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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2786

The Common Root of Supremacists – part 3

By Habib Siddiqui

Supremacist ideology propounds that human beings can be divided into entities or groups, which can often be around racial lines but such divisions need not be limited to "races" and can include divisions along ethnicity, language, caste, color and creed that should be kept separate; that certain groups are superior to and thus, are more entitled than others to dominate; that these groups are under existential threat and thus, must act and not react to protect their kind; and that the ‘dark times’ in which that we live will only end when they again take power, returning us to a mythical golden age.

Consequently, supremacists have had resorted to violence against ‘others’ that they consider different than their own kind. They deliberately distort history and use false propaganda and ‘conspiracy theories’ to justify their eliminationist projects against the targeted minorities.

In our time in places like Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Sri Lanka we see Buddhist – more properly Theravada Buddhist – supremacist violence against the minority Muslims, Hindus and Christians. The rationale for such violence follows all the usual traits cited above: e.g., that Buddhism and its culture are under existential threat in these Buddhist-majority countries and therefore, the Buddhist majority (e.g., Sinhalese in Sri Lanka and Burman or Bamar people in Myanmar) must preemptively hit hard to eliminate any potential threat that may later come from the targeted minorities who are perceived as outsiders or invaders.

The Buddhist violence against the Rohingyas of Arakan (named Rakhine) state in Myanmar has been deservingly recognized by the UN and the world community as a form of genocide.

Despite being the descendants of the first settlers to Arakan – thanks to the unfathomed prejudice propagated against the Rohingya – they are depicted as outsiders as part of a very sinister national project – enjoying wide support top-down – whose aim remains to this very day the total elimination of the Rohingya. As a result, since 1948, millions of them have been forcibly displaced, often leading to exodus as unwanted refugees in foreign countries that did neither want their integration nor cared about their growth as a productive member of the society.

Denied citizenship and each one of the 30 rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Rohingya people became the most persecuted people in our time and faced repeated bouts of genocide since at least 1978. They witnessed deaths of tens of thousands of their kind in the hands of Rakhine Buddhists and rank and file members of the state apparatus, let alone the mass rape and forced exile of hundreds of thousands since 2017. Hundreds of Rohingya localities have been destroyed and renamed to wipe out any physical and cultural link to their ancestral land. Their number has predictably shrunk from a few millions to perhaps less than a million today inside this den of intolerance called Myanmar.

The Bamar Buddhist supremacy has become synonymous to Myanmarism (coined first by Dr. Shwe Lu Maung – author of several books on Myanmar) in this artificially glued and violently subdued state of many races and religions as a toxic cocktail of ultra-nationalism and religious fanaticism (or religio-racial ultra-nationalism) where the dominant Burman (Bamar) race is recognized as the ‘super race’. While the Rohingyas have been the worst victims of Myanmarism in the hands of Bamar and Rakhine Buddhist supremacists the Shan, Karens, Chins and other minority communities also face persecution for just being different – ethnically and/or religiously. Even the Rakhine Buddhists, considered ‘second class’ in this supremacist pyramid of nationalities, are fighting guerrilla wars against the government of Myanmar that is dominated by the Bamar majority.

Myanmar has all the elements of disintegration and yet, it is intact – no matter how fractured it is and how fragile it appears to be. The reason behind its longevity owes to the mere fact that since the very early days of independence the government propaganda has encouraged (i) a blind racist nationalism, full of references to ‘protecting the race’ — meaning that if the majority Bamar people do not oppress or eliminate other ethnic nationalities or races then they will themselves be oppressed, (ii) ‘national reconsolidation’ – meaning forced assimilation (through Burmanization and Buddization), and (iii) preventing ‘disintegration of the Union’ – meaning that if the Army (Tatmadaw) falls then some kind of ethnic chaos would ensue destabilizing the state.

Since the days of military dictator Ne Win, the successive Myanmar regimes (military or quasi-civilian) have learned to exploit racial and religious sentiments to not only persecute minorities and non-Buddhists but also to create a sense of unity and belonging amongst the dominant ethnic groups. In essence, they have perfected the art of Myanmarism since the days of General Saw Maung who was handed down power after the bloody crackdown of 1988. The same recipe of containing the minority Rohingya has been followed in the Rakhine state by the majority Buddhist Rakhine where they comprise the majority. [For an in-depth study, see the books – The Rakhine State Violence, vols. 1 and 2 by Dr. Shwe Lu Maung, available in the Amazon.com.]

Theravada Buddhist monks like Wirathu (called the ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’ by the Time Magazine, 20 June 2013) and his 969 fascist movement continue to play a major role in Islamophobia, inciting and justifying genocidal violence against Muslims.

Nearly a million Rohingya refugees now live in Cox’s Bazar inside Bangladesh. True to its supremacist intent, the Myanmar government refuses the repatriation of these survivors of genocide as citizens. In all likelihood, the vast majority of these Rohingya refugees will refuse to return to Myanmar unless their rights as equal citizens are restored and/or they are protected under the UN in a safe zone.
What the government, Buddhist politicians, evil monks and mobs have been able to do as part of a national project inside Myanmar to popularizing the Buddhist supremacist ideology as a rallying cry for its people – that are mostly poor, less prosperous, ill-educated, lethargic, depraved and deprived – to unleash their eliminationist violence against the non-Buddhists towards making the entire country free of non-Buddhist minorities is being tried out in a smaller scale by a Buddhist fascist organization inside the island nation of Sri Lanka that is also home to millions of Hindus, Muslims and Christians. It is called Bodu Bala Sena (BBS - translated as the Buddhist Power Force), which is a radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization based in Colombo, Sri Lanka that was formed during 2012.

The BBS alongside Ravana Balaya, Sinhala Ravaya and Mahasohon Balakaya are among a new wave of Buddhist supremacist organizations in Sri Lanka that are pushing a "new brand" of ethno-religio-nationalism with a greater emphasis on Theravada Buddhism and Sinhalese ethnic supremacy with more militant tendencies to protect their ‘motherland’.

At its inaugural meeting in Colombo in July 2012 the BBS declared its intention to pursue five goals: 1) to work for the increased birth rate of the Sinhala Buddhist population by challenging the government’s birth control and family planning policies; 2) legal reform to better protect the rights of the island’s Buddhists, to abolish legal pluralism and implement one civil code (thus abolishing Muslim family law); 3) reform of the education system in line with Buddhist interests; 4) the formation of a government-sponsored body to ensure Buddhist “orthodoxy” in books and media; and 5) implementation of a series of recommendations for reforming Buddhism already suggested in the 1950s.

To prevent “Buddhists from becoming minority in their own country” (as the slogan goes), Buddhist supremacist groups have called for family planning policies, even legal regulation of women’s reproductive health. At the BBS inaugural meeting in 2012, BBS leaders demanded the government shut down all family planning units in the country so that Sinhala Buddhist women could produce more babies.

The BBS engages in hate speech and attacks against minority religions. It attracts support from "hot blooded" Monks and lower middle-class youths to terrorize country's minority Muslim and Christian communities which, according to the organization, poses a threat to Sri Lanka's Sinhalese-Buddhist identity.

In 2014, BBS signed a pact with Myanmar's Ashin Wirathu and the 969 Movement that has been responsible for inciting violence against Muslims to build a Buddhist Alliance in order to protect the Buddha Sasana. It has also been against Halal certification of meats consumed by Muslims. Many Muslims have died in the hands of BBS activists in various parts of Sri Lanka.

The influence of BBS has grown significantly in recent months. Sri Lanka’s Muslim ministers resigned en masse on June 3 over widespread hate attacks against their community in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings.
BBS chief, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, addressing hundreds of monks and followers in Kandy, recently called on Sri Lanka's 10,000 Buddhist temples to help win votes for candidates from the Sinhala Buddhist majority.

"We the clergies should aim to create a Sinhala government. We will create a parliament that will be accountable for the country, a parliament that will protect Sinhalese," said Gnanasara.

It is a disturbing development for this island nation that only won a prolonged guerilla war against Tamil Hindu militants that had lasted for decades, devastating the country.

To be continued>>>

- Asian Tribune -

The Common Root of Supremacists – part 3
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