Why this site?

Here at What if they were Muslim we question what would happen if a Jewish, Christian, Hindu, ______(insert religion of choice) were to commit a crime in the name of their faith. Would it be treated the same way if a Muslim committed the exact same crime? Would very little emphasis be put on the perpetrators religion? Would it be stressed that the act is an aberration, a misrepresentation of the religion? Would the religion be mentioned at all?

Another Tid-Bit...

WITWM is not a site that opines on the “what if” scenario of your favorite Hollywood star being a Muslim. It has nothing to do with Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp, etc. It has everything to do with the double standards in both media and pop culture that perpetuate the myth that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions or the root cause of misdeeds by Muslims.

Archive: Buddhism

Burma: Buddhists/Police Rape, Attempt to Force Convert Rohingya Muslim teen

The girl’s rape case is not the first for Burmese as a report last year claimed that many Rohingya women have been raped by the Burmese military.

Rohingya Muslim Girl Gang-Raped By Police

RAKHINE – Shocking reports have surfaced about a 16-year-old Rohingya Muslim girl who was gang-raped after being arrested by police after a deadly crackdown on a remote village in Rakhine state which left dozens dead.

“I remember it clearly. Just before dawn the first Rakhine man came in. He raped me,” the 16-year-old Rohingya Muslim girl told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, February 5.

“Then the others came in, one by one. It was four Rakhine men, and three police officers.”

The girl’s misery started when she fled her home at Rakhine’s Du Chee Yar Tan village after it was set ablaze by Buddhist mobs.

Running for her life, she was arrested by police forces to start a new episode of humiliation and attacks.

After her illegal arrest the girl was not sent to the police station, they took her to a grocery shop.

“The police took me to a market place between Du Chee Yar Tan and the Rakhine Khayae Myuing village,” she said.

“They kept me in a grocery shop. Everything was locked,” she added.

In the grocery shop the girl was tortured by the police officers who failed to force her to convert to Buddhism.

“I said no, I refused to convert,” the girl said.

“They then beat me. I was slapped. Beaten with sticks,” she explained.

The girl’s rape followed the attack which was reported last month by UN humanitarian chiefs and human rights organizations .

The attack resulted in the massacre of at least 48 Rohingya Muslims, mostly women and children, in Burma’s western Rakhine State.

Official media and the Ministry of Information have strongly refuted the reports.

Yet, a Thailand-based NGO, the Arakan Project, said it had received multiple reports that dozens of Rohingya Muslims were killed by security forces and Arakanese Buddhists.

The incident, just the latest in a string of attacks that left at least 240 people dead and more than 140,000 homeless or displaced in prison-like camps, caused terror in the Muslim Yangon community.

Fear

After the incident, the 16-year-old girl couldn’t visit doctor as her family feared consequences.

The helpless family had given the girl a medicine to prevent pregnancy, which they got from a local makeshift pharmacy.

Seeking justice the complaining girl said: “I still remember their faces. I can point them out if I see them again.”

The girl’s rape case is not the first for Burmese as a report last year claimed that many Rohingya women have been raped by the Burmese military.

Described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.

They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.

The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term “Rohingya”, referring to them as “Bengalis”.

Rights groups have accused the Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas following the sectarian violence last year.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been forced to flee their homes in western Burma since June after attacks from Buddhist mobs on their areas.

The violence has displaced nearly 29,000 people, more than 97 percent of whom are Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.

Many now live in camps, adding to 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June 2012, after a previous explosion of sectarian violence.

The “Burmese Bin Laden”

The “Burmese Bin Laden”

Whenever a Muslim is involved in a crime against humanity, regardless if she or he is religious or not, the mainstream media and many of the people who rely on it for an objective source of news, straight away demonize all Muslims as being collectively guilty of the crime. Calls for a public apology on behalf of the entire Muslim community are issued, along with declarations that all Muslims should be killed, deported, surveyed, or otherwise contained until they “prove” their loyalty – which can never be done, because the bar is intentionally set higher and higher whenever a Muslim does manage to fulfill all of their ridiculous criteria. But what about “huggable” Buddhism? The true “Religion of Peace”?

While Islam is seen through blood colored glasses in the West, Buddhism receives the rose colored platinum treatment. When barely covered news reports of Buddhist on Muslim violence in Myanmar began to surface, the few people who paid attention were absolutely shocked. Buddhists killing Muslims? “What did the Muslims do to them first?”, I am sure many people asked silently. This is how propaganda and stereotypes work. The mere thought of a Buddhist violently attacking a person of another faith simply makes no sense. Whereas the thought of a Muslim violently attacking a person of another faith makes perfect sense. Danios wrote an article a few months ago about the history of “Buddhist violence.” The intention of the article was not to claim that Buddhism is “inherently violent”, but simply to point out that every religion, even “huggable” Buddhism, can be used to justify religiously inspired violence.

Cue Wirathu, the “Burmese Bin Laden.”

“Burmese Bin Laden” Creating Division in Myanmar

Every religion has extremists. Buddhism isn’t an exception, as a 45-year-old Burmese Monk dubbed as the “Buddhist Bin Laden” is flaming social tensions between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar by advocating for violence against Rohingyas. In doing so, Wirathu is invoking the call for a Burmese Buddhist national identity while gaining popularity in the country to help his own rise as a significant influence in Myanmar’s politics.

Wirathu is a 45-year-old Buddhist monk who has used social media channels to convey his hate-filled messages. The West’s conventional image of Buddhist followers is one of a religion of peace, yet many are shocked that in a region that has often been called one of the most peaceful in the world, there is an emergence of such hate induced actions caused by his speech.

Wirathu was born near Mandalay, and in 2001, created a national campaign to boycott Muslim businesses in 2001. He was soon jailed 25 years for his actions. He was released in 2010 through a general amnesty.

Wirathu has been on the stump since his release, and has been associated with violence in Rakhine and in Mandalay. In Rakhine, more than 200 people were killed and 100,000 in 2012. His message of hate and violence against Muslims also led to recent violence in Meiktila, where a dispute at a gold shop led to 40 deaths, and the destruction of a Muslim community in the city.

Muslims comprise of 5% Myanmar’s 60 million people. Wirathu’s rants and tirades against Muslims in Myanmar have also culminated in the nationalist “969” campaign using the number 969 to demarcate homes so that they can identify themselves as clearly Buddhists and create remnants of a state divided not by sectionalism, but rather through religion. This has led to hate-filled speeches where he has described Muslims as both “cruel and savage” and has attacked many Muslim practices from the killing of cattle to convincing many Buddhists in Myanmar that the population boom among Muslim communities in these countries will lead to a takeover of the country.

Read the rest here: http://www.policymic.com/articles/37001/burmese-bin-laden-creating-division-in-myanmar

Sri Lanka: 50 Muslim Shop Owners Receive Death Threats

Sri Lanka halal row.jpg1

(h/t: msmrishan)

Death Threats To Muslims – Sri Lanka

At least 50 Muslim shop owners in Narammala in the Kurunegala District, have received death threats by mail. They have been warned to close their shops by March 31 or face death, Kurunegala district organizer of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Abdul Sathar said.

Sathar told The Sunday Leader that a police complaint had been lodged over the death threats received by the shop owners.

He also said that the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishard Bathiudeen had also been briefed about the incident.

When The Sunday Leader contacted the Minister he confirmed that he was aware of the threats and said that he had raised the issue with the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

Bathiudeen said he had also told the IGP to investigate several other incidents targeting Muslims which had been reported from the Kurunegala district.
He warned that if the issue is not addressed soon then a situation similar to that of 1983 may befall the country.

The Minister said that he had also discussed the issue with President Mahinda Rajapaksa soon after the Cabinet meeting last week. The President had appointed a committee to look into some of the reported incidents.
Bathiudeen said he is also willing to meet any organization or political party, be it the JHU or the Bodu Bala Sena to discuss concerns over the Halal certification.

Sathar said that he was not sure from where the death threats had come to the Muslim shop owners in Narammala.

He said the Halal certification issue was meanwhile being made to spread fear in the country among Muslims.

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Extremists Threaten BBC and Muslim Journalists

No-Halal-Sign-300

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist extremists threaten BBC and Muslim journalists

(Colombo Page)

Feb 18, Colombo: BBC Sri Lanka Correspondent Charles Haviland said that he and his crew were threatened while they were filming a rally of Sinhala Buddhist extremist organization Bodu Bala Sena yesterday at Maharagama.

The hardline Sinhalese Buddhist group called Bodu Bala Sena held a protest rally Sunday at Maharagama to call for the abolition of the Halal certification of foods and asked the business owners to remove Halal certified food from their stores by March 31.

“As we finished filming at the rally, our three-member BBC team and driver were seriously threatened with violence by some members of a mob of more than 20 young men who told us not to drive off,” Haviland said in a statement.

“Some police arrived and looked on as my Sri Lankan colleagues were verbally abused in filthy language, described as “traitors” and accused of having “foreign parents” and working for a “foreign conspirator” who was “against Sri Lanka”,” Haviland said.

The protesters have threatened the newsman and his crew and warned them not to return to the location.

A reporter from the Navamini Muslim newspaper was also harassed by the crowd and handed over to the Maharagama police. Police detained the reporter until 8:30 p.m. before releasing him.

The Sri Lankan government and the Muslim clerics’ organizations have repeatedly said that Halal certification is voluntary for Sri Lankan businesses and it is necessary when Sri Lanka exports food items to European, Middle Eastern and South East Asian countries.

The President has also urged the extremist Buddhist group not to arouse communal disharmony inciting violence.

Burmese refugees sold on by Thai officials

An investigation by the BBC has revealed that Thai officials have been selling boat people from Burma to human traffickers.

Thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled to sea in recent months after deadly communal violence in Rakhine State, with many heading east across the Andaman Sea to Thailand.

The boat that arrived on 2 January
This boat, carrying 73 people, arrived in Thailand’s Phuket on 1 January

Burmese refugees sold on by Thai officials

By Jonah Fisher (BBC News.co.uk)

The BBC found that boats were being intercepted by the Thai navy and police, with deals then made to sell the people on to traffickers who transport them south towards Malaysia.

The Thai government say they are taking the allegations seriously and have promised to investigate.

‘Canned fish’

In November Ahmed said goodbye to his wife and eight children and left western Burma.

His fishing boat had been destroyed in clashes between Muslim Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists, and he needed to earn a living.

With 60 others he travelled for 13 days on a flimsy wooden boat across the Andaman Sea to the coast of Thailand.

When they were caught by the Thai navy not far from shore Ahmed thought his ordeal was over. In fact it had just begun.

That night the Rohingya were taken from the border town of Ranong in a police van. After two hours they were bundled out and put in the back of six smaller vehicles and hidden under nets.

“We were forced to lay down next to each other just like canned fish,” he said.

Ahmed did not know it at the time but a trade had taken place. The 61 Rohingya were now heading south towards Malaysia in the custody of people-smugglers.

When they got out of the vehicles they were prisoners in Su Ngai Kolok, a town on the Thai Malaysia border.

“They dug a hole for us to use as a toilet. We ate, slept and excreted in the same place,” he said. “The smell was horrible. I was poked with an iron and beaten with a chain.”

Ahmed's back, scarred from being beaten Ahmed’s back is scarred from the beatings he received

The traffickers had paid money for the Rohingya and were determined to get their money back. Ahmed and the other Rohingya were periodically given a phone to call friends and family to beg for help.

“The broker said that they bought us from police,” he said. “If we don’t give them money they won’t let us go. They said: ‘We don’t care if you die here’.”

The price for Ahmed’s life was set at 40,000 Thai Baht, about $1,300 (£820) – a substantial amount for an ex-fisherman. Ahmed called his wife and instructed her to sell a cow. But that only raised half the amount.

After a month as a captive, as he began to despair a fellow Rohingya in Thailand came to his rescue and loaned him the rest.

Ahmed was set free and put on a bus back north to Phuket. Despite all that happened to him, he is surprisingly calm about his treatment by Thai officials.

“I’m not angry at the navy. I don’t hold any anger or grudge with me anymore. I’m so grateful that I’m alive,” he said.

‘Natural solution’

With weather conditions favourable Rohingya boats are now arriving on the Thai coast almost everyday. And Ahmed is not the only one being sold by Thai officials.

Newly-arrived Rohingya boy in Phuket Whole families are trying to escape the communal violence in western Burma

We took a close look at the fate of one particular boat which arrived on New Year’s Day off the holiday island of Phuket.

On 2 January the 73 men, women and children were brought onshore, put in trucks and it was announced that they were being driven to the Thai/Burma border crossing at Ranong and deported.

But they did not get that far. A deal had been struck to sell the Rohingya to people smugglers.

When the trucks reached the town of Kuraburi, the Rohingya were transferred back into a boat and pushed back out to sea.

We spoke to one of the brokers involved in the deal. They said that 1.5 million baht (about $50,000, £31,500) had been transferred from Malaysia and paid to officials in Thailand. That amount was confirmed to us by other members of the Rohingya community in Thailand.

The Thai authorities told us they believe there are just a few corrupt officials. But in the border town of Ranong a Thai official closely linked with the Rohingya issue told us that working with the brokers was now regarded as the “natural” solution.

With the Rohingya denied Burmese citizenship, deportation is fraught with difficulties.

A Thai police van to take newly-arrived Rohingya away Thailand considers the Rohingya to be economic migrants

Thailand in turn does not want to encourage people that it considers to be almost almost exclusively economic migrants.

“The Rohingya want to go Malaysia and Malaysia accepts these people because they are Muslims too,” the official said. “No matter what they will try and go there, the question is how they get there.”

Malaysia has allowed the United Nations Refugee Agency to assess Rohingya claims for asylum. Thailand does not, reserving the right to determine for itself who it considers to be a refugee.

‘Systematic solution’

We took our information to the Thai foreign ministry. Permanent Secretary Sihasak Puangketkaew told us an investigation was underway.

“We cannot at this moment conclude who these perpetrators are but the Thai government is determined to get to the bottom of the problem,” he said.

“At the same time the Thai government is doing its best to take care of these people on the basis of humanitarian principles.

“At the same time we feel very strongly that all of us will have to work together through international co-operation to see how we can put on place a durable and systematic solution.”

There have been influxes of Rohingya before and in 2009 the Thai government was heavily criticised for its policy of towing boats back out to sea.

Those boats were almost exclusively male and the Thai government said they were economic migrants. This time it is different.

Ethnic clashes in western Burma have forced more than 100,000 Rohingya into camps and for the first time the boats crossing the Andaman Sea are a mix of men, women and children.

Ancient Buddhas, Modern Peril

Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images

An Afghan archaeologist examined Buddha statues inside an ancient monastery at Mes Aynak, in eastern Logar Province, in 2010.

Ancient Buddhas, Modern Peril

By ANDREW LAWLER (nytimes.com)
 
WHEN the Taliban blasted the famous Bamiyan Buddhas with artillery and dynamite in March 2001, leaders of many faiths and countries denounced the destruction as an act of cultural terrorism. But today, with the encouragement of the American government, Chinese engineers are preparing a similar act of desecration in Afghanistan: the demolition of a vast complex of richly decorated ancient Buddhist monasteries.

The offense of this Afghan monument is not idolatry. Its sin is to sit atop one of the world’s largest copper deposits.

The copper at the Mes Aynak mine, just an hour’s drive south of Kabul, is to be extracted under a roughly $3 billion deal signed in 2007 between Afghanistan and China’s Metallurgical Group Corporation. The Afghan finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal, recently said the project could pump $300 million a year into government coffers by 2016. But the project has been plagued by rumors of corruption; there was widespread talk of a $30 million kickback involving the former minister of mines, who resigned.

In 2009, archaeologists were given a three-year deadline to salvage what they could at Mes Aynak, but raising money, securing equipment and finding experienced excavators took up more than half of that time. So the focus now is solely on rescuing objects. An international team of archaeologists is scrambling to save what it can before the end of this month, when it must vacate the central mining zone, at the heart of the Buddhist complex.

The task is herculean: more than 1,000 statues have been identified, along with innumerable wall paintings, fragile texts and rare wooden ornamentation. And the excavators can only guess at what may lie in older layers. There is no time to dig deeper.

From about the third century until the ninth century, Afghanistan served as a bridge between India and China and played a key role in shaping the Buddhism that swept across Central Asia. At Mes Aynak, monks and artisans built an astonishing array of temples, courtyards and stupas, as well as whole towns of workshops and homes for miners. (Even then, Mes Aynak was exploited for its copper.)

Afghanistan was home to an extraordinary mix of Nestorian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and, eventually, Muslims. New scholarship based on finds at ancient sites like Mes Aynak suggests that Islam arrived here not with sudden fire and sword, but as a slowly rising tide. This was an Afghanistan of cosmopolitan wealth and industry, and of religious innovation, devotion and tolerance, at a time when Europe was mired in the Dark Ages.

Many statues and paintings will be saved for museum exhibitions, but the potential for understanding a key piece of Afghan history — and for drawing future tourists — will soon be lost. Deborah Klimburg-Salter, a scholar of art and archaeology who recently visited the site, told me that Mes Aynak “would be of great historical value not only for the history of Afghanistan but the whole region — if they could slow down, excavate and document properly.”

It’s ironic: a company based in China, which received Buddhism via Afghanistan, will destroy a key locus of that transmission. Washington, which condemned the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, is standing by as Kabul sacrifices its cultural heritage for short-term revenue.

The destruction is not just a cultural travesty. It may not even result in the advertised economic benefits for some time to come. World Bank experts told me that large-scale mining is not likely to take place at Mes Aynak for years. For one thing, there is no smelter to process the ore and no railroad to carry the material to China. An August rocket attack by Taliban militants on the mining camp prompted the Chinese workers to evacuate the heavily guarded site. The tenacious archaeologists, mostly Afghans, stayed behind.

There is still hope that the Afghan government might allow archaeologists to remain at the central complex past Dec. 31. “We’re hoping we get more time,” Philippe Marquis, the director of the French archaeological mission in Afghanistan and a lead scientist on the project, told me. There is no reason archaeology and mining operations can’t coexist at the site. But archaeologists fear the government wants to close the site to researchers and reporters to avoid embarrassing images of dynamited monasteries.

The looming deadline is not Mr. Marquis’s only worry. New Taliban attacks might prompt the Chinese to abandon the site and stop paying for the security forces that protect the area. That could invite looting by desperately poor Afghans. An ancient Buddhist statue can sell for tens of thousands of dollars in the dark, unregulated corners of the international art market.

Last month, Buddhist protesters marched in Bangkok, denouncing the planned demolition of Mes Aynak. An American filmmaker has raised $35,200 on Kickstarter to document the controversy. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan recently said it was “the duty of all” Afghans to preserve what remains of the country’s Buddhist heritage.

But there are few scholars with the political pull to bring the matter into the international spotlight, and the United Nations has all but ignored the matter. A Unesco official told me he hoped that “some accommodation could be made for the parallel activities of archaeology and mining,” but the organization hasn’t held the government and company accountable.

The looming devastation at Mes Aynak is but the latest example of threats to cultural treasures. Recently, the Egyptian Islamist leader Murgan Salem al-Gohary caused an international stir when he mused that the Sphinx and the pyramids at Giza should be flattened. And this summer, Islamist rebels smashed Sufi tombs in Timbuktu, Mali, an act some have called a war crime.

Whether for economic gain or ideological purity, destroying humanity’s common heritage limits our understanding of one another, as well as of our past — something we can ill afford in today’s fractious world. “We are only breaking stones,” the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar said dismissively in 2001, when he heard the international outcry over the statues’ destruction. Even given Afghanistan’s dire financial plight, it’s not a position to accept, much less emulate.

 

Andrew Lawler is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to the magazines Science and Archaeology.

Warrior Monks: The Untold Story of Buddhist Violence (I)

This is a part of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series.

The basic plank of Islamophobia can be summed up as follows:

Islam is uniquely violent compared to other world religions.

Of course, it’s just not true.  In previous articles, I’ve taken a Thor-sized hammer to shatter this myth by proving that Judaism and Christianity are scripturally and theologically just as violent, if not more so.  The Bible is far more violent than the Quran, and both the Jewish and Christian traditions have been just as problematic.

It’s also not true from a historical perspective.

Take Judaism for instance:  According to the foundational narrative in the Bible, for instance, the Hebrews were persecuted in Egypt, forcing them to flee to Palestine.  When they found the Promised Land to be already occupied by the native Canaanites, Moses and the Jews invoked their warrior god to mercilessly slaughter the indigenous population in what can only be called a genocidal holy war.

The Jewish kingdoms were then overrun by outsiders.  Eventually, the Jews came under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who sought to replace Judaism with his own religion.  The Jews revolted and overthrew him, leading to the emergence of the Jewish Hasmonean Dynasty.  Just previously facing down the barrel of religious oppression, the Jews did not lose a beat and immediately set out oppressing non-Jews.  By force of arms, they sought to expand their borders and to ethnically cleanse the land of infidels, either killing non-Jews, forcibly converting them to Judaism, enslaving them, or simply running them off the land.

This Jewish kingdom fell as well, and the Jews would have to wait until the twentieth century to rule again.  They faced several centuries of oppression and finally ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Nazis, but eventually regrouped in Palestine.  Just yesterday having chanted “never again!”, they seamlessly transitioned to the task of ethnically cleansing Palestine of its non-Jewish population.

Although it’s true that Jews have been on the receiving end of oppression for a great deal of history, it’s also true that they have oppressed when in a position of power.  Is oppression then a matter not of religion but simply of opportunity?

Christians had more opportunity for violence than any other religious group on earth, and it is therefore unsurprising that, from a sheer numbers perspective, they have been responsible for the most acts of warlike aggression than any other.  It is true that Jesus himself never engaged in violent action, but again, this seems to be an issue of opportunity rather than moral repulsion to violence: he was never in a position of political power and was in fact killed by the authorities.  But, according to the Biblical narrative, Jesus will return to earth as a conquering warrior king, flanked by a massive army of earthly and heavenly beasts.  He will then kill all his enemies.

The early Church was not pacifist as many modern-day Christians claim.  Instead, the early Church fathers enlisted themselves as prayer warriors for the imperial Roman armies.  The very minute Christianity rose to power with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine, war in the service of empire and religion was adopted wholesale.  Once persecuted by pagans, Christians now set out to destroy paganism in Europe.  They sent forth armies to conquer new lands in the name of Christ.  Eventually, almost all of Africa, Australia, Europe, South and North America–as well as huge swaths of land in Asia–came under the boots of Christian soldiers.  Even today, the Religious Right in the U.S. leads the country down the path of war.

Not a single inhabited continent was spared by the Christian conquerors, so it is very difficult to accept the idea that Islam is somehow uniquely violent.

Of course, there is no denying that Islamic history had its fair share of violence.  Just as the Christian Church came under the tutelage of the Roman state, so too did many ulema ingratiate themselves to the rulers.  Expansion of the state was religiously justified, and the armies of Islam poured out of the Arabian Peninsula, conquering lands from China to Spain.

Islamophobes often complain that Islam gobbled up a significant part of the Christian world, which is true.  Yet, the Christians themselves had conquered these lands aforetime.  Is this simply not a case of Christians crying foul play when another religious group does to them what they did to the rest of the world?

It seems clear that Westerners of the Judeo-Christian tradition have no leg to stand on when they single out Islam.

But, what about Eastern religions, such as Buddhism?  Is violence merely a problem of the three Abrahamic faiths, as some would have us believe?

Westerners imagine a stark contrast between supposedly violent Muslims on the one hand and pacifist Buddhists on the other.  When we recently linked to a story about Buddhist oppression of the Muslim community in Burma, an Islamophobe quipped:

So, Buddhists acting like Muslims for once?

This remark reveals a profound ignorance of history.  Stereotypes notwithstanding, the Buddhist tradition is no stranger to violence.  This little known story is retold by Professors Michael Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer in the book Buddhist Warfare.  Jerryson writes:

Violence is found in all religious traditions, and Buddhism is no exception.  This may surprise those who think of Buddhism as a religion based solely on peace.  Indeed, one of the principal reasons for producing this book was to address such a misconception.  Within the various Buddhist traditions (which Trevor Ling describes as “Buddhisms”), there is a long history of violence.  Since the inception of Buddhist traditions 2,500 years ago, there have been numerous individual and structural cases of prolonged Buddhist violence. [1]

Prof. Jerryson writes in Monks With Guns: Discovering Buddhist Violence of armed Buddhist monks in Thailand.  He notes that the West’s romantic view of Buddhism

shield[s] an extensive and historical dimension to Buddhist traditions: violence. Armed Buddhist monks in Thailand are not an exception to the rule; they are contemporary examples of a long historical precedence. For centuries monks have been at the helm, or armed in the ranks, of wars. How could this be the case? But more importantly, why did I (and many others) hold the belief that Buddhism=Peace (and that other religions, such as Islam, are more prone to violence)?

He then answers his own question:

Buddhist Propaganda

It was then that I realized that I was a consumer of a very successful form of propaganda. Since the early 1900s, Buddhist monastic intellectuals such as Walpola Rahula, D. T. Suzuki, and Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, have labored to raise Western awareness of their cultures and traditions. In doing so, they presented specific aspects of their Buddhist traditions while leaving out others.

It should be clear that such “propaganda” need not necessarily be construed as something sinister.  Proponents of other religions–including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–will, for obvious reasons, often give a positive spin to their faith traditions.  Many Buddhists believe their history to be relatively peaceful, because they view their religion to be so.  This is no different than Muslims claiming that Islam is “the religion of peace”.

The difference is that the politics of the War on Terror have caused the religion of Islam to be put under heavy scrutiny.  Therefore, there is great incentive to refute Muslim “propaganda”, an incentive which simply does not exist for Buddhist “propaganda”.  The enemy, after all, is Muslim, not Buddhist.  Thus, Buddhism flies under the radar, and Buddhist “advertising” is taken at face-value.

Buddhism’s relative inconspicuousness shields it from the harshest blows of public criticism.  Case in point: the Bible and the Quran are well-known and easily accessible to the public.  Finding the violent verses in them is just a click away on the internet.  Meanwhile, Buddhist scriptural sources are more obscure, at least to the average Westerner.  Most people don’t even know what scriptures Buddhists follow, let alone what is contained within them.

As a consequence, many modern-day Buddhists believe that their scriptural sources are in fact devoid of violence, that this is a problem only of the Bible or the Quran.  But, Prof. Stephen Jenkins points out that this is just not the case.  In fact, ”Buddhist kings had conceptual resources [in the religious texts] at their disposal that supported warfare, torture, and harsh punishments.” [2]

For example, the Nirvana Sutra, a canonical Buddhist text, narrates a story about one of Buddha’s past lives: in it, he kills some Hindus (Brahmins) because they insulted the Buddhist sutras (scriptures):

The Buddha…said…”When I recall the past, I remember that I was the king of a great state…My name was Senyo, and I loved and venerated the Mahayana sutrasWhen I heard the Brahmins slandering the vaipulya sutras, I put them to death on the spot.  Good men, as a result of that action, I never thereafter fell into hell.  O good man! When we accept and defend the Mahayana sutras, we possess innumerable virtues.” [3]

Porf. Paul Demieville writes:

We are told that the first reason [to put the Brahmins to death] was out of pity [for them], to help the Brahmans avoid the punishment they had accrued by committing evil deeds while continuously slandering Buddhism. [4]

Here we arrive at a disturbing theme found in Buddhist thought: “compassionate killing”.  Killing is normally forbidden because it is done with evil intent (hatred, vengeance, etc.), but if it is done with “compassion”, it becomes something permissible, even praiseworthy.

The Buddhist does the unbeliever a favor by killing him, “an act of charity”:

In the Zen sect in Japan, they interpreted the argument for taking another’s life as “attempting to bring the other’s Buddha nature to life” (Buddha nature exists in virtually every living being), “by putting an end to the passions that lead astray…”

They make killing an act of charity. [5]

This is of course a disturbing belief to most of us.  As Prof. Bernard Faure puts it: “‘Killing with compassion’…remains a dubious oxymoron.” [6] One is reminded of the odd Christian belief that a Christian soldier can love his enemies even as he kills them.  Of what relevance is such “love”?

Jenkins writes:

If he does so with compassionate intentions, a king may make great merit through warfare, so warfare becomes auspicious. The same argument was made earlier in relation to torture, and the sutra now proceeds to make commonsense analogies to doctors and to parents who compassionately inflict pain in order to discipline and heal without intending harm. [7]

He goes on:

General conceptions of a basic Buddhist ethics broadly conceived as unqualified pacifism are problematic.  Compassionate violence is at the very heart of the sensibility of this sutra.  Buddhist kings had sophisticated and practical conceptual resources to support the use of force…The only killing compatible with Buddhist ethics is killing with compassion.  Moreover, if a king makes war or tortures with compassionate intentions, even those acts can result in the accumulation of vast karmic merit. [8]

There was a second reason to kill the infidels: to defend the Buddhist faith.  Prof. Demieville writes:

The Buddha’s second reason for putting them to death was to defend Buddhism itself. [9]

Faure notes:

Another oft-invoked argument to justify killing is the claim that, when the the dharma [i.e. the Buddhist religion] is threatened, it is necessary to ruthlessly fight against the forces of evil…promoting the need for violence in order to preserve cosmic balance… [10]

What about the first precept of Buddhism, which forbids murder?  Demieville writes:

In another passage, this same sutra (scripture) declares that there is no reason to observe the five precepts [the first of which is the taking of life], or even to practice good behavior, if protecting the Real Law is in question.  In other words, one needed to take up the knife and the sword, the bow and the arrow, the spear and the lance [to defend the faith].  ”The one that observes the five precepts is not a follower of the [Mahayana]!  Do not observe the five precepts–if it concerns protecting the Real Law…” [11]

The Nirvana Sutra reads:

The [true] follower of the Mahayana is not the one who observes the five precepts, but the one who uses the sword, bow, arrow, and battle ax to protect the monks who uphold the precepts and who are pure. [12]

The dye is cast for defense in the name of religion.  Elsewhere in the Nirvana Sutra, we are told of a king who goes to war in defense of rightly-guided monks:

To protect Dharma [Buddha's teachings], he came to the defense of the monks, warring against the evil-doers so that the monks did not suffer.  The king sustained wounds all over his body.  The monks praised the king: “Well done, well done, O King!  You are a person who protects the Wonderful Dharma.  In the future, you will become the indispensable tool of Dharma.” [13]

This king too was Buddha in a past life; Buddha declared:

When the time comes that the Wonderful Dharma is about to die out, one should act like this and protect the Dharma.  I was the king…The one who defends the Wonderful Dharma receives immeasurable recompense…

Monks, nuns, male and female believers of Buddha, should exert great effort to protect the Wonderful Dharma.  The reward for protecting the Wonderful Dharma is extremely great and immeasurable.  O good man, because of this, those believers who protect Dharma should take the sword and staff and protect the monks who guard Dharma

Even if a person does not observe the five precepts, if he protects the Wonderful Dharma, he will be referred to as one of the Mahayana. A person who upholds the Wonderful Dharma should take the sword and staff and guard monks. [14]

Demeiville notes:

Along these lines, the Buddha sings the praises of a king named Yeou-to, who went to war to defend the bhiksu (monks). [15]

The general idea is that “[h]eresy must be prevented and evil crushed in utero.” [16]

As for the Brahmins whom Buddha killed, they were in any case icchantika, those who neither believe in Buddha or Buddhism–historically, the Buddhist equivalent of infidel.  Buddha says in the Nirvana Sutra:

If any man, woman, Shramana, or Brahmin says that there is no such thing as The Way [i.e. Buddhism], Enlightenment, or Nirvana, know that such a person is an icchantika.  Such a person is one of [the demon] Mara’s kindred [Mara = the Lord of Death].  Such a person is not of the world… [17]

An icchantika is “sinful…[because] he does not act in accordance with the Bhuddas’ injunctions.” [18]  ”Because the icchantika lacks the root of good,” he “falls into hell.” [19] In fact, “it is not possible…for the icchantika not to go to hell.” [20] The icchantika is “the lowest” and “has to live for an eon in hell.” [21]

Putting to death unbelievers carries no sin or bad karmic result.  Demieville writes:

Regardless, these Brahmans were predestined to infernal damnation (icchantika); it was not a sin to put them to death in order to preserve the Real Law. [22]

There are in fact three grades of murder, in increasing order of seriousness, but killing infidels is not one of them.  The Nirvana Sutra reads:

The Buddha and Bodhisattva see three categories of killing, which are
those of the grades 1) low, 2) medium, and 3) high.  Low applies to the class of insects and all kinds of animals…The medium grade of killing concerns killing humans [who have not reached Nirvana]…The highest grade of killing concerns killing one’s father, mother, an arhatpratyekabudda, or a Bodhisattva [three ranks of Enlightenment]…

A person who kills an icchantika does not suffer from the karmic returns due to the killings of the three kinds above.  O good man, all those Brahmins are of the class of the icchantika.  Killing them does not cause one to go to hell. [23]

The Buddha says in the Nirvana Sutra that icchantika’s status is lower than that of the ants:

[T]he icchantikas are cut off from the root of good…Because of this, one may well kill an ant and earn sin for doing harm, but there is no sin for killing an icchantika.” [24]

In addition to issues of faith and unbelief, the Buddhist tradition offered sophistic justifications for killing and war:

[H]ow can one kill another person when…all is emptiness?  The man who kills with full knowledge of the facts kills no one because he realizes that all is but illusion, himself as well as the other person.  He can kill, because he does not actually kill anyone.  One cannot kill emptiness, nor destroy the wind. [25]

Furthermore, killing is sinful because of the evil it creates inside the killer’s mind.  But, a true yoga master can train his mind to be “empty” even while he kills.  If the killer has “vacuity” of thought, then the murder “did not undermine the essential purity of his mind” and then there is nothing wrong with it. [26] In other words, killing can be excused if it is done by the right person, especially a “dharma-protecting king”.

The Buddhist canonical and post-canonical texts not only provide the religious justifications for war and killing, but provide examples of meritorious holy figures who engaged in it, examples for all Buddhists:

Celestial bodhisattvas, divinized embodiments of the power of enlightened compassion, support campaigns of conquest to spread the influence of Buddhism, and kings vested with the dharma commit mass violence against Jains and Hindus. [27]

In these textual sources, we see dharma-inspired Buddhist kings who “have a disturbing tendency for mass violence against non-Buddhists.” [28]

Buddhist Warfare provides many other examples of the theological justifications for waging war and killing, but these shall suffice us for now: they provide the religious basis for Buddhist holy war: (1) Killing those who slander Buddhism as a necessity; (2) Anyone who rejects Buddhism is by default slandering it; (3) Killing infidels carries no sin; (4) In fact, it is not really killing at all.

These are not merely theoretical justifications found buried in religious texts.  Instead, these beliefs were acted upon historically, and continue to be so in the contemporary age.  The historical record is something we will explore in part II.

*  *  *  *  *

Disclaimer:

Prof. Michael Jerryson issues the following disclaimer:

Our intention is not to argue that Buddhists are angry, violent people—but rather that Buddhists are people, and thus share the same human spectrum of emotions, which includes the penchant for violence.

I could not agree more with Jerryson here.  My intent here is not to demonize Buddhism, but rather, to underscore the reality that all religious traditions, not just Islam, have had their fair share of violence.  This includes Buddhism.

It’s certainly something uncomfortable for me criticizing a religious tradition in this way, but it seems necessary to dispel the enduring myth that Islam holds a monopoly on violence.

I would also like to take this opportunity to distance myself from those who are using the violence in Burma to further Buddhaphobia.  Such claim that “people are ignoring what is happening to Muslims in Burma”, which is certainly true, but we all know that if the shoe were on the other foot–if it were Muslims in Burma oppressing Buddhists–then many of these Muslims would be the silent ones, or even be justifying such oppression (as I have seen many Buddhists doing now).

What is it other than rancid hypocrisy when some Pakistanis are up in arms about Muslims in Burma, but absolutely silent about the oppression of religious minorities in their own country?

How easily these people are able to transfer the same hatred against Islam that is directed toward them on a daily basis to Buddhism!

What I have learned about religions is the following:

#1: Adherents of a religion will cry foul when their coreligionists are the victims of oppression, but will remain silent or even justify such oppression when their coreligionists are the perpetrators of such oppression.  This includes Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus–as well as Muslims.

To this, I recall the words of the Prophet Muhammad, who said: “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.”  The people asked him: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how we should help him if he is an oppressor?”  Muhammad replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

#2: The corollary to #1 is that religious groups will cry foul when they are oppressed by another religious group, but as soon as they themselves come to power, the very next minute they set to the task of oppressing the religious other.  Yesterday, the Jews were ethnically cleansed by the Nazis; today, they ethnically cleanse the Palestinians.  It is such a seamless transition–it happens with such mechanistic automatism and absolute obliviousness–that it is something quite amazing to witness.

#3: Following from #2, it becomes obvious that humans oppress when they are given the opportunity to do so.  It is not their religious creed that matters so much but rather whether they have opportunity or not.

#4: No major world religion is vastly different from the other when it comes to its propensity to inspire violence.

#5: Instead of using religious violence to demonize particular faiths–instead of using it as a battle ax to split open heads–we should hold in our hearts a continuous candlelight vigil to end inter-religious violence–holding hands with Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus–and start seeing each other as fellow human beings.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Footnotes:
[1] Jerryson, Michael K., and Mark Juergensmeyer. Introduction. Buddhist Warfare. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 3. Print.
[2] Jenkins, Stephen. “Making Merit through Warfare and Torture.” Buddhist Warfare. By Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 59. Print.
[3] Nirvana Sutra, Chapter 19.
[4] Demieville, Paul. “Buddhism and War.” Buddhist Warfare. By Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 41. Print.
[5] Ibid., 44.
[6] Faure, Bernard. “Afterthoughts.” Buddhist Warfare. By Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 212. Print.
[7] Jenkins, 68.
[8] Ibid., 71.
[9] Demieville, 41.
[10] Faure, 212.
[11] Demieville, 41.
[12] Nirvana Sutra, Chapter 5.
[13] Ibid., Chapter 19.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Demieville, 41.
[16] Ibid., 39.
[17] Nirvana Sutra, Chapter 22.
[18] Ibid., Chapter 24.
[19] Ibid., Chapter 34.
[2o] Ibid., Chapter 39.
[21] Ibid., Chapter 40.
[22] Demieville, 41.
[23] Nirvana Sutra, Chapter 22.
[24] Ibid., Chapter 40.
[25] Faure, 213.
[26] Demieville, 42.
[27] Jenkins, 59.
[28] Demieville, 63.

Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned

A monk shows an anti-Rohingya slogan on his hand

A monk shows an anti-Rohingya slogan on his hand

(Via IslamophobiaToday.com)

Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned

Monks who played a vital role in Burma’s recent struggle for democracy have been accused of fuelling ethnic tensions in the country by calling on people to shun a Muslim community that has suffered decades of abuse.

In a move that has shocked many observers, some monks’ organisations have issued pamphlets telling people not to associate with the Rohingya community, and have blocked humanitarian assistance from reaching them. One leaflet described the Rohingya as “cruel by nature” and claimed it had “plans to exterminate” other ethnic groups.

The outburst against the Rohingya, often described as one of the world’s most oppressed groups, comes after weeks of ethnic violence in the Rakhine state in the west of Burma that has left more than 80 dead and up to 100,000 people living in a situation described as “desperate” by humanitarian organisations. As state-sanctioned abuses against the Muslim community continue, Burma’s president Thein Sein – credited by the international community for ushering in a series of democratic reforms in the country and releasing political prisoners such as Aung San Suu Kyi – has urged neighbouring Bangladesh to take in the Rohingya.

“In recent days, monks have emerged in a leading role to enforce denial of humanitarian assistance to Muslims, in support of policy statements by politicians,” said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan project, a regional NGO. “A member of a humanitarian agency in Sittwe told me that some monks were posted near Muslim displacement camps, checking on and turning away people they suspected would visit for assistance.”

The Young Monks’ Association of Sittwe and Mrauk Oo Monks’ Association have both released statements in recent days urging locals not to associate with the group. Displaced Rohingya have been housed in over-crowded camps away from the Rakhine population – where a health and malnutrition crisis is said to be escalating – as political leaders move to segregate and expel the 800,000-strong minority from Burma. Earlier this month, Thein Sein attempted to hand over the group to the UN refugee agency.

Aid workers report ongoing threats and interference by local nationalist and religious groups. Some monasteries in Maungdaw and Sittwe sheltering displaced Rakhine people have openly refused to accept international aid, alleging that it is “biased” in favour of the Rohingya. Monks have traditionally played a critical role in helping vulnerable citizens, stepping in to care for the victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 after the military junta rejected international assistance.

Many have been shocked by the response of the monks and members of the democracy movement to the recent violence, which erupted after the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, allegedly by three Muslims, unleashed long-standing ethnic tensions.

Monks’ leader Ashin Htawara recently encouraged the government to send the group “back to their native land” at an event in London hosted by the anti-Rohingya Burma Democratic Concern. Ko Ko Gyi, a democracy activist with the 88 Generation Students group and a former political prisoner, said: “The Rohingya are not a Burmese ethnic group. The root cause of the violence… comes from across the border.” Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, said: “We were shocked to have [Ashin Htawara] propose to us that there should be what amounts to concentration camps for the Rohingya.”

Ms Suu Kyi has also been criticised for failing to speak out. Amal de Chickera of the London-based Equal Rights Trust, said: “You have these moral figures, whose voices do matter. It’s extremely disappointing and in the end it can be very damaging.”

The Rohingya have lived in Burma for centuries, but in 1982, the then military ruler Ne Win stripped them of their citizenship. Thousands fled to Bangladesh where they live in pitiful camps. Foreign media are still denied access to the conflict region, where a state of emergency was declared last month, and ten aid workers were arrested without explanation.

SRI LANKA: A 14-years-old student is tortured by a Buddhist monk for refusing to learn Buddhism

SRI LANKA: A 14-years-old student is tortured by a Buddhist monk for refusing to learn Buddhism

Asian Human Rights Commission- (http://www.humanrights.asia)

According to information that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received, PG Amila Tharanga Thilakaratne (14) a Year 9 student attending Mahanama College Geatambe in the Kandy District was tortured by his teacher, who is also a Buddhist monk, because he professed a belief in the Christian faith. His permanent address is: No: 28/1, Sarasavigama Mahakande, Hindagala, Kandy.

AHRC-UAC-102-2012-01.jpgAmila Tharanga has five older brothers and one younger sister. His father is a mason working in building construction, and his mother is a homemaker. Amila Tharanga has been attending Mahanama College Kandy since Year One; his brothers have attended the same school. Mahanama College Kandy is a Buddhist school, and only Buddhism is taught in the school.

Although the state education department has ruled that children of faiths other than the predominant religion should have the right to learn their own religious teachings, abide by the codes of their religious practices and sit for school exams (circular 2009/10), these rights are often not respected and religious minorities, such as Catholics and Christians, are forced to learn Buddhism. Amila Tharanga and his older brother, Gashan, are discriminated against at school because they are not Buddhist.

On 11 June 2012, a Buddhist monk named Rahula Thero came to Amila’s class to teach Buddhism. Since Amila was the only non-Buddhist student in the class, he moved to the back row for the duration of the lesson. However, the monk has forced him to sit in the front row and asked him to recite the names of the Buddha’s parents. Amila replied that he is a Catholic. The monk told him that he should learn Buddhist teachings even though he is a Catholic, and severely assaulted Amila until the young boy was bleeding from his left ear. Rahula Thero and another teacher, Mrs Kokila, told Amila not to tell anyone about the assault.

For the rest of the day, Amila had to bear the pain without recourse to medical treatment. When Amila’s brother Gashan heard about the assault, he went to his brother’s classroom, but Mr. Thero saw Gashan and threatened to beat him if he entered the room.

After school, Amila went home and went to sleep for fear of informing anyone about the brutal assault. He began to vomit at around 7pm, and he told his father, P.G. Thilakaratne what had happened at school. The next morning, Amila’s father took his son to hospital. According to Mr. Thilakaratne, Mr. Thero threatened them with violence if they revealed what had happened to higher authorities.

Amila was placed in Ward 10 of the hospital. The next day, he was transferred to Ward 18. The officers at the hospital’s police post obtained a statement from Amila on June 13. Amila’s father, Mr. Thilakaratne filed a complaint with the Kandy Police (WCIB 1/84/16,) but so far, no investigation has been initiated.

Mr. Thilakaratne fears that his complaint will go unheard in a country in which Buddhist monks enjoy impunity for violent actions. He worries that Amila will not be able to regain his hearing, and will be expelled from his school for reporting the incident to the police. Mr. Thilakaratne seeks justice and redress for the violation of his child’s right to practice the religious faith of his choice. He seeks protection for his son and for witnesses of the crime by the state.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases of in which students have been tortured in different schools across Sri Lanka. It is illegal under local and international law to physically harm any child.

The state of Sri Lanka signed and ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT) on 3 January 1994. Following state obligations, the Sri Lankan Parliament adopted Act No. 22 of 1994, making torture a crime that is punishable for a minimum of seven years and not less than ten years if the suspect is proven guilty. The Attorney General of Sri Lanka is suppose to file indictments in cases where credible evidence has been found of people being tortured by state officers.

Burmese Buddhists Attack Muslim Pilgrims, Killing 9

The attack on Muslims traveling to a mosque must be viewed in a much larger perspective, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (i.e Burma).

Authorities are saying that “anti-Muslim sentiment” played a roll in at least one of the attacks:

Muslims killed in attack in Burma’s Rakhine province

(BBC)

Buddhist residents in western Burma have killed at least nine Muslims as sectarian tension worsens in the region, police say.

Reports say a crowd attacked a bus in Rakhine province after blaming some of the passengers for the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.

In another incident, at least 10 people were injured in the state capital Sittwe when police broke up a protest.

It is the worst violence to hit the province in recent months.

Sectarian and ethnic tension persists in the country despite a new, supposedly tolerant climate introduced by the civilian-led government which came into power 15 months ago.

Mob attack

The bus attack took place near the town of Taungup in Rakhine province, which borders Bangladesh, on Sunday evening, police and residents said.

It was thought to be carried out by mostly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine people.

“More than 100 people beat and killed those people,” a resident told AFP news agency. “The residents even torched the bus.”

The reason for the attack is unclear, but some residents say it was a revenge attack following the rape and murder of a Buddhist girl in another part of the province last month.

Map

But the Burmese Muslim Association said most of those killed were Muslims visiting a mosque from central Burma.

That account was corroborated by unnamed residents quoted by Reuters news agency, who said those killed were not from the area.

No arrests have been made. A police investigation is under way.

In another, apparently unrelated incident at least 10 people were injured after police fired rubber bullets at a mob who attacked their police station in Sittwe, reports said.

A 13-year-old protester was among those injured, witnesses said.

There were contradictory reports about what triggered the protest, but some accounts suggested anti-Muslim sentiment could have played a part.

Rakhine is home to Burma’s largest concentration of Muslims, including much-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, and their presence is often deeply resented by the majority Buddhist population.

In a joint statement quoted by Reuters, eight Rohingya rights groups based outside Burma condemned the attack on the Muslims on the bus, whom they termed “Muslim pilgrims”.

Although it appears those on the bus were not Rohingyas, the groups said the attack followed months of anti-Rohingya propaganda stirred up by “extremists and xenophobes”.

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