Secular Americans may roundly criticize the irrationally violent tendencies of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but they tend to have something of a sweet spot for Buddhism. They often regard Buddhism as a relatively rational religion, with a focus on cultivating the clear operation of the mind, and an ethic of nonviolence.
Certainly, Buddhism has some texts that espouse an ethic of clear-minded nonviolence, but then, so do most religions. In practice, however, Buddhism can be as consumed with the irrational violence of fundamentalism as any other religion.
That appears to be the case in Myanmar. Human Rights Watch reports this morning that, in Myanmar, “…Buddhist monks organized and encouraged ethnic Arakanese backed by state security forces to conduct coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods and villages in October 2012 to terrorize and forcibly relocate the population. The tens of thousands of displaced have been denied access to humanitarian aid and been unable to return home.”
Other excerpts from the report:
“The deadly violence that erupted between ethnic Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in early June 2012 in Burma’s Arakan State began as sectarian clashes in four townships. When violence resumed in October, it engulfed nine more townships and became a coordinated campaign to forcibly relocate or remove the state’s Muslims.”
“The October attacks were against Rohingya and Kaman Muslim communities and were organized, incited, and committed by local Arakanese political party operatives, the Buddhist monkhood, and ordinary Arakanese, at times directly supported by state security forces. Rohingya men, women, and children were killed, some were buried in mass graves, and their villages and neighborhoods were razed.”
“Arakanese residents and Buddhist monks have protested against international aid for Rohingya, physically blocked aid deliveries, and threatened aid workers.”
“Violence against Muslims in Burma has spread beyond Arakan State. Between March 20 and 22, mobs of Buddhists, led in some instances by Buddhist monks, attacked Muslims in Meiktila, Mandalay Region, following weeks of incitement through anti-Muslim sermons by members of the Buddhist monkhood.”
Whenever you think of the Dalai Lama, also think of this.