Contemporary Buddhist violence against minority Muslims in Myanmar is rightfully surprising: a religion with its particular moral philosophies of non-violence and asceticism and with its functional polytheism in practice should not generate genocidal nationalist violence. Yet, there are resources within the Buddhist canon that people can draw from to justify violence in defense of the religion and of a Buddhist-based polity. When those resources are exploited in the context of particular Theravāda Buddhist practices and the history of Buddhism and Buddhist identity in Burma from ancient times through its colonial and contemporary periods, it perpetuates an ongoing tragedy that is less about religion than about ethno-nationalism.
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