Buddhist fundamentalism seems to be fast spreading its tentacles in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand, as newspapers report violent attacks on religious minorities and shrill demands to ban “blasphemy” against Buddhism.
Sri Lanka’s Muslim legislators this month urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to protect their minority community from “Buddhist extremist elements,” with hundreds of attacks on Muslims and Christians reported over the last two years.
Last month, a British woman was deported from Sri Lanka for sporting a Buddha tattoo. Meanwhile, the country’s Religious Affairs Ministry has proposed a new law banning religious defamation. The draft bill provides for a Buddhist Publications Regulatory Board to check for any violation of Buddhism, its philosophy or traditions.
In Myanmar, “concerns persist regarding ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas, particularly in Rakhine State,” U.S. President Barack Obama recentlysaid while extending some economic sanctions against that nation for another year.
In Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims, whose ancestors were migrants from Bangladesh, has resulted in the killing of hundreds allegedly by ethnic Arakanese Buddhists. More than 180,000 Rohingyas remain internally displaced while many others have fled the country.
In addition, a coalition of Buddhist monks and laypersons in Myanmar has proposed a lawagainst inter-faith marriage, known as the Emergency Provisions on Marriage Act for Burmese Buddhist Women, which would strip Buddhist women of the right to freely choose whom they marry.
In Thailand, where tensions between Malay Muslims and Buddhist residents have existed in the south since 2004, a Buddhist group called theKnowing Buddha Foundation has identified another “threat” to Buddhism. This group is running campaigns to teach the world certain do’s and don’ts on the treatment of the Buddha and his images. “For example, in a movie, a dog’s name is ‘Buddha.’ There is an ice cream shop named ‘Buddhi Belly’ and a bar called ‘Buddha Bar,’” it complains on its website, demanding a law to protect Buddhism and declaration of Buddhism as the country’s state religion.
‘Theravada Buddhist World’