04 November 2020
This article examines Buddhist extremism in Myanmar. It argues that Buddhist extremism—like
other types of religious extremism—is an acute form of fundamentalism. The article begins with
a survey of how extremism is usually understood in the theoretical literature, showing that its
religious variant is best conceived of as an acute form of fundamentalism. It then fine tunes this
understanding, arguing that religious extremism is a fundamentalist belief system that justifies
structural violence against relevant out-groups. The article outlines seven core characteristics of
the religious extremist culled from the various theoretical approaches to extremism. It employs
these seven characteristics to examine Buddhist extremism in Myanmar, particularly in the way
it has fueled violence against the ethnic minority Rohingya Muslim community in that country,
giving rise to a humanitarian crisis with potential wider regional repercussions. The article
reiterates that to cope with the ongoing Rohingya crisis, policy makers within and outside
Myanmar must acquire a much deeper understanding of Buddhist extremism.
…Kumar Ramakrishna is an Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Policy Studies, Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, and Research Adviser to the National Security Studies Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. This article emerged from presentations at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, United Kingdom, and the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, Oxford University, in September and October 2019. The author is grateful to the helpful and insightful feedback received from the participants at both seminars.
ICPVTR / Online
Last updated on 05/11/2020