Persecution of Buddhists

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Many Buddhists have experienced persecution from non-Buddhists and other Buddhists during the history of Buddhism. Persecution may refer to unwarranted arrest, imprisonment, beating, torture, or execution. It also may refer to the confiscation or destruction of property, or the incitement of hatred toward Buddhists.

Pre-modern persecutions of Buddhism[edit]


In 224 CE Zoroastrianism was made the official religion of the Persia, and other religions were not tolerated, thus halting the spread of Buddhism westwards.[1] In the 3rd century the Sassanids overran the Bactrian region, overthrowing Kushan rule,[2] were persecuted[clarification needed] with many of their stupas fired.[1] Although strong supporters of Zoroastrianism, the Sassanids tolerated Buddhism and allowed the construction of more Buddhist monasteries. It was during their rule that the Lokottaravada followers erected the two Buddha statues at Bamiyan.[2]

During the second half of the third century, the Zoroastrian high priest Kirder dominated the religious policy of the state.[2] He ordered the destruction of several Buddhist monasteries in Afghanistan, since the amalgam of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism manifested in the form of a "Buddha-Mazda" deity appeared to him as heresy.[2] Buddhism quickly recovered after his death.[2]

Persecution under the Shunga Pushyamitra[edit]

Historical evidence about the persecution of Buddhism in ancient India is missing or unsubstantiated; colonial era writers have used mythical folk stories to construct a part of ancient Buddhist history.[3] For example, the Divyavadana (divine stories), an anthology of Buddhist mythical tales on morals and ethics, many using talking birds and animals, was written in about 2nd century AD. In one of the stories, the razing of stupas and viharas is mentioned with Pushyamitra. This has been historically mapped to the reign of King Pushyamitra of the Shunga Empire about 400 years before Divyavadana was written.

The Divyavadana (divine stories), an anthology of Buddhist mythical tales on morals and ethics, many using talking birds and animals, was written in about 2nd century AD. In one of the stories, the razing of stupas and viharas is mentioned with Pushyamitra. This has been historically mapped to the reign of King Pushyamitra of the Shunga Empire about 400 years before Divyavadana was written. The existence of religious violence between Hinduism and Buddhism, in ancient India, has been disputed.[4][5] The fictional tales of Divyavadana is considered by scholars[3] as being of doubtful value as a historical record. Moriz Winternitz, for example, stated, "these legends [in the Divyāvadāna] scarcely contain anything of much historical value".[3]

The Asokavadana legend has been likened to a Buddhist version of Pushyamitra's attack of the Mauryas, reflecting the declining influence of Buddhism in the Shunga Imperial court. Later Shunga kings were seen as amenable to Buddhism and as having contributed to the building of the stupa at Bharhut.[4] The decline of Buddhism in India did not set in until the Gupta dynasty.

Archeological remains of stupas have been found in Deorkothar that suggest deliberate destruction, conjectured to be one mentioned in Divyavadana about Pushyamitra.[6] However, it is unclear whether the stupas were destroyed in ancient India or a much later period, and the existence of religious violence between Hinduism and Buddhism in ancient India has been disputed.[7][8] It is unclear when the Deorkothar stupas were destroyed, and by whom. The fictional tales of Divyavadana is considered by scholars[3] as being of doubtful value as a historical record. Moriz Winternitz, for example, stated, "these legends [in the Divyāvadāna] scarcely contain anything of much historical value".[3] Similarly, Paul Williams states that the persecution claims with alleged dates of Buddha's nirvana (400 BCE) and the subsequent Pusyamitra reign, as depicted in the Mahasanghika school of early Buddhism are the "most far fetched of all the arguments and hardly worth of any further discussion".[9]

According to other scholars, the Shunga kings were seen as more amenable to Buddhism and as having contributed to the building of the stupa at Bharhut[10] and an inscription at Bodh Gaya at the Mahabodhi Temple records the construction of the temple as follows, "The gift of Nagadevi the wife of King Brahmamitra". Another inscription reads: "The gift of Kurangi, the mother of living sons and the wife of King Indragnimitra, son of Kosiki. The gift also of Srima of the royal palace shrine."[11]


Central Asian and North Western Indian Buddhism weakened in the 6th century following the White Hun invasion who followed their own religions such as Tengri and Manichaean.[2] Around 440 CE they conquered Sogdiana then conquered Gandhara and pushed on into the gangetic plains.[1][2] Their King Mihirkula who ruled from 515 CE suppressed Buddhism destroying monasteries as far as modern-day Allahabad before his son reversed the policy.[2]

Emperor Wuzong of Tang[edit]

Emperor Wuzong of Tang (814-846) indulged in indiscriminate religious persecution, solving a financial crisis by seizing the property of Buddhist monasteries. Buddhism had developed into a major religious force in China during the Tang period, and its monasteries had tax-exempt status. Wuzong closed many Buddhist shrines, confiscated their property, and sent the monks and nuns home to lay life. Apart from economic reasons, Wuzong's motivation was also philosophical or ideological. As a zealous Taoist, he considered Buddhism a foreign religion that was harmful to Chinese society. He went after other foreign religions as well, all but eradicating Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism in China, and his persecution of the growing Nestorian Christian churches sent Chinese Christianity into a decline from which it never recovered.

King Langdarma of Tibet[edit]

Langdarma was a Tibetan King, who reigned from 838-841 CE. He is believed to have been anti-Buddhist and a follower of the Bön religion.

Oirat Mongols[edit]

The Oirats (Western Mongols) converted to Tibetan Buddhism around 1615. The Dzungars were a confederation of several Oirat tribes that emerged suddenly in the early 17th century. The Dzungar Khanate was the last great nomadic empire in Asia. In the 18th century, the Dzungars were annihilated by Qianlong Emperor in several campaigns. About 80% of the Dzungar population, or around 500,000 to 800,000 people, were killed during or after the Zunghar Genocide by Manchu Bannermen and Khalkha Mongols during the Manchu conquest in 1755-1757.[12]

The Kalmyk Khanate was founded in the 17th century with Tibetan Buddhism as its main religion, following the earlier migration of the Oirats from Dzungaria through Central Asia to the steppe around the mouth of the Volga River. During the course of the 18th century, they were absorbed by the Russian Empire, which was then expanding to the south and east. The Russian Orthodox church pressured many Kalmyks to adopt Orthodoxy. In the winter of 1770-1771, about 300,000 Kalmyks set out to return to China. Their goal was to retake control of Dzungaria from the Qing dynasty of China.[13] Along the way many were attacked and killed by Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, their historical enemies based on intertribal competition for land, and many more died of starvation and disease. After several months of travel, only one-third of the original group reached Dzungaria and had no choice but to surrender to the Qing upon arrival.[14]

Persecution by militaristic regimes[edit]

Imperial Japan[edit]

Buddhist monks were forced to return to the laity, Buddhist property confiscated, Buddhist institutions closed, and Buddhist schools reorganized under state control in the name of modernizing Japan during the early Meiji Period.[15] The state-control of Buddhism was part of Imperial Japanese policy both at home and abroad in Korea and other conquered territories.[16]

Persecution in Myanmar[edit]

The Government of Myanmar has attempted to control Buddhist institutions through coercive means, including the intimidation, torture, and murder of monks.[17] After monks played an active role in the protest movements against the military dictatorship in 2007, the state cracked down on Buddhist monks and monasteries.[18]

Persecution by nationalist political parties[edit]

Persecution in the Republic of China under Kuomintang[edit]

During the Northern Expedition, in 1926 in Guangxi, Kuomintang Muslim General Bai Chongxi led his troops in destroying Buddhist temples and smashing idols, turning the temples into schools and Kuomintang party headquarters.[19] It was reported that almost all Buddhist monasteries in Guangxi were destroyed by Bai in this manner. The monks were removed.[20] Bai led a wave of anti foreignism in Guangxi, attacking American, European, and other foreigners and missionaries, and generally making the province unsafe for foreigners. Westerners fled from the province, and some Chinese Christians were also attacked as imperialist agents.[21] The three goals of his movement were anti-foreignism, anti-imperialism, and anti-religion. Bai led the anti-religious movement, against superstition. Muslims do not believe in superstition (see Shirk (Islam)) and his religion may have influenced Bai to take action against the Idols in the temples and the superstitious practices rampant in China. Huang Shaoxiong, also a Kuomintang member of the New Guangxi Clique, supported Bai's campaign, and Huang was not a Muslim, the anti religious campaign was agreed upon by all Guangxi Kuomintang members.[21]

During the Kuomintang Pacification of Qinghai the Muslim General Ma Bufang destroyed Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with support from the Kuomintang government.[22] Ma served as a general in the National Revolutionary Army, and sought to expand the Republic of China's control over all of Qinghai, as well as the possibility of bringing Tibet back into the Republic by force. When Ma Bufang launched seven expeditions into Golog, killing thousands of Tibetans, the Republic of China government, known as the Kuomintang, supported Ma Bufang.[22] Ma was highly anti-communist, and he and his army wiped out many Tibetans in the northeast and eastern Qinghai, and destroyed Tibetan Buddhist temples.[23]

Persecution by Christians[edit]


Buddhist Kalmyk people[24][25][26][27]

Around 1921 Buddhist murals at the Mogao Caves were damaged and vandalized by White Russian exiles.[28]

South Korea[edit]

Some South Korean Buddhists have denounced what they view as discriminatory measures against them and their religion by the administration of President Lee Myung-bak, which they attribute to Lee being part of the Somang Presbyterian Church in Seoul.[29]

The Buddhist Jogye Order has accused the Lee government of discriminating against Buddhism and favoring Christianity by ignoring certain Buddhist temples but including Christian churches in certain public documents.[29] In 2006, according to the Asia Times, "Lee also sent a video prayer message to a Christian rally held in the southern city of Busan in which the worship leader prayed feverishly: 'Lord, let the Buddhist temples in this country crumble down!'"[30] Further, according to an article in Buddhist-Christian Studies: "Over the course of the last decade [1990s] a fairly large number of Buddhist temples in South Korea have been destroyed or damaged by fire by misguided Christian fundamentalists. More recently, Buddhist statues have been identified as idols, and attacked and decapitated in the name of Jesus. Arrests are hard to effect, as the arsonists and vandals work by stealth of night." A 2008 incident in which police investigated protesters who had been given sanctuary in the Jogye temple in Seoul and searched a car driven by Jigwan, executive chief of the Jogye order, led to protests by Buddhists who claimed police had treated Jigwan as a criminal.[29]

In March 2009, in an effort to reach out to Buddhists affected by recent events, the President and First Lady participated in a Korean Buddhist conference where he and his wife were seen joining palms in prayer during chanting along with participants.[31] The discomfort among the Buddhists has gradually appeased since then.[32][33]

Sri Lanka[edit]

Under British rule, Christians were openly favoured for jobs and promotions.[34] Robert Inglis, a 19th-century British Conservative, likened Buddhism to "idolatry" during a parliamentary debate over the relationship of "Buddhist priests" to the British colonial government, in 1852.[35] During the Sri Lankan Civil War, Buddhists were at the hands of many terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.[36] During this period, pinnacle of Buddhists; Temple of the Tooth, where sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha is kept and worshiped was attacked by the LTTE. The sacred Bo tree that relates to the Acetic tree, under which the Buddha attained Buddhahood too was attacked by the said terrorist group, killing around three hundred pilgrims.[36]


As early as 1953 rumoured allegations had surfaced of discrimination against Buddhists in Vietnam. These allegations stated that Catholic Vietnamese armed by the French had been raiding villages. By 1961, the shelling of pagodas in Vietnam was being reported in the Australian and American media.[37]

After the Catholic Ngô Đình Diệm came to power in South Vietnam, backed by the United States, he favoured his relatives and co-religionists over Buddhists. Though Buddhists made up 80% of Vietnam's population, Catholics were favoured for high positions in the army and civil service. Half of the 123 National Assembly members were Catholic. Buddhists also required special government permits to hold large meetings, a stipulation generally made for meetings of trade unions.[38] In May 1963, the government forbade the flying of Buddhist flags on Vesak. After Buddhist protesters clashed with government troops, nine people were killed.[38] In protest, the Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức burned himself to death in Saigon.[39] On August 21, the Xá Lợi Pagoda raids led to a death toll estimated in the hundreds.

Persecution by Hindus[edit]


The first alleged persecution of Buddhists in India took place in the 2nd century BC by King Pushyamitra.[40]

There is also mention of the Hunnic onslaught on Taxila, the persecution of Buddhist monks by Mihirkula.[41][42]


The banishment of Buddhist monks from Nepal was part of a government campaign to suppress the resurgence of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal in the early decades of the 20th century.[43] There were two deportations of monks from Kathmandu, in 1926 and 1944.[43][44][45][46]

The exiled monks were the first group of monks to be seen in Nepal since the 14th century. They were at the forefront of a movement to revive Theravada Buddhism which had disappeared from the country more than five hundred years ago. The Rana regime disapproved of Buddhism and Nepal Bhasa, the mother tongue of the Newar people. It saw the activities of the monks and their growing following as a threat. When police harassment and imprisonment failed to deter the monks, all of whom were Newars, they were deported.[43][45]

Among the charges made against them were preaching a new faith, converting Hindus, encouraging women to renounce and thereby undermining family life and writing books in Nepal Bhasa.[47][48]

Persecution by Muslims[edit]


The Muslim Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, tried to use heavy artillery to destroy the statues. Another attempt to destroy the Bamiyan statues was made by the 18th century Persian king Nader Afshar, directing cannon fire at them.[49]

The enormous statues, the male Salsal ("light shines through the universe") and the (smaller) female Shamama ("Queen Mother"),[50] as they were called by the locals, did not fail to fire the imagination of Islamic writers in centuries past. The larger statue reappears as the malevolent giant Salsal in medieval Turkish tales.[51]

Afghan Muslim King Abdur Rahman Khan destroyed its face during a military campaign against the Shia Hazara rebellion.[52] A Frenchman named Dureau had pictured it in 1847.[53]

The Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed by the fundamentalist Islamist Taliban regime in 2001 in defiance of worldwide condemnation. The statues were damaged by rockets and gunfire.

Excavators at the Buddhist site of Mes Aynak have been denounced as "promoting Buddhism" and threatened by the Taliban and many of the Afghan excavators who are working for purely financial reasons don't feel any connection to the Buddhist artifacts.[54]


Swat Valley in Pakistan has many Buddhist carvings, stupas and Jehanabad contains a Seated Buddha status.[55] Kushan era Buddhist stupas and status in Swat valley were demolished by the Taliban and after two attempts by the Taliban, the Jehanabad Buddha's face was dynamited.[56][57][58] Only the Bamiyan Buddhas were larger than the carved giant Buddha status in Swat near Mangalore which the Taliban attacked.[59] The government did nothing to safeguard the statue after the initial attempt at destroying the Buddha, which did not cause permanent harm, and when the second attack took place on the statue the feet, shoulders, and face were demolished.[60] Islamists such as the Taliban and looters destroyed much of Pakistan's Buddhist artifacts left over from the Buddhist Gandhara civilization especially in Swat Valley.[61] The Taliban deliberately targeted Gandhara Buddhist relics for destruction.[62] The Christian Archbishop of Lahore Lawrence John Saldanha wrote a letter to Pakistan's government denouncing the Taliban activities in Swat Valley including their destruction of Buddha statues and their attacks on Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus.[63] Gandhara Buddhist artifacts were illegally looted by smugglers.[64] A rehabilitation attempt on the Buddha was made by Luca Olivieri from Italy.[65] A group of Italians helped repair the Buddha.[66]


In Bangladesh, the persecution of the indigenous tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts such as the Chakma, Marma, Tripura and others who are mainly Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Animists, has been described as genocidal.[67][68][69][70][71] The Chittagong Hill Tracts are located bordering India, Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, and is the home to 500,000 indigenous people. The perpetrators of are the Bangladeshi military and the Bengali Muslim settlers, who together have burned down Buddhist and Hindu temples, killed many Chakmas, and carried out a policy of gang-rape against the indigenous people. There are also accusations of Chakmas being forced to convert to Islam, many of them children who have been abducted for this purpose. The conflict started soon after Bangladeshi independence in 1972 when the Constitution imposed Bengali as the sole official language, Islam as the state religion - with no cultural or linguistic rights to minority populations. Subsequently, the government encouraged and sponsored massive settlement by Bangladeshis in region, which changed the demographics from 98 percent indigenous in 1971 to fifty percent by 2000. The government allocated a full third of the Bangladeshi military to the region to support the settlers, sparking a protracted guerilla war between Hill tribes and the military.[68] During this conflict which officially ended in 1997, and in the subsequent period, a large number of human rights violations against the indigenous peoples have been reported, with violence against indigenous women being particularly extreme.[72][73]

During the 2012 Ramu violence a 25,000-strong mob set fire to at least five temples and dozens of homes throughout the town and surrounding villages after seeing the picture, which they claimed was posted by Uttam Barua, a local Buddhist man, AFP reported.[74]

Bengali settlers and soldiers have raped native Jumma (Chakma) women "with impunity" with the Bangladeshi security forces doing little to protect the Jummas and instead assisting the rapists and settlers.[75] The settlers are Muslims.[76] The Karuna Bihar Buddhist temple was attacked by Bengali settlers.[77]


Various personages involved in the revival of Buddhism in India such as Anagarika Dharmapala and The Mahabodhi Movement of the 1890s as well as Dr. B. R. Ambedkar hold the Muslim Rule in India responsible for the decay of Buddhism in India.[78][79][80][81][82]

In 1193, Qutb-ud-din Aybak, a Turkish commander, seized control of Delhi, leaving defenseless the northeastern territories that were the heart of Buddhist India. The Mahabodhi Temple was almost completely destroyed by the invading Muslim forces.[79] One of Qutb-ud-Din's generals, Ikhtiar Uddin Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, invaded Magadha and destroyed the Buddhist shrines at Nalanda.[83] The Buddhism of Magadha underwent a significant decline under Khilji.[79]

In 1200 Muhammad Khilji, one of Qutb-ud-Din's generals destroyed monasteries fortified by the Sena armies, such as the one at Vikramshila. Many monuments of ancient Indian civilization were destroyed by the invading armies, including Buddhist sanctuaries[84] near Benares. Buddhist monks who escaped the massacre fled to Nepal, Tibet and South India.[85]

According to the Isdhoo (Laamu Atoll), monks from monasteries of the southern atoll of Haddhunmathi were brought to Malé and beheaded.[85][not in citation given]

Timur destroyed Buddhist establishments and raided areas in which Buddhism had flourished.[86][87]

Mughal rule also contributed to the decline of Buddhism. They are reported to have destroyed many Hindu temples and Buddhist shrines alike or converted many sacred Hindu places into Muslim shrines and mosques.[88] Mughal rulers like Aurangzeb destroyed Buddhist temples and monasteries and replaced them with mosques.[89]

The Ladakh Buddhist Association has said: "There is a deliberate and organised design to convert Kargil's Buddhists to Islam. In the last four years, about 50 girls and married women with children were taken and converted from village Wakha alone. If this continues unchecked, we fear that Buddhists will be wiped out from Kargil in the next two decades or so. Anyone objecting to such allurement and conversions is harassed."[90][91]

Per Will Durant said, "The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within." Mahmud, a Muslim invader Turkish chieftain, massacred many Buddhist monks and burnt many shrines, stupas and temples. He viewed Buddhism as a peasant version of Hinduism, and either forcibly converted them to Islam or prosecuted them to death.[92]


The destruction of the Buddhist artifacts by Islamists took place in the aftermath of the coup in which Mohamed Nasheed was toppled as President.[93] Islamist politicians entered the government which succeeded Nasheed.[94][95]

Buddhist antiquities were obliterated by Islamist radicals in the National Museum.[96]

The Museum was stormed by Islamists who destroyed the Buddhist artifacts.[97][98]

The non Muslim artifacts of Buddhist provenance were specifically singled out by the attackers.[99]

The destruction was caught on camera.[100]

Most of Maldive's Buddhist physical history was obliterated.[101]

Hindu artifacts were also targeted for obliteration and the actions have been compared to the attacks on the Buddhas by the Taliban.[102][103][104]

February 7, 2012 was the date of the anti-Buddhist attack by the Islamists.[105]


The violence and long lasting tension was reignited on the 28th of May 2012. It was reported that daughter of U Hla Tin, of Thabyechaung Village named Ma Thida Htwe aged 27 was raped then killed by three Muslim men. These men were later arrested.[106][107][108] On March 20, 2013, at about 9AM U Khin Maung Win and Daw Aye Aye Naing came to the Muslim-owned New Weint Sein gold shop to sell their gold comb. The Bangali-Muslim shop-owner and her elder sister slapped the Rakhine Buddhist couple. The Rohingya Muslim husband of the shop-owner Htun Htun Oo (a) Ar-shid and his employee Nyi Nyi came in and started hitting U Khin Maung Win with timber 2x4 pieces. They both were yelling out that the Rakhine Buddhist couple and their children were trying to rob their gold shop. As their Muslim relatives from other Rohingya gold shops nearby joined the attack the bystanders started shouting at them to stop such and then called the police.[109]

On the same day, a Buddhist monk from Hanzar village of One-dwin township had come into the Meiktila town as a passenger on a motorbike and they were unknowingly riding through the Da-hart-tan Muslim ward the biggest Muslim quarters in Meiktila. Already-agitated Muslims saw him and chased the motorbike and managed to strike him from behind with a sword and he fell to the ground from his pillion-riding position on the motorbike. He had a long deep gash on back of his head just above his left ear. Muslim mobs forcefully took off his robe and dragged the direly-wounded Buddhist monk into the nearby Myo-ma mosque. Once inside the mosque they poured acid and petrol over the wounded Buddhist monk and burned him alive.[110] Burmese-Buddhist workers, Selayang in Malaysia were killed by Bengali-Muslims On May 30, 2013[111]


Primarily Buddhist Thailand has been involved in a fight with Muslim insurgents in the South. Buddhists have been beheaded[112] and clergy and teachers are frequently threatened with death.[113] Shootings of Buddhists are quite frequent in the South,[114][115] as are bombings,[116][117] and attacks on religious establishments.[118]


The historical area of what is modern day Xinjiang consisted of the distinct areas of the Tarim Basin and Dzungaria, and was originally populated by Indo-European Tocharian and Iranic Saka peoples who practiced the Buddhist religion. The area was subjected to Turkification and Islamification at the hands of invading Turkic Muslims.

Buddhist Uyghur migration into the Tarim Basin[edit]

The discovery of the Tarim mummies has created a stir in the Turkic-speaking Uighur population of the region, who claim the area has always belonged to their culture, while it was not until the 10th century when the Uighurs are said by scholars to have moved to the region from Central Asia.[119] American Sinologist Victor H. Mair claims that "the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucasoid, or Europoid" with "east Asian migrants arriving in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin around 3,000 years ago", while Mair also notes that it was not until 842 that the Uighur peoples settled in the area.[120]

Protected by the Taklamakan Desert from steppe nomads, elements of Tocharian culture survived until the 7th century, when the arrival of Turkic immigrants from the collapsing Uyghur Khaganate of modern-day Mongolia began to absorb the Tocharians to form the modern-day Uyghur ethnic group.[120]

Professor James A. Millward described the original Uyghurs as physically Mongoloid, giving as an example the images in Bezeklik at temple 9 of the Uyghur patrons, until they began to mix with the Tarim Basin's original eastern Iranian inhabitants.[121]

The modern Uyghurs are now a mixed hybrid of Mongoloid and Caucasian.[122][123][124]

Turkic-Islamic Kara-Khanid conquest of Iranic Saka Buddhist Khotan[edit]

The Islamic attacks and conquest of the Buddhist cities east of Kashgar was started by the Turkic Karakhanid Satok Bughra Khan who in 966 converted to Islam and many tales emerged about the Karakhanid ruling family's war against the Buddhists, Satok Bughra Khan's nephew or grandson Ali Arslan was slain by the Buddhists during the war. Buddhism lost territory to Islam during the Karakhanid reign around the Kashgar area.[125] A long war ensued between Islamic Kashgar and Buddhist Khotan which eventually ended in the conquest of Khotan by Kashgar.[126]

Iranic Saka peoples originally inhabited Yarkand and Kashgar in ancient times. The Buddhist Iranic Saka Kingdom of Khotan was the only city-state that was not conquered yet by the Turkic Uyghur (Buddhist) and the Turkic Qarakhanid (Muslim) states and its ruling family used Indian names and the population were devout Buddhists. The Buddhist entitites of Dunhuang and Khotan had a tight-knit partnership, with intermarriage between Dunhuang and Khotan's rulers and Dunhuang's Mogao grottos and Buddhist temples being funded and sponsored by the Khotan royals, whose likenesses were drawn in the Mogao grottoes.[127] The rulers of Khotan were aware of the menace they faced since they arranged for the Mogao grottoes to paint a growing number of divine figures along with themselves. Halfway in the 20th century Khotan came under attack by the Qarakhanid ruler Musa, and in what proved to be a pivotal moment in the Turkification and Islamification of the Tarim Basin, the Karakhanid leader Yusuf Qadir Khan conquered Khotan around 1006.[127]

The Taẕkirah is a genre of literature written about Sufi Muslim saints in Altishahr. Written sometime in the period from 1700-1849, the Eastern Turkic language (modern Uyghur) Taẕkirah of the Four Sacrificed Imams provides an account of the Muslim Karakhanid war against the Khotanese Buddhists, containing a story about Imams, from Mada'in city (possibly in modern-day Iraq) came 4 Imams who travelled to help the Islamic conquest of Khotan, Yarkand, and Kashgar by Yusuf Qadir Khan, the Qarakhanid leader.[128] Accounts of the battles waged by the invading Muslims upon the indigenous Buddhists takes up most of the Taẕkirah with descriptions such as "blood flows like the Oxus", "heads litter the battlefield like stones" being used to describe the murderous battles over the years until the "infidels" were defeated and driven towards Khotan by Yusuf Qadir Khan and the four Imams, but the Imams were assassinated by the Buddhists prior to the last Muslim victory so Yusuf Qadir Khan assigned Khizr Baba, who was born in Khotan but whose mother originated from western Turkestan's Mawarannahr, to take care of the shrine of the 4 Imams at their tomb and after Yusuf Qadir Khan's conquest of new land in Altishahr towards the east, he adopted the title "King of the East and China".[129] Due to the Imams deaths in battle and burial in Khotan, Altishahr, despite their foreign origins, they are viewed as local saints by the current Muslim population in the region.[130]

Muslim works such as Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam contained anti-Buddhist rhetoric and polemic against Buddhist Khotan,[131] aimed at "dehumanizing" the Khotanese Buddhists, and the Muslims Kara-Khanids conquered Khotan just 26 years following the completion of Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam.[131]

Muslims gouged the eyes of Buddhist murals along Silk Road caves and Kashgari recorded in his Turkic dictionary an anti-Buddhist poem/folk song.[132]

Satuq Bughra Khan and his son directed endeavors to proselytize Islam among the Turks and engage in military conquests.[133] The Islamic conquest of Khotan led to alarm in the east and Dunhuang's Cave 17, which contained Khotanese literary works, was closed shut possibly after its caretakers heard that Khotan's Buddhist buildings were razed by the Muslims, the Buddhist religion had suddenly ceased to exist in Khotan.[134]

In 1006, the Muslim Kara-Khanid ruler Yusuf Kadir (Qadir) Khan of Kashgar conquered Khotan, ending Khotan's existence as an independent state. The war was described as a Muslim Jihad (holy war) by the Japanese Professor Takao Moriyasu. The Karakhanid Turkic Muslim writer Mahmud al-Kashgari recorded a short Turkic language poem about the conquest:

English translation:


We came down on them like a flood, We went out among their cities, We tore down the idol-temples, We shat on the Buddha's head!


[131][132][134][135][verification needed][136][137]

Alternate English translation:


We came down on them like a flood We went out upon their cities We tore down the idol temples We shit upon the idols' heads.



In Turkic:


kälginläyü aqtïmïz kändlär üzä čïqtïmïz furxan ävin yïqtïmïz burxan üzä sïčtïmïz



Alternate Turkic transliteration:


kãlñizlãyũ aqtimiz kãndlãr õzã čiqtimiz furxan ãwin yiqtimiz burxan ũzã sičtimiz



German translation:


Wir strömten wie eine alles vor sich herschiebende Flut, wir drangen in ihre Städte ein (eroberten sie), wir zerstörten die buddhistischen Tempel, wir koteten auf die Buddha-statuen.



Idols of "infidels" were subjected to desecration by being defecated upon by Muslims when the "infidel" country was conquered by the Muslims, according to Muslim tradition.[138]

Islamic conquest of the Buddhist Uighurs[edit]

The Buddhist Uyghurs of the Kingdom of Qocho and Turfan were converted to Islam by conquest during a ghazat (holy war) at the hands of the Muslim Chagatai Khizr Khwaja.[139]

Kara Del was a Mongolian ruled and Uighur populated Buddhist Kingdom. The Muslim Chagatai Khan Mansur invaded and used the sword to make the population convert to Islam.[140]

After being converted to Islam, the descendants of the previously Buddhist Uyghurs in Turfan failed to retain memory of their ancestral legacy and falsely believed that the "infidel Kalmuks" (Dzungars) were the ones who built Buddhist monuments in their area.[141][142][143][144]

Modern events[edit]

During the Kumul Rebellion in Xinjiang in the 1930s, Buddhist murals were deliberately vandalized by Muslims.[145]

Buddhist murals at the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves were damaged by local Muslim population whose religion proscribed figurative images of sentient beings, the eyes and mouths in particular were often gouged out. Pieces of murals were also broken off for use as fertilizer by the locals.[146]

Uyghur Muslim opposition to a Buddhist Aspara statue in Ürümqi in Xinjiang was cited as a possible reason for its destruction in 2012.[147][148] A Muslim Kazakh viewed a giant Buddha statue near Ürümqi as "alien cultural symbols".[149]

Islam Awazi released a video called "We Are Coming O Buddhists" (نحن قادمون أيّها البوذيون) of a Turkistan Islamic Party affiliated Rohingya cleric named Sheikh Abu Dhar ‘Azzam (Abu Dhar al-Burmi) who also called for the killing of Buddhists in addition to Chinese, saying in Arabic that "Killing you... Slaughtering you... And cutting off your heads is all good", "Kill you, spill your blood, cut off your head is a good thing", the unedited message said "We are Muslims, and you are our enemies oh Buddhists and Chinese: You will not see us and killing you, and spilling your blood, and cutting your heads of: all of it is good, insha Allah" ( نحن مسلمون، ولو كنتم أعداءنا أيُّها البوذيون والصينيون: لن تروا منا إلا خيرًا، وقتلكم وإسالة دمائكم، وقطع رؤوسكم: كله خير إن شاء الله.ـ) on 24 February 2014, he also said "we are a nation that loves death while you are a nation that loves wine and women, and we are coming insha Allah, we want to kill Buddhists to the east of this land and to the west of it". ( إننا قوم نحب الموت كما تحبون الخمر والنساء، وإننا قادمون إن شاء الله، نحن نريد أن نقتل البوذيين في شرق الأرض وغربها.ـ), he also said "those Chinese Buddhists, their small eyes, flat noses. Judgment day will not come, until we attacked them. Judgment day will not come, until we slaughter them. Judgment day will not come, until our war with them and attacking them." ( وأوصيكم بأن هؤلاء الصينيين البوذيين صغار الأعين فطس الأنوف: لا تقوم الساعة حتى نقاتلهم، لا تقوم الساعة حتى نذبحهم، لا تقوم الساعة حتى نتلاحم معهم، ونقاتل ضدهم.ـ)[150][151] In the Turkistan Islamic Party's Turkestan Al-Islamiyya magazine, Issue 13, Abu Dhar 'Azzam (Abu Dhar Al-Burmi) congratulated the Tsarnaev brothers on their terrorist attack in the Boston Marathon bombing, saying In the very house of unbelief, two Chechen brothers destroyed the infidels' fortresses on April 16, 2013. During the [ensuing] search [by the authorities for the perpetrators], the elder brother died as a martyr in the field of glory and honor, Allah willing. The younger brother, Dzokhar, remained, and told his dear nation: 'We did this operation as revenge for what America does in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.' He didn't mention his homeland Chechnya, since this jihad is a jihad of [an entire] nation, not [a campaign] for the liberation of a single land.... The Muslims' lands are one and their honor is one.[152] Abu Dhar Azzam called upon Muslims to attack Germany, China, and Burma, saying : Rise O servants of Allah to help your brothers and sisters!, Rise to save your sons and daughters! Do your best in jihad, O guardians of creed and [monotheism], against the enemies of Allah the idolatrous Buddhists, and target the most important installations of Burma, China and Germany, and their interests and the interests of the United Nations, which supports these massacres and this genocide in Arakan.[153] Abu Dhar ‘Azzam featured in a video released by TIP titled "We Have To Empower Islam In the Depths Of Our Hearts".[154]

Persecution under Communism[edit]

Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge[edit]

The Khmer Rouge, which was basically Maoist, actively imposed an atheistic agrarian revolution, resulting in the persecution of ethnic minorities and Buddhist monks during their reign from 1975 to 1979.[155][156] Buddhist institutions and temples were destroyed and Buddhist monks and teachers were killed in large numbers.[157] A third of the nation's monasteries were destroyed along with numerous holy texts and items of high artistic quality. 25,000 Buddhist monks were massacred by the regime.[156] Pol Pot believed Buddhism to be a decadent affectation, and he sought to eliminate Buddhism's 1,500-year-old mark on Cambodia,[156] while still maintaining the structures of the traditional Buddhist base.[158]


Since the communist revolution, Buddhism was at times severely restricted and brought under state-control. In addition, "Marxist-Leninist atheism has been widely publicized, resulting in steadily decreasing religious communities", especially in areas with developed economies. In 1989, less than 12% of the population held religious beliefs.[159] During the Cultural Revolution, Buddhists were actively persecuted and sent for re-education, and temples, statues, and sutras were vandalized and destroyed. In recent years, Buddhism has been undergoing a revival but most Buddhist institutions are within the confines of the state.[citation needed]


Although many temples and monasteries have been rebuilt after the cultural revolution, Tibetan Buddhists have largely been confined by the Government of the People's Republic of China.[160] Buddhist monks and nuns have been reported tortured and killed by the Chinese military, according to all human rights groups.[161] There were over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet, and nearly all were ransacked and destroyed by the Chinese communists, mainly during the Cultural Revolution.[162] Analysis of a bulk of documents has shown that many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries were destroyed by the Chinese communists before cultural revolution.[163][not in citation given] Moreover, the "Chinese Communist Party has launched a three-year drive to promote atheism in the Buddhist region of Tibet", with Xiao Huaiyuan, a leader in the Chinese Communist Party Propaganda Department in Tibet, stating that it would "help peasants and herdsmen free themselves from the negative influence of religion. Intensifying propaganda on atheism is especially important for Tibet because atheism plays an extremely important role in promoting economic construction, social advancement and socialist spiritual civilization in the region." He further said it would push "people of all ethnic groups in the region to raise their ideological and ethical quality, to learn a civilized and healthy life style and to strive to build a united, prosperous and civilized new Tibet."[164]


Buddhist monks were persecuted in Mongolia during communist rule up until democratization in 1990.[165] Khorloogiin Choibalsan complied with the orders of Joseph Stalin, destroying almost all of Mongolia's over 700 Buddhist monasteries and killing thousands of monks.[166]

North Korea[edit]

During the 1960s and 1970s, "North Korea effectively exterminated all signs of Buddhism" in the region.[167] Phil Zuckerman states that "... North Korea maintains a state-sanctioned and enforced atheism, with the only 'religion' permissible being that of the worship of the dictator", and notes that though atheism and totalitarianism make a repressive combination, totalitarianism in any government, whether theistic or atheistic, may be the bigger problem. [168]

Soviet Union[edit]

The Soviet Union held that Buddhism had "nothing to do with militant atheism, which was based on the Marxist-materialist interpretation of the laws of nature and society".[169] In 1929, "many monasteries were forcibly closed and many monks arrested and sent into exile."[169] Sergei Blagov writes:

The Buryats, a nomadic people, commenced converting to Tibetan Buddhism in the 16th century and there were some 200 temples and monasteries before the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. But during Stalin's purges and persecution of all faiths in the late 1930s, thousands of lamas, or priests of Tibetan Buddhism, were executed or sent to the gulags. Virtually all monasteries and temples were destroyed.[170]


Despite the communist regime's hostility, Buddhism is still widely practiced in Vietnam. According to Human Rights News, "Vietnam continues to systematically imprison and persecute independent Buddhists as well as followers of other religions."[171] The leaders of the Unified Buddhist Congregation of Vietnam, Thích Huyền Quang and Thích Quảng Độ were imprisoned for decades. Thich Nhat Hanh has spoken out about the wiping out of his spiritual tradition in Vietnam. [172]


In 1998, long after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, adherents were attacked by interior ministry special troops who forcefully dispersed Buddhist monks who were involving themselves in regional politics. The Buddhists were trying to prevent unique Tibetan drawings from being sent on a year-long tour through American cities.[173]


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  167. Ross, Jeffrey Ian (4 March 2015). Religion and Violence: An Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict from Antiquity to the Present. Routledge. p. 776. ISBN 9781317461098. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Burmese government persecuted approximately 2,000 Buddhist monks who, refusing to ahdere to government rule that ultimately contravened Buddhist philosophy, were either arrested or bayoneted by government troops. During that time, North Korea effectively exterminated all signs of Buddhism, and Cambodia's Pol Pot regime implemented a similar extermination program of Buddhist clergy.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  168. Bullivant, Stephen; Ruse, Michael (21 November 2013). The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. OUP Oxford. p. 506. ISBN 9780191667398. Plagued with poverty and starvation, and characterized by the entrenched denial of basic human or civil rights, North Korea maintains a state-sanctioned and enforced atheism, with the only 'religion' permissible being that of the worship of the dictator.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • Chakma, Kabita; Hill, Glen (2013). "Indigenous Women and Culture in the Colonized Chittagong Hills Tracts of Bangladesh". In Kamala Visweswaran (ed.). Everyday Occupations: Experiencing Militarism in South Asia and the Middle East. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 132–157. ISBN 978-0812244878.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Gray, Richard A. (1994). "Genocide in the Chittagong Hill tracts of Bangladesh". Reference Services Review. 22 (4): 59–79. doi:10.1108/eb049231 [archive].<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • O'Brien, Sharon (2004). "The Chittagong Hill Tracts". In Dinah Shelton (ed.). Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity. Macmillan Library Reference. pp. 176–177.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mey, Wolfgang, ed. (1984). Genocide in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Moshin, A. (2003). The Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: On the Difficult Road to Peace. Boulder, Col.: Lynne Rienner Publishers.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Roy, Rajkumari (2000). Land Rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

  • There can be no doubt that the fall of Buddhism in India was due to the invasions of the Musalmans. Islam came out as the enemy of the 'But'. The word 'But' as everybody knows, is the Arabic word and means an idol. Thus the origin of the word indicates that in the Moslem mind idol worship had come to be identified with the Religion of the Buddha. To the Muslims, they were one and the same thing. The mission to break the idols thus became the mission to destroy Buddhism. Islam destroyed Buddhism not only in India but wherever it went. Before Islam came into being Buddhism was the religion of Bactria, Parthia, Afghanistan, Gandhar, and Chinese Turkestan, as it was of the whole of Asia.
    • B. R. Ambedkar, "The decline and fall of Buddhism," Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. III, Government of Maharashtra. 1987, p. 229
  • The Mussalman invaders sacked the Buddhist universities of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Jagaddala, Odantapuri to name only a few. They razed to the ground Buddhist monasteries with which the country was studded. The monks fled away in thousands to Nepal, Tibet and other places outside India. A very large number were killed outright by the Muslim commanders.
    • B. R. Ambedkar, "The decline and fall of Buddhism," Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. III, Government of Maharashtra. 1987, p. 238
  • How the Buddhist priesthood perished by the sword of the Muslim invaders has been recorded by the Muslim historians themselves. Summarizing the evidence relating to the slaughter of the Buddhist Monks perpetrated by the Musalman General in the course of his invasion of Bihar in 1197 AD, Mr. Vincent Smith says, "....Great quantities of plunder were obtained, and the slaughter of the 'shaven headed Brahmans', that is to say the Buddhist monks, was so thoroughly completed, that when the victor sought for someone capable of explaining the contents of the books in the libraries of the monasteries, not a living man could be found who was able to read them. 'It was discovered,' we are told, 'that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindi tongue they call a college Bihar.' "Such was the slaughter of the Buddhist priesthood perpetrated by the Islamic invaders. The axe was struck at the very root. For by killing the Buddhist priesthood, Islam killed Buddhism. This was the greatest disaster that befell the religion of the Buddha in India....
    • Vincent Smith, quoted in B. R. Ambedkar, "The decline and fall of Buddhism," Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. III, Government of Maharashtra. 1987, p. 238
  • From 986 CE, the Muslim Turks started raiding northwest India from Afghanistan, plundering western India early in the eleventh century. Forced conversions to Islam were made, and Buddhist images smashed, due to the Islamic dislike of idolatry. Indeed in India, the Islamic term for an 'idol' became 'budd'.
    • Peter Harvey (2013). An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. Cambridge University Press. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-521-85942-4.
  • ... Khalji’s military exploits in the east also resulted in conversions to Islam. About the end of the twelfth or the beginning of the thirteenth century, he marched into Bihar and attacked the University centres of Nalanda, Vikramshila and Uddandapur, erecting a fortress at the site of Uddandapur or Odantapuri. The Buddhist monks in these places were massacred and the common people, deprived of their priests and teachers, turned some to Brahmanism and some to Islam. Buddhism did not die out immediately or completely in Bihar. But Bakhtiyar’s raid on Bihar did deliver a shattering blow to Buddhism and its lost followers were gained mainly by Islam.
    • Lal, K. S. (2012). Indian muslims: Who are they.
  • We came down on them like a flood,
    We went out among their cities,
    We tore down the idol-temples,
    We shat on the Buddha's head!
    • Translation: English translation from the Turkic language. The Karakhanid Turkic Muslim writer Mahmud al-Kashgari recorded this short poem (in Turkic language) about the conquest of Khotan.
    • Elverskog, Johan (2010). Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-8122-4237-9.
  • After winning the final battle, when the Muslims rushed violently, like a stormy wind, through Sindh, they went on beheading these Buddhists even more ruthlessly than they did the Vedic Hindus. For, the Vedic Hindus were fighting in groups or individually at every place and so they struck at least a little awe and terror in the minds of the Muslims. But as there was no armed opposition in Buddhist Vihars and Buddhist localities, the Muslims cut them down as easily as they would cut vegetable.
    • V.D. Savarkar: Six glorious Epochs, p.136. (-: Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History. Veer Savarkar Prakashan, Bombay 1985 (1963).)
  • The hostile wrath of Confucianism toward Buddhist monasteries led to Emperor Wu Tsang's campaign of annihilation in the year 844. But Confucianism primarily justifies itself by the argument that the monasteries distracted people from useful work.
    • Max Weber, Religion of China (1915), as translated by H., H. Gerth (1951), p. 159
  • During the sixth and early seventh centuries AD the whole tract was controlled by Turkish rulers, but in the course of the seventh, with increasing strength of the T'ang Emperors, China gained control. Finally, however, under the onslaught of Islam, from the eighth century to the tenth, both Buddhist and Manichaean as well as the Nestorian Christian culture and monuments of the region were destroyed.... In the north very little survives of the ancient edifices that were there prior to the Muslim conquest: only a few mutilated religious sites remain'. It is clear from Indian literature that both temples and images must have existed in the second century BC and perhaps earlier. Very little architectural evidence remains, however, antedating the epoch of the Gupta dynasty (C. AD 320-650), for it was precisely in the Ganges Valley, the central and chief area of the Gupta empire, that the Muslim empire flourished a millennium later and most of the monuments above ground were destroyed by the sectarian zeal of Islam. The oldest stone ruins that have been found represent not the beginnings of a style, but fully developed forms.... The two traditions [Buddhism and Hinduism] flourished side by side, even sharing colleges and monasteries, for nearly two millenniums, until about the height of the Muslim conquest (C. AD 1200), Buddhism disappeared from the land of its birth.
    • Heinrich Zimmer, Art of Indian Asia, Princeton, Paperback Edition, 1983, Vol. I

Wikipedia bias and censorship[edit] [archive] [archive]

Further reading[edit]

  • Al-Biladhuri: Kitãb Futûh Al-Buldãn, translated into English by F.C. Murgotte, New York, 1924.
  • Dudink, Adrian (2000). "Nangong Shudu (1620), Poxie Ji (1640), and Western Reports on the Nanjing Persecution (1616/1617)". Monumenta Serica. Maney Publishing. 48: 133–265. JSTOR 40727263 [archive].<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Elliot and Dowson (1867–1877). The History of India as told by its own Historians, London: Trübner. Reprint, New Delhi 1990.
  • Majumdar, R. C. (ed.), The History and Culture of the Indian People, Volume VII, The Mughal Empire, Bombay, 1973.
  • Senaka Weeraratna, Repression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese (1505 - 1658)
  • Berndt Georg Thamm. Der Dschihad in Asien. Die islamische Gefahr in Russland und China. Mit Karten, Tabellen Abbildungen und einem Literaturverzeichnis sowie einem Abdruck der Charta der SCO. 280 Seiten. 15 Euro. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag München, Januar 2008. ISBN 978-3-423-24652-1 [archive]