Issues of Buddhist Nationalism

It is recognized within the state of Myanmar that many people, even the elite, support the same goal of expelling Muslim minorities out of the country. Certain government authorities and national monks as well support this mutual goal. Not only do government officials remain quiet on several elements of nationalist narratives and on conflict, but former President of Myanmar Thein Sein too has stated that officially, the Rohingya minority were never residents of the state. He wished to hand over the entire ethnic group to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in order to settle them in a different country, a suggestion in which was heavily supported by Buddhist Monks in Mandalay (Akins 2013). Hundreds of Buddhist monks displayed their support by rallying down the streets in November 2012 with banners and clothing saying Save your motherland Myanmar by supporting the president (Aljazeera web). As both the government and Buddhist organizations appear to be led by nationalistic incentives, the collaboration amongst the monkhood and state administrators is hence voiced willingly. The fact that Myanmar’s political leaders are fundamentally created by religious components, goes to show how Buddhist cosmology is influencing the state’s principles and customs, allowing the prejudice rise of Buddhism to prevail. The country has also applied the Sangha’s, a Buddhistic monastic order, authority to grow its personal sincerity. The construction of the actions, aims, and statements of Myanmar’s primary religion, Buddhism, has employed a major role in the state’s culture, history, and political development, hence creating the Buddhist nationalist movement and the respect of its prejudice teachings. Likewise, the combination of religion and nationalism can explain the religion’s prejudice rise and how it is used to defend the nationalistic discrimination amongst the country’s Muslim minorities, such as the Rohingya.    

As Mark Jurgensmeyer claims, the combination of religion and nationalism may first off offer religious acceptability into the country, while also provide nationalist beliefs a superior strength (Jurgensmeyer, 2010). In doing this, the authorities of Myanmar have acquired several qualities of the Buddhist philosophy without even knowing and allowing the religion to succeed, but Buddhist leaders have too delivered nationalistic explanations for their religious ambitions. Through those views, nationalism and religion can be viewed as what keeps societies as a group through certain observations of reality and the world, and a collective custom which are altogether explained by cultural conditions. Consequently, similar collective customs of Buddhist philosophy make up the Myanmar majorities opinions and affect their outlook towards the Rohingya minority. This allows the national discrimination to occur and the use of the religion to defend this prejudice ideology. Jurgensmeyer also states that the more recognizable situations of religious struggle in the modern era have happened in places where it is hard to describe or agree to a certain sense of a nation-state. A relatable instance of this argument is described in Myanmar, because for many years it has been uncertain on the type of system the country should adopt, and what sectors of people should be in charge of it. Buddhism has delivered the foundation for a fresh national agreement and a new type of control (Jurgensmeyer 2010, 268).

In addition, Catarina Kinnvall claims that people, and also the groups they belong, manage to develop more ontologically uncertain and existentially insecure because of the broad globalization of politics and economics. For an individual to get encouragement and reassertion of their own self, factions approach groups that strengthen their sense of safety and well-being. This is usually established in the blend of nationalism and religion. This allows groups and individuals to receive encouragement and safety compared to other characteristics such as sex, race, or language during a time where rising demands on the person are being done (Kinnvall 2004, 84). An individual’s identity creation is mainly accurate during periods of prompt change, such as the situation in Myanmar. This incident describes why rulers such as political, or religious, strategically incorporate causes to bond people around a mutual belief. As formerly stated, nationalism allows strong establishments to generate images of safety, unity, and control; however, religion does too. To be able to gather people around both nationalism and religion, individuals must be connected through a similar history and multiple memories or symbols, therefore outlining the ancestry of the identity group back to a shared and exact time which will act as a guide for later behaviors (Kinnvall 2004, 125).

A common national identity within Myanmar as well can explain the prejudice rise of Buddhism within the state. As talked about by Tí?rkmen and Gorski, it is recognized that national identities are typically constructed along religious divisions. This is demonstrated within the conflict between the Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. Regardless of the fact that the 2008 Myanmar constitution states that it allows religious autonomy for all beliefs, Buddhism is a special case. While religious nationalism is only possible when there is a collective religious basis to create the belief around, Buddhism acts as a foundation for a nationalist government and for the vicious problems taking place in Myanmar due to the divisions between the two faiths, which lead to the foreseeable violence. This variance between religion and ethnicity has assisted in the reinforcement of Self and Other within a Burmese and Buddhist identity, while simultaneously ignoring and diminishing the Muslim minority identity in which acts as an explanation for the violent conflict and behaviors that are happening in Myanmar today.

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