We always think of Buddhism as a peaceful religion, but of course that’s belied by the violence that once raged in Sri Lanka, and the lesser-known and continuing enmity between the Buddhists and Muslims of Myanmar (Burma). In that country Buddhists outnumber Muslims by about 25 to 1, and Muslims are the most common victims of religious violence. Predictably, they’re also the ones who get imprisoned most often.
Here’s one example of the kind of religiously-based stupidity that even a Buddhist-majority government can perpetrate. According to the New York Times, a trivial “offense” to Buddhism can reap a stiff prison sentence:
A court in Myanmar has found two Muslim women guilty of setting off a recent outbreak of sectarian violence, one of them by bumping into a Buddhist novice monk. Myint Thein of the pro-government National Unity Party, who attended their trial, said Wednesday that the two women in the central township of Okkan were convicted of “insulting religion.” Both were sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor. A police officer in Okkan, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the news media, confirmed the sentences.
. . . The two women’s trial was related to an April 30 episode in Okkan that culminated with Buddhist mobs destroying shops and homes in several villages. Myint Thein said the court heard that one of the women bumped into the monk as he was collecting alms and the other grabbed the monk by his shoulders. It is considered inappropriate in Buddhism for women to have any physical contact with monks.
Even if the Muslim women did that on purpose, it doesn’t merit two years of hard labor. (I shudder to think what “hard labor” means in Burma.) And none of this would have happened had there not been religion.
h/t: Diane G