Buddhists, Muslims and the Construction of Difference



This chapter analyzes the ways in which Buddhists have constructed their identity vis-à-vis non-Buddhists, and how they, particularly in our current times, have made Muslims the “Other.” We draw upon the work of the historian of religion Jonathan Z. Smith, who provides an instructive model to religion and “Othering.” Showing that Buddhists from the very beginning have had multiple strategies for interaction with the “Other”—ranging from exclusivism to tolerance—we apply Smith’s theoretical framing to the ways in which Theravada Buddhists have made Muslims the “Other.” This process, we argue, has become increasingly exclusivist due to globalization, as well as the rise of global jihadism. Across the region there is a perception that the “Muslim Other” is coming closer, constituting an existential threat to Buddhism.


Buddhist alterity Theravada Buddhist majorities Muslim minorities “Othering” Jonathan Z. Smith 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesYoungstown State UniversityYoungstownUSA
  2. 2.MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and SocietyOsloNorway

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