Category: Religion

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 »

Islam and Conflict

The number of civil wars worldwide has fallen in recent years, but meanwhile the number of civil wars in Muslim countries is increasing. From early on in the 21st century, we have also seen a marked growth in the number of active groups of Islamist insurgents. The media in Western countries focus strongly on terrorism… Read more »

A Muted Voice? Religious Actors and Civil Society in Post-2001 Afghanistan

In general, religious actors are not perceived as possible contributors to civil society. In Afghanistan, where religion permeates society and politics, and where religious leaders and networks bear considerable influence, this is particularly problematic. There is a need for a thorough rethink of what civil society is, and the role of religion within it. While… Read more »

The Fire in the House of Islam

Generally speaking, the global map of conflict is increasingly shaped by armed conflicts involving Muslims on one side or the other, or on both. Are Muslim countries particularly belligerent? Is the religion to blame? Despite the numerous items of bad news delivered by the mass media on a daily basis, a global overview of armed… Read more »