“One and a Half Human Beings” : how Buddhist Monks Construct the Muslim Other in Myanmar
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This thesis provides an insight into the topic of the Buddhist-Muslim violence taking place in Myanmar. In the context of the refugee crisis of the Rohingya, this thesis looks at the role of religious actors in this current climate of religious and communal violence. As the majority religion in Myanmar is Buddhism, and the Buddhist monks are highly respected and loved, they have a great influence over the population. The research question posed is: How do Buddhist monks construct the Muslim Other in Myanmar? The aim of the thesis is to analyse the construction of Muslims in Myanmar as an “other”, and provide a snapshot of how the Buddhist monks present the religious tension in their text. To answer this question I analyse the discourse in texts of two prominent Buddhist monks. The chosen texts are a Facebook post, and an interview of Ashin Wirathu, and a sermon of Sitagu Sayadaw. The historical context and background is presented to better explain what is found in the texts, and theories on nationalism, othering and violence are used to analyse and discover themes and messages in the texts. Critical Discourse Analysis will be applied to analyse the discourse practice, the texts in depth and the sociocultural practice of the texts. Based on the analysis I discuss the themes of nationalism, othering and violence found in the texts to finally answer the research question. As a conclusion I state that these three texts construct the Muslims as one coherent group of violent and threatening invaders who are in Myanmar illegally and who do not belong. The group is presented as a threat to both the nation and the Buddhist religion, and the texts justify the use of violence on these threatening others.