Intolerance and Disrespect

Posted: 17/03/2013 in Culture, Myanmar
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Or should I have titled it as “Tolerance and Respect” instead to make myself sounds like a optimistic stuffed with positive imagination where no sun sets?

I have been asking a question to myself.

I have to admit that my mindset on racism and discrimination is being changed from time to time. Being said, I am not one of those easy pickings to change my hypothesis with a note or two on Facebook. But then again, I could not answer the above question….. yet.

This starts from a personal feeling – an unpleasant mood when I read the headlines saying my people are not tolerant at all – which I wish to deny. Concurrently, I have been reading many hatred comments regarding almost everything on Facebook and I can’t even read some of those till the end as those are too much for my eyes to swallow. Then I think, rethink and rethink. Where on earth those hatred comments came from!?

Intolerant people. Yes, I agree. It obviously seems that at least half of people in Myanmar online community are intolerant. They are not fond of things that are against with their religion, thoughts that are in common with their belief and news that they believe affecting  the sustainability of their culture. For instance, you would see their Facebook flooding with screams and shouts after a news about shoes with Buddha images or a foreign couple acting weird at Shwedagon Pagoda. They think those are insults to the religion they believe in, threats to what they value and humiliation to their culture that they have been grown up with. When it hurts their feelings, they couldn’t shut their mouth. They become to believe that silence could kill their culture and religion. They think they should act before things are getting worse.

On the other hand, apparently, other people take them as intolerant people. For those who think Buddha’s face is just a decoration item, putting it on shoes or even on bikini is nothing harmful. It’s not even a question. They may use it for fun as they are not intending to insult anyone. They would think in a way that why Buddhists seem so angry if Buddhism is a peaceful religion. And they start to define those Buddhists as intolerant people because they cannot tolerate what people did to the symbols of their religion. Talking about Shwedagon, it is an incredible place. People who do not follow Myanmar cultural aspects closely might even take it as a picnic spot. They might question “What’s so wrong with lying down with revealing clothes, hugging each other with this stunning view of giant pile of gold?” Again, whoever criticize them become just intolerant people who do not have knowledge of other cultures and forms of freedom.

My own thoughts are mixed.

  • If people do not do any acts that could be an insult to another group of people in anyway, there would be no intolerance.
  • If people do not bother what others do to their culture and religion and ignore all the disrespect, there would be no intolerance.

6-2 is 4 while 2+2 is also 4. I am nowhere near to let people know what should be the way to go. For me personally, as long as I am a devoted Buddhist in my own opinion, I would ignore all those stuffs what people do to Buddha or Myanmar. I have seen a little kid on Instagram who names himself as “Shwedagon1”. When I pointed out that what would he feel if I name my Instagram account as “Catholic Church1”, he replied that those were two different things which left me speechless. I finally become to understand that west cultures is way too different from that of east that it would take a century or two to make them understand the way we think on religion or cultural related stuffs. If so, why should we bother to blame others for doing things that we have no control over?

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Comments
  1. Lucia says:

    Hi Chan, I just discovered your blog.
I’m in Myanmar now and I’m trying to understand more about the religious issue, but still I can’t speak the language. I’m glad I found your blog in English.
    You’re talking about the way western people misunderstand buddhist holy places and buddhist symbols, and of course it’s an interesting topic to discuss, but in my personal experience (6 weeks in Myanmar so far) I felt intolerance toward me because of my western origins only once in Taunggyi (and I can’t explain why with certainty).
Anyhow, quite often I found myself involved in anti-muslim conversations with people in Yangon (they were bama and rakhine). I had the impression they strongly desired to make me aware of their intolerance and they often used quite harsh words or gestures, if they couldn’t speak english.
I’d like to know if you still think that it’s possible to discuss the muslim-buddhist issue expanding it to a general discussion about intolerance and disrespect.
Don’t you think the intolerance problem is only concerning muslims and buddhists?
It seems like somebody is manipulating a latent and widely diffused racism. What’s your opinion? I’m so sorry I can’t speak Myanmar language to talk more with people and to read newspapers.
    Last additional and personal comment: to me, tolerance is an approach to people and life, whatever disrespectful behavior I will encounter in my life. The best way to enhance tolerance is to communicate, even if it requires a lot of patience and an open mind-set.

    • mydaydream says:

      Hi Lucia, thanks for stopping by to comment. I would say some Buddhists in Myanmar dislike Muslims just because of some myths they have been hearing since their childhood. Plus, our education system does not let us think much. Those who read less books or have never been to a foreign country or those who have grown up in a very closed community will not think any other thing except their nationalist spirit. (Many Myanmar people take pride in being a Myanmar citizen despite under developed situation of the country.) I am a nationalist at heart but my nationalism is like wishing to see my country with good reputation in the world.

      Back to intolerance, I’m not too sure but people you discussed with might have come from similar background and have similar assumptions on this. I like to suggest you to talk with more youths – especially youths volunteering for various causes. The current issue in Myanmar is people feel like “they were isolated” under military a couple of years ago. Then again, “they are being accused of being extremists” after the country has been so called opened up. It is still possible to change the people mindset but I don’t think Buddhists alone could not solve this problem. If only Muslims there become more open-minded as well, we could hold the hope. I mean, we should address why only Buddhists and Muslims are having conflicts in Myanmar? Why not Buddhists and Christians, why not Christians and Hinuds, why not Hindus and Muslims.

      My answer here is it is because of direct opposite in the reglious belief (E.g. Buddhists release cows during their new year while Muslim kill them during Eid or something like this.) + all the myths Buddhists have been taught throughout their life. It will not be fair for Muslims to stop their celebration during Eid but it’s still possible to request them not to do it in town. Likewise, it will be not fair for Buddhists to stop thinking more mosques might threaten the disapperance of Buddhist in Myanmar but it’s still possible to make a survey on the ratio of population following each religion and number of regligious buildings built. Then, all people could get a clear picture if Muslims have enough freedom of religion. If not, Buddhists should be educated with pure figures and statistics. For the moment, all the data seems unreliable.

      After all, that hugely depends on government. No one knows what they are thinking or attempting. I believe, if government would like to address that issue of conflict and stablising the diversity, they could do it – not too easily yet it’s still possible.

  2. Lucia says:

    Thanks for your reply, it helps me in identifying the different point of views involved on this issue.
    (Of course I’ll follow your blog)

  3. sunshine says:

    Yeah myths..may be myanmar people never heard of destruction Bamian buddhas by musllim extremists.they bommbed the statues for many days to completely destroy it..! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwMSo60oIKY ,The aim of every muslims is to convert others to his faith and the reward promised to muslims for converting others is a life in heaven,They are promised heaven if they die for their religion..Nobody intentionally hates them,they are generating hate by their acts,Afghanistan was a buddhist country and after becoming a muslim country there was not a day without war.Most of the buddhists live peacefully in their countries,But in most muslim countries there is violence,they are taught that non muslims will go to hell and only muslims can enter heaven. Just search the Internet for news on violence and jihad by muslims using google..you will know the truth. There are many crooked methods they use to convert women to islam ,read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Jihad. Truth can’t be hidden,why is that most parts of the world where muslims live have this problem..?.I don’t hate them ,but i’m aware how cruel they are.Many people in myanmar had a life isolated from the rest of the world and are not aware of the terrorism unleashed for the past 40 or 50 years on a large scale by muslims,it is not about them killing cows on Eid it is about them killing human,In thailand more than 5000 buddhists were killed by muslims,are you aware of that..?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_and_war

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Jihad

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