Buddhist extremism, anti-Muslim violence and civil war legacies in Sri Lanka

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A post-civil war country may cease military activity, but the social rupture impacts political discourse and ethnic relations, and can lead to collective violence against minorities. Sri Lanka has witnessed multiple examples of anti-Muslim sentiment and violence since the civil war termination, most infamously in 2014 when ethnic riots affected large numbers of people. Buddhist monks appeared to play a prominent role. The lengthy war and ethnonationalist ideologies have produced politico-religious shifts associated with ‘Buddhist extremism’, implicated in these riots and other aggressions. This paper uses interview data to explore the question: what causal mechanisms link post-civil war and extremist ideologies, and how this can lead to ethnic rioting. Interview respondents argue that promoting a monolithic national identity in a heterogeneous country enhances divisions, which can be politically expedient. An outright war victory, militarization of society and lack of peacebuilding sustain ethnic tensions that can be mobilized for further anti-minority violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-159
Number of pages23
JournalAsian Ethnicity
Issue number1
Early online date25 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Buddhist extremism
  • ethnic riots
  • Muslims
  • post-civil war
  • Sri Lanka

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

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