“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Zed Asian Arguments – Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of a Muslim ‘Other’

Posted: October 11th, 2017 | No Comments »

The latest edition to my Zed Books Asian Arguments series is, if I say so myself, timely – though has been in the planning for some years. Sadly however the publication of Francis Wade’s Myanmar’s Enemy Within comes at a devastating time for Muslim minorities in Myanmar….

For decades Myanmar has been portrayed as a case of good citizen versus bad regime – men in jackboots maintaining a suffocating rule over a majority Buddhist population beholden to the ideals of non-violence and tolerance. But in recent years this narrative has been upended.

In June 2012, violence between Buddhists and Muslims erupted in western Myanmar, pointing to a growing divide between religious communities that before had received little attention from the outside world. Attacks on Muslims soon spread across the country, leaving hundreds dead, entire neighbourhoods turned to rubble, and tens of thousands of Muslims confined to internment camps. This violence, breaking out amid the passage to democracy, was spurred on by monks, pro-democracy activists and even politicians.

In this gripping and deeply reported account, Francis Wade explores how the manipulation of identities by an anxious ruling elite has laid the foundations for mass violence, and how, in Myanmar’s case, some of the most respected and articulate voices for democracy have turned on the Muslim population at a time when the majority of citizens are beginning to experience freedoms unseen for half a century.

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