The rise of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Asia and possibilities for transformation

Report – external series

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) The rise of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Asia and possibilities for transformation. NOREF Policy Brief. Oslo: NOREF.

Download Policy Brief from NOREF website.

Violence against Muslim minorities in Buddhist societies has increased in recent years. The Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar are disenfranchised, and many of their candidates were rejected by the official Union Election Commission prior to the 2015 elections. Furthermore, laws about religious conversion, missionary activities, and interfaith marriage are being promoted to control relations between religions and prevent conflict. The danger, however, is that increased control will lead to more, not fewer, conflicts. Discrimination against religious minorities may lead to radicalisation. In addition minority-majority relations in a single state may have regional consequences because a minority in one state can be the majority in another, and there is an increasing trend for co-religionists in different countries to support each other. Thus protection of religious minorities is not only a question of freedom of religion and basic human rights; it also affects security and peacebuilding in the whole region. Anti-Muslim violence and political exclusion of Muslim minorities take place in the wake of increased Buddhist nationalism. This policy brief identifies local as well as global drivers for Muslim-Buddhist conflict and the rise of Buddhist nationalism. It then shows how Muslim-Buddhist conflict can be addressed, most importantly through the engagement of local religious leaders.

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