Cultural Competence: Can a Buddhist monk be an anti-Muslim Bin Laden?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Cultural Competence
TIME magazine cover Buddhist Terror cover July 1

Click the cover to learn more about the story.

TIME features “the Burmese bin Laden” this week. TIME is reporting on U Wirathu, a monk in a peaceful religion who advocates violence against Muslims—the same tool Osama bin Laden used on behalf of Muslims. (No, the TIME cover at right isn’t what you received at home this week in the U.S. edition; this is TIME’s Asian edition.)

Islam is the world’s second largest religion, after Christianity. Buddhism is fourth. (See our December story about the world’s religious populations.) In Myanmar, formerly know as Burma, Muslims are in the minority and Wirathu says they threaten Burmese nationality. Muslims and Buddhists have been attacking each other there.

Before the magazine was on newsstands, Buddhists criticized it, posting on Facebook mock versions of the Asian cover—with the word “Boycott” added in protest.

The Washington Post quoted political analyst Yan Myo Thein as saying, “Some people misunderstood the title … seeing it as an insult to religion. They believe it’s equating Buddhism with terrorism.”

Wirathu, shown in red robes in the TIME article, responded to it by saying, “A genuine ruby will shine, even if you try to sink it in mud.”

Some say images of country and religion are being confused and condemned.

The TIME article said, “Every religion can be twisted into a destructive force poisoned by ideas that are antithetical to its foundations. Now it’s Buddhism’s turn.”

The problem in gaining cultural competence is that there is no singularly authentic cultural experience. Everyone is a mix of ethnicity, religion, politics, race, family and more. Learning from one person is just the barest beginning. The Read the Spirit/Michigan State University guides to cultural competence use a 100-question format to open that door. But they are just the start.

Can one separate culture, religion or nationality from the others?

Is religion violent, or does politics make it seem that way?

Does the image of Islam change when it becomes the target of violence?

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