Since 2012 Myanmar has experienced recurrent waves of religiously imbued violence. Violence has been both physical and symbolic. Symbolic violence has included the popularisation of the belief that Muslim men are the primary threat to Buddhist women, and by extension, the body politic of Myanmar. This article draws on ethnographic research and theory on rumours and nationalism to show how colonial era social and legal processes have been drawn on to establish Muslim men as the scapegoats for deeply held social grievances amongst the Buddhist majority. Rumours of the rape and forced religious conversion of Buddhist women make the political personal and justify demands for male and state protection. We argue that in Myanmar the figure of the wealthy Muslim perpetrator has been popularised both as a scapegoat for decades of brutal authoritarianism and as a threat to the contemporary social reproduction of the national Buddhist polity.