Buddhist Nationalism, Anti-Muslim Moral Panic, and Conspiracy Theories in Myanmar

Buddhist Nationalist Sermons in Myanmar: Anti-Muslim Moral Panic, Conspiracy Theories, and Socio-Cultural Legacies” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2022.2032801) is a new article by Niklas Foxeus of the Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, Stockholm University in Sweden.

The article abstract states:

In Myanmar, Buddhist nationalist movements created a pan-Burmese anti-Muslim moral panic in response to the political and economic liberalisation starting in 2011 and to riots between Buddhists and Muslims that erupted from 2012. Based mainly on Buddhist nationalist sermons and speeches, but also on interviews and fieldwork, the aim of this article is to examine the historical and cultural roots of the anti-Muslim moral panic and its political ramifications. This article argues that Buddhist nationalist sermons contributed to moral panic in three ways. First through aspects of monastic authority by which nationalist, anti-Muslim discourse was authorised. Second, an anti-Muslim conspiracy theory going back to the 1950s and an ingrained historical narrative feeding a sense of collective victimhood and vulnerability among the Buddhist majority created fear that provides justification of discrimination and violence. Third, is a perceived existential threat to Buddhism and Myanmar’s sovereignty considered to be posed by groups of Muslims (local and international) that were interconnected in the nationalist imagination; a sense of threat that was reinforced by a globalised Islamophobia.

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