Violence was carried out against anyone who would challenge their authority, right to rule, or simply question them.

      I also don’t think atheism would do it on its own because we’re too damned varied in pretty much every other way. If we make the assumption that most atheists are going to be secular humanists, rationalists, and generally more demanding of evidence and logical arguments to drive us to action, then I would hope that it would be much more difficult to bring us to the point where we feel that the only way to deal with a problem was through violence.

  2. I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll have ideological warfare here where Americans are growing pretty apathetic, save for a small, very vocal percentage who feel compelled to manipulate and control the rest of us through legislation, the Board of Ed, picketing, etc. They’ll eventually die off and become extinct. Overall, the world has become a safer, less hostile place, even though we hear about the violence, we are less likely to be killed from it than we were a thousand years ago.

    My bigger concern, here and across the world, is that we will probably fight over resources in the future. There are countries that have little or no resources for energy, that depend on the goodwill of their neighbors (or nuclear–like Japan). There are countries that are running or have run out of water. You should see Texas. Our lakes are drying up. States are already fighting over rights to water.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s