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      Buddhist Nationalism, Authoritarian Populism, and The Muslim Other in Sri Lanka

      Islamophobia Studies Journal
      Pluto Journals


            Author and article information

            Islamophobia Studies Journal
            Pluto Journals
            1 October 2021
            : 6
            : 2 ( doiID: 10.13169/islastudj.6.issue-2 )
            : 130-149
            University of Queensland, Australia
            © Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley

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            Social & Behavioral Sciences


            1. The concept of “Buddhist Revivalism” is used to analyze colonial-period Buddhist activity (Blackburn 2010, 197).

            2. The Theosophical Society was a movement formed in the United States in 1875 and led by Colonel Henry Steele Olcott. Its agenda was studying and resuscitating Eastern religions. It played a fundamental role in the Buddhist revivalist movement in British Ceylon.

            3. Key characteristics of Protestant Buddhism include the rise of lay activism and authority with the attendant decline of the Buddhist sangha (clergy); emphasis of the rational, scientific character of Buddhism; critique of Christian and Western influences, while adopting norms and forms of organization of Protestant Christianity; and a deeper focus on the “scriptural” textual authority (Blackburn 2010, 199).

            4. The Moors are an ethnic minority group in Sri Lanka, initially comprised of Ceylon Moors and Coast Moors, although this distinction collapsed under a common Muslim identity following the 1915 anti-Muslim riots (Ali 2014, 303).

            5. “Locative pluralisms” refer to the deployment of discourse tailored to respective audiences and spaces. In Ceylon, the Buddhism that concerned Dharmapala was more a social and political formation, than a world religion; in India, his Buddhism was perfectly compatible with Hinduism, just as his British Buddhism was comfortable with Christianity, with a place for both the Hindu Gods and the Christian God (Kemper 2015, 427).

            6. Ancient Ceylon was divided into three regions: Ruhunu, Maya, and Pihiti.

            7. These anxieties were formerly in relation to the ethnic Tamils in Tamil Nadu.

            8. We see this feature later as well, in the context of the civil war between the State and ethnic Tamil separatists. Nationalist discourse played up the proximity of the large capitalist State of Tamil Nadu and its Tamil demographics, which essentially made the Sinhalese a minority in this extended geography.

            9. Ali (2014) locates several waves of anti-Muslim attacks in the post-independence years, including the 1976 Puttalam riots, expulsion and massacre of Muslims from the North by the LTTE in 1990, and incidents of sporadic anti-Muslim violence in the 2000s.

            10. These refer to the Hindutva movement in India and Myanmar's 969 Movement.

            11. The pie chart referred to her shows the demographic breakdown as Muslims—29.73%, Tamils—33.43%, Sinhalese—24.99%, and Others—1.86%. This, however, only applies to the Colombo municipality, and not the larger Colombo district, where the Sinhalese remain a majority in numbers.

            12. “Sinhale” refers to a new name for the country that Buddhist nationalist groups like the BBS are pushing for. Sinhale represents an imagined State where the nation and the Sinhalese race are synonymous (Jones 2015, 39).

            13. A Buddhist Chapter refers to a grouping of the monastic order. In Sri Lanka there are three main Buddhist Chapters: Siam Nikaya, Amarapura Nikaya, and Ramanna Nikaya, although the latter two merged as the Amarapaura-Ramanna Samagri Maha Sangha Sabha in August 2019, making it the biggest Buddhist fraternity in Sri Lanka.


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