Author: Roman Husarski | Pages: 66–83
Perception of Burmese Buddhism by the Western world since 1988 has been largely associated with pacifism and democracy through the leader of the opposition and the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. However, the current Rohingya refugee crisis is changing that positive perception. The aim of the following presentation is to analyze the contemporary conflict between Muslims and Buddhist nationalists in Burma. To get a deeper understanding of the problem, it is essential to connect it with Burma’s pre-colonial and colonial past as well as the country’s ethnic diversity. Radicalization of the attitudes of Theravada Buddhists and the rise of xenophobic sentiments in Burma are connected with Burmese national identity, which is largely based on ethnicity and tends to exclude the rest, including Muslims. However, due to historical, cultural and cosmological differences, Islam especially is a target. The aim of the paper is to explain why Myanmar’s Islamophobia has its roots in Buddhist nationalism and why opposition to Islam is a part of it.