Category: Religion

Archetypal Enemies Exist in All Religions

Some religious leaders use language which others use to justify terror. These leaders should instead take responsibility for teaching people how to critically interpret religious texts. “The Day of Judgement will not come about until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will shout: ‘O Muslims,… Read more »

Are We Nearing an End to Buddhist Extremism in Myanmar?

Ma Ba Tha and similar groups of extremist monks in Myanmar could face resistance after a government official finally rebuked their brand of nationalism. It took just one dismissive comment from the chief minister of Yangon to seemingly deflate Ma Ba Tha. The Buddhist nationalist organisation has become known for its provocative segregation policies and… Read more »

Interfaith Dialogue can Help Build Peace

Interfaith dialogue is a necessary aid in conflicts involving religion. Some years ago, many Western social scientists were claiming that religion was a dying phenomenon. Such assertions were part of an arrogant assumption that the entire world would soon come to resemble the north-western corner of Europe. In Eastern Europe, which lay under the yoke… Read more »

Suicide Bombing ≠ Religious Fervor

  Is it just religious fanatics who blow themselves up as suicide bombers? Bernt Hagtvet, Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo, has been active in the Norwegian media lately, stating that only religion (he focuses mostly on Islam) brings the fervor to commit suicide attacks as part of a political struggle –… Read more »

Are Myanmar’s Monks Hindering Democratization?

The upcoming general elections in Myanmar raise the question of religion’s role in democratisation processes. Previously Buddhism has been an important force in favour of democracy, but in the 2015 election campaign strong Buddhist forces are supporting the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). This is their democratic right, but it may hinder further… Read more »

The Rise of Political Buddhism in Myanmar

Narrow Burman-Buddhist nationalism remains the country’s biggest barrier to sustainable political reform. The Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by the Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, is gaining ground in Myanmar. It has also been receiving increased international attention—last month for its proposal to ban Muslim headscarves in public schools. The organization… Read more »

Endangered Co-Existence: Buddhist-Muslim Friction in Asia

Disputes about everything from holy sites to ritual animal slaughter and compulsory family planning are causing dangerous tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Friction between Buddhists and Muslims in Southeast Asia is putting pressure on a centuries-long tradition of religious co-existence, tolerance and shared cultural values. Hate speech,… Read more »

ASEAN’s Rohingya Challenge: Can ASEAN fail to act and yet be a Community?

A human tragedy has been unfolding in the Bay of Bengal. Thousands of poor Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees and job seekers have been the victims of xenophobia, cynical smugglers and incapable governance. What has ASEAN done? So far very little. Yet this crisis is exactly the kind of non-traditional trans-national security challenge that ASEAN must… Read more »

The Buddhist Face of Peace: Buddhist Peace Initiatives in Times of Religious Intolerance

Buddhist radicalism is on the rise in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Buddhist anti-Muslim rhetoric, violence against Muslim minorities and hate speech against UN officials are now global media sensations. Less known is the growing number of religious peace initiatives, by both Muslims and Buddhists, to address the situation. Recently, practitioners and scholars met… Read more »