Hugh Fitzgerald: Two Versions of the Dalai Lama (Part I)

There seem to be two Dalai Lamas when it comes to Islam.

The first Dalai Lama, like that other expert on Islam Pope Francis, knows that authentic Islam is opposed to terrorism, that Islam is all about peace, and that any Muslim who engages in violence for that very reason can not be a “genuine Muslim.”

Here he is, for example, in a speech in Strasbourg in September 2016:

“‘Any person who wants to indulge in violence is no longer a genuine Buddhist or genuine Muslim,’ says Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader.

He argued that differentiating fundamentalism from Islam itself was a key way to stop violence and strengthen integration.

The Dalai Lama has said there is no such thing as a “Muslim terrorist” as anyone who partakes in violent activities is not a “genuine” Muslim.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in France at the end of last week, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader suggested the phrase was a contradiction in terms and condemned those who commit violent acts in the name of religion.

The Dalai Lama asserted that all religions were united by the values of love, compassion, tolerance and more. He argued that with this common ground the world would be able to build peace.

Where and when have Muslims demonstrated “the values of love, compassion, tolerance…” to non-Muslims?

“Buddhist terrorist. Muslim terrorist. That wording is wrong,” he said. “Any person who wants to indulge in violence is no longer a genuine Buddhist or genuine Muslim, because it is a Muslim teaching that once you are involved in bloodshed, actually you are no longer a genuine practitioner of Islam.”

Where does it say anywhere in the Qur’an or the hadith that “once you are involved in bloodshed, actually you are no longer a genuine practitioner of Islam”? Nowhere. Quite the reverse: throughout the Qur’an, in 109 Jihad verses, Muslims are commanded to engage in bloodshed. In the Hadith, Muhammad, the Perfect Man and Model of Conduct — and therefore to be emulated — takes part in 27 military campaigns, orders the torture and killing of Kinana of Khaybar, directly engages in the decapitation of 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, and is delighted to receive news of the murders of people who had mocked or opposed him, including Asma bint Marwan, Abu ‘Afak, and Ka’b bin al-Ashraf. Wasn’t this warrior and killer “involved in bloodshed”? And who, if not Muhammad, was a “genuine practitioner of Islam”?

“All major religious traditions carry the same message: a message of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment, self-discipline – all religious traditions.”

This isn’t true. There is no “message of love” for non-Muslims in Islam. Rather, Muslims are told to make war until all non-Muslims are subdued, and offered only the options of death, conversion to Islam, or enduring the permanent status of dhimmi, with its many onerous conditions. Where is the “love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment,” etc. in any of this? Indeed, Muslims are taught to not even take “Christians and Jews as friends, for they are friends only with each other.” They are taught, too, according to a famous hadith, that they may smile at Infidels, as long as they curse them in their hearts. None of this suggests the “love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance” that the Dalai Lama insists are the essence of Islam’s message.

“He argued that differentiating between fundamentalism and Islam was a key way to stop violence and strengthen integration: ‘On that level, we can build a genuine harmony, on the basis of mutual respect, mutual learning, mutual admiration”.

“Mutual respect, mutual learning, meaning admiration”? Is he unfamiliar with the Qur’anic verse that describes Muslims as the “best of peoples” (3:110) while the non-Muslims are described as “the most vile of creatures” (98:6)? How can Muslims admire those whom they have been told not to take even as friends, how can they admire those they are told are “the most vile of creatures”? It’s not possible.

On what basis does the Dalai Lama make such remarks? It’s amazing to think that at the age of 83, with all the time in the world to have engaged in the study of other religions, he still has managed to avoid learning what Islam is all about. Or is it that he hopes that somehow, by dint of ignoring the essence of Islam, he can somehow affect the attitudes and behavior of Muslims? He is foolish to keep making pronouncements on Islam without having read, and studied, the Qur’an and Hadith. And he is both foolish and wicked if he has indeed read and studied the canonical Islamic texts, and decided that nonetheless he will ignore their content and attempt, using his great and quite undeserved prestige, to convince us that the authentic Islam — the same authentic Islam that Pope Francis refers to — has nothing to do with violence or terrorism.

In September 2014, at a meeting in India, the Dalai Lama made the usual claim of the apologists that Jihad is a Spiritual Struggle:

“Jihad combats inner destructive emotions. Everybody carries jihad in their hearts, including me,” the Dalai Lama said.

This claim that Jihad is an interior struggle comes from a supposed hadith about Muhammad returning from the “Lesser Jihad” of warfare to the “Greater Jihad” of his own spiritual struggle. No one, by the way, has been able to find the source of this supposed hadith.

The Dalai Lama said Indian Muslims can offer lessons on Shia-Sunni harmony as Shias feel safer in India than in Pakistan.

Why would that be? It’s because the Hindu majority, which controls the police and security services, keep violence down between the sects, without favoring either side. In Pakistan, on the other hand, the Sunni majority does nothing to protect the Shi’a from Sunni attacks, such as those carried out by the anti-Shi’a terrorist group Sipah-e-Sahaba. The only “lesson” to be learned has nothing to do with Indian Muslims being somehow different, but rather, with the fact that non-Muslims in India are better able to hold the intra-Muslim violence in check.

As far back as 2008, the Dalai Lama said what lots of Western leaders have been saying about Islam since 2001. He said “it was wrong, it was entirely unfair, to call Islam a violent religion.” But six years later, in September 2014, at a conference of religious leaders he had organized, the Dalai Lama seemed to modify his earlier brisk dismissal of any connection between Islam and violence, when he said that “killing in the name of faith is terrible.” The implication was clear: some people [Muslims] were killing in the name of faith, and while that was “terrible,” it was no longer “entirely unfair” to link some Muslims to such violence. Everyone understood what adherents he must have intended to set straight about their own faith. At least he recognized that some people “claimed” to be acting violently in accordance with the texts and teachings of their religion, even if those people were “wrong.”

Then he showed he was still determined to give Islam a pass, adding in the same speech that “jihad was being misused and the term connotes fighting one’s own impurities.” No, that’s what the apologists maintain. He clearly had been reading too much Karen Armstrong. And still worse was to follow: “Jihad combats inner destructive emotions. Everybody carries jihad in their hearts, including me.” Apparently Muslims over the past 1400 years have everywhere misunderstood the true nature of jihad, which only very tangentially might have to do with fighting the Infidels, failing to understand that it describes an individual’s struggle to be a better person.

Is it possible that the Dalai Lama really does not know by this point, in 2018, how Muslims understand the word “jihad” and how they historically have acted when commanded to wage “jihad,” does not know with what murderous meaning the Qur’an endows that word? Perhaps he really doesn’t know. Or perhaps he thinks that if he (and others) repeat this jihad-as-inner-struggle mantra, that many Muslims will in time convince themselves that that is really what “jihad” is about. But why would they listen to the Dalai Lama and not their own clerics? Other world leaders have described Islam in similarly misleading terms — Barack Obama (“the true peaceful nature of Islam”), Tony Blair (the Islamic State’s ideology is “based in a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam”), Pope Francis (“Islam is a religion of peace”) – whenever they pontificated about Islam, a faith which they so maddeningly presume to know so much about. Muslim behavior did not change as a result. In the case of Obama, Blair and the Pope, one has the feeling that they really believe the nonsense they are spouting. With the Dalai Lama, who has been exposed to Islam in Asia for more than a half-century, his real beliefs are still not clear.

The prominent Syrian cleric Ramadan al-Buti complained that when Westerners describe Islam as a “religion of peace,” they are not trying to defend Islam, but to trick Muslims into believing it is peaceful, and then – horribile dictu — into giving up the real doctrine of jihad for that ludicrous “inner struggle” business. Of course, Islam is about violence and war, said the truth-telling Ramadan Al-Buti. But why believe a prominent Muslim cleric about Islam, when there are so many non-Muslims, like the loquacious Dalai Lama, ready to tell both us, and Muslims, that the faith is all about peace and tolerance?

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