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Deconstructing Buddhist Extremism: Lessons from Sri Lanka

International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 639798, Singapore
Academic Editors: Anastasia Mitrofanova and Sharyl Cross
Religions 2021, 12(11), 970;
Received: 29 September 2021 / Revised: 25 October 2021 / Accepted: 29 October 2021 / Published: 5 November 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Politicization of Religion from a Global Perspective)
This article argues that it is not Buddhism, per se, but rather Buddhist extremism, that is responsible for violence against relevant out-groups. Moreover, it suggests that the causes of Buddhist extremism, rather than being determined solely by textual and scriptural justifications for out-group violence, are rooted instead in the intersection between social psychology and theology, rather than organically arising from the latter, per se. This article unpacks this argument by a deeper exploration of Theravada Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka. It argues that religious extremism, including its Buddhist variant, is best understood as a fundamentalist belief system that justifies structural violence against relevant out-groups. A total of seven of the core characteristics of the religious extremist are identified and employed to better grasp how Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka manifests itself on the ground. These are: the fixation with maintaining identity supremacy; in-group bias; out-group prejudice; emphasis on preserving in-group purity via avoidance of commingling with the out-group; low integrative complexity expressed in binary thinking; dangerous speech in both soft- and hard-modes; and finally, the quest for political power, by force if needed. Future research could, inter alia, explore how these seven characteristics also adequately describe other types of religious extremism. View Full-Text
Keywords: religious extremism; Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka; Buddhist extremism; Bodu Bala Sena; Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero religious extremism; Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka; Buddhist extremism; Bodu Bala Sena; Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero
MDPI and ACS Style

Ramakrishna, K. Deconstructing Buddhist Extremism: Lessons from Sri Lanka. Religions 2021, 12, 970.

AMA Style

Ramakrishna K. Deconstructing Buddhist Extremism: Lessons from Sri Lanka. Religions. 2021; 12(11):970.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ramakrishna, Kumar. 2021. "Deconstructing Buddhist Extremism: Lessons from Sri Lanka" Religions 12, no. 11: 970.

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