Those of us who grew up in the West most likely encountered those who, when questioned about religion, say that they’re not really “into” organized religion, but that Buddhism seems the most peaceful to them, so they’d maybe consider becoming Buddhist.
Surely, there are many peaceful Buddhists, as there are many peaceful people of other faiths, but it is important to acknowledge the facts that lay before us. There are Buddhists who are not only not pacifists, they are virulent and irresponsible in their use of violence.
Burma (also called Myanmar) is a Buddhist-majority country. Their now-under-house-arrest leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended the military’s genocidal campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the Rakhine state.
All of this occurred before the recent military coup, which now controls the country.
Hypocrisy of the highest order
A Nobel Peace Prize winner who resisted Burmese military control, Aung Sun Suu Kyi, has become one of the military’s staunchest defenders. Perhaps now, under house arrest due the the military coup, she can pay for her disgusting double talk.
Others, however, surmise that the coup may have been a way for the country to avoid prosecution at the International Criminal Court, as the commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing is one of the officers in question in regards to the crimes.
Of course, everyday citizens of Burma rightfully have their concerns. A brutal military has now officially taken the reins of power. Nonetheless, what should give Muslims serious pause are the posters found amongst the crowd of protestors. Understandably, they call for an end to the military coup, but amongst such words are pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi.
If the protestors are disturbed by the usurping of power by the military, if they are disturbed in part because a military represents force without choice, then why are some of them longing for Aung San Suu Kyi’s return?
A Rohingya now living in the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, described his reaction to seeing images of the protests online:
“’I looked at dozens of posts and images, and eventually I found one photograph, a young man on a street in Myanmar holding a banner that read: ‘I Really regret abt Rohingya crisis.’ I found a few reports of a very small number of people in Myanmar expressing their regrets over supporting or defending the violence against the Rohingya. But I couldn’t find any leaders from Daw [Madam] Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy saying a word about the place of the Rohingya in the democratic system they are demanding.’”
It is strange to think that protestors would feel safer under a leader who supported her military’s brutal killing of Muslims and Christian minorities. Then again, maybe many of them are simply riding the waves of the day, calling for whatever seems better than what they have at the moment (the military), without much regard to what could be in front of them.
Protests for Democracy: Beyond Burma
For now, the protests in Burma are focused on ending the military coup and saving “their” leader (#saveourleader). Let’s see how it progresses. Simply by the fact that the country’s dear leaders have committed genocide, it is already a confused mish mash of calls for rights for all, with the specificities of rights for some.
This is nothing new today, in an era of identity politics, that seems to both state that we are defined by, say our sexual preference, or our skin color, or countless other measurements of identity, and that we are not defined by them and should all be treated as equals.
Identity politics are particularly challenging for Muslims in societies that have laws, for example, protecting the right of homosexual marriage, to practice one’s religion, and the freedom of speech, all under a status quo that supposedly says we respect all religions. Important themes like social justice and racial equality get overrun with a smattering of other slogans pulled from various ideologies.
The easy way out at that point, is to simply join the movements that will allow you not to be called a bigot, all the while highlighting your Muslim identity and how you stand proud with gay pride, with a woman’s right to choose an abortion, with whatever is in vogue at the time.
Islam roots us in a well-established, harmonious tradition, it grounds us in our faith, it protects us from the whims, the ebb and flow of ideological perspectives that no matter how nonsensical (e.g., postmodernism), no matter how contradictory (e.g., feminism), the believer knows where to stand. That is precisely what many of these movements lack, a clear, logical stance.
In Burma calls for ‘democracy’ and a return of a murderous leader do not bode well for the Rohingya.