A related BBC piece today:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22362831
I always find it interesting when people seem shocked that Buddhist monks/lay populations are capable of violence – In the West, there is a pervasive romantic view of Buddhism as nothing but a peaceful philosophy/psychology/religion (interestingly, also endorsed and perpetuated by mass-media and consumerism). Buddhism, as practised by millions, is a man-made organised religion; a state religion in many cases.
When a powerful state religion is wielded as a political tool, especially in countries that are intrinsically hierarchical, the rule of the elite is given extraordinary strength. Look at the example in Thailand during the pro-democracy protests, a high-standing monk went on radio stating that it was fine to kill ‘communists’ and no negative karma would be gained.
Even if there is no direct order from the political elite in these countries, cultural prejudices and intolerance act in just the same way. The pogroms in Russia serve as an example that bears more than a few similarities!
Organised religion, both intentionally and unintentionally, has always had this side-effect, and Buddhism has never been an exception; it’s just our own conception and interpretation of our ‘Buddhism’, and more generally, the West’s romanticised projection colours the lens we look through.