Two Versions of the Dalai Lama
Should one be truthful about Islam when making pronouncements about it?
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?
At the same gathering, the Dalai Lama insisted that “India is the only country where different religions have been able to co-exist.” This was a bizarre remark, but the Dalai Lama is given to strange remarks. First, could he have forgotten that all over the Western world, people of different confessions have coexisted peacefully? Or is it that he just doesn’t want to say anything in praise of the West, because that would invite comparison with how Muslim states treat non-Muslims (very badly) compared to how the non-Muslim West treats Muslims (very generously)? Second, when he speaks about “coexistence” in India, hasn’t he overlooked the centuries of Muslim conquest and Muslim rule? In all his decades in India — he has lived there since 1959 — didn’t he learn the history of India, the country that gave him refuge, about the mass murder of tens of millions of Hindus, about the virtual disappearance of Buddhism, about the forced conversion of many millions — Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, more? Has he forgotten Mahmoud of Ghazni, and Aurangzeb, and all the other murderous Muslims in India’s history? Does any of that support his claim that India is “the only country where different religions…have been able to co-exist”? Coexistence, of a kind, only became possible in India once the British had deposed the Mughal rulers, and then, since 1947, Hindus dominated — and that domination is what allowed for coexistence.
The Dalai Lama has claimed that Indian Muslims can offer lessons on Shia-Sunni harmony, as Shias feel safer in India than in Pakistan. He’s right – they do feel safer in India. But he’s wrong about the reason. It’s not that Indian Muslims can “offer lessons” on Sunni-Shia harmony to Muslims in Pakistan, which might hold out hope of lessening intra-Islamic hostilities. The sects remain just as ideologically at odds in India as in Pakistan. But the secret of tamping down the intra-Islamic violence is that the Indian government, in which Hindus predominate, can use force to suppress such intra-Islamic violence. It’s not that the Muslims in India are a different, less violent breed than their coreligionists in Pakistan, but that in India, the violence can be better held in check. In Pakistan, the Sunni government does little to reign in anti-Shi’a violence.
The next time the Dalai Lama mentioned Islam was at a gathering of his followers from 27 countries on January 31, 2015. He said that “though terrorism has emerged as a global problem,” it should not be associated with Islam, as “Muslims were neither terrorist nor its sponsorer [sic].” No one had the bad taste to remind him of the nearly 25,000 terrorist attacks (now there have been 33,500) carried out by Muslims since 9⁄11; no one at the meeting had the nerve to jog his memory with mention of Charlie Hebdo, Hyper Cacher, Bataclan, Magnanville, Nice, London buses and metro stations, Lee Rigby, the Atocha station in Madrid, Theo van Gogh’s murder in Amsterdam, or the attacks at Fort Hood, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Bernardino, Chattanooga, Orlando. No reporter asked him about Muhammad’s claim that “I have been made victorious through terror.”
Like Pope Francis, who now says “equating Islam with violence is wrong” and just this past summer insisted again, astoundingly, that “all religions want peace,” the Dalai Lama is a “spiritual leader” who doesn’t want to call into conceivable question other faiths. All religions are good; no religion, rightly understood, can possibly countenance violence. Repeat ad libitum.
The Dalai Lama offers treacly pieties, insisting that no religion could possibly be responsible for any violence or aggression by its adherents. His worldview cannot accommodate the real Islam, and its violent adherents who make the news every day, so he has chosen to believe in a sanitized, even imaginary, version of the faith.
Yet the Dalai Lama has also shown, very occasionally, signs of justified worry. He has noticed that the migrants flowing into Europe have been a source of great anxiety and disruption, and this past May, in an interview with the Frankfurter Algemeiner Zeitung, he surprised many when he forthrightly said: “Europe, for example Germany, cannot [that is, must not] become an Arab country. Germany is Germany.” And “from a moral point of view too, I think the refugees should only be admitted temporarily. The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries.”
This seemed to be a welcome volte-face from the pollyannish pronouncements of the past. Of course, one should notice that he said Germany “cannot become an Arab country,” rather than saying that Germany “cannot become a Muslim country.” It’s as if he still couldn’t bring himself to recognize that it is the faith of Islam, and not the ethnicity of some of its Believers, that makes Muslims permanently hostile to non-Muslims, and unable to integrate into their societies, that is, into Europe. But he certainly appeared to be suggesting that the migrants, almost all of them Muslims, should not be allowed to remain and transform the countries which had so generously admitted them. Rather, those migrants should eventually be sent back to “help rebuild their countries.” It was a welcome display of common sense. He appeared to recognize the danger of letting “Arab” (Muslim) migrants stay, and that a policy of sending them home after they had acquired skills useful in rebuilding their own countries, was morally justified. Some might say — you and I, for example — that it would have been morally justified to send them right back, without that training: the Western world is not some gigantic training center, and it owes the world’s Muslims exactly nothing.
But then, in a visit to Paris in September 2016, the Dalai Lama called for entering into talks – a “dialogue”? – with the Islamic State so as to “end bloodshed in Syria and Iraq,” which showed a complete misunderstanding of the Islamic State. Its fighters are determined to carry on without letup against those it considers — not just Christians and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, but also Shi’ites and even insufficiently-fanatical Muslims — to be Infidels. Not dialogue, but total destruction, is the only way to deal with the Islamic State. But even that will not end the threat, because the ideology on which ISIS rests cannot be destroyed, which means that new recruits to the cause, and new Islamic States, will keep appearing. The Dalai Lama’s notion of a “dialogue” with ISIS is a fantasy solution, by someone who doesn’t know what else to suggest.
In the same speech, the Dalai Lama also repeated that “religion is never a justification for killing,” when Islam – see the Qur’an, see the Hadith – overflows with justifications for the killing of insubmissive Infidels. And the Muslim killers always justify their killings, being careful to cite chapter and verse, from the Qur’an, or to adduce evidence from the life of Muhammad as recorded in the Hadith, that lend textual support to their every act.
Did the Dalai Lama see the killers of Drummer Rigby holding up their Qur’ans and quoting from it? Did he see the many leaders of the Islamic State, such as Al-Baghdadi, or propagandists for Al Qaeda, like Al-Awlaki, similarly quoting from the Qur’an to justify their attacks? Perhaps he managed to miss it all.
In August 2018, the Dalai Lama appealed to Muslims in India to make efforts to reduce Shia-Sunni conflicts that are prevalent in some other countries and asserted that Islam is a religion of peace. He lamented the bloodshed over denominational differences, which he said should be avoided as Islam teaches compassion and harmony.
The Dalai Lama has recently been speaking out about Sunni-Shi’a clashes, deploring them even as he offers no explanation as to why “peaceful” Muslims seem so often to engage in violence.
Addressing an event in August 2018 at the Goa Institute of Management, the 14th Dalai Lama stressed the need for international brotherhood and harmony.
“Muslims across the globe follow the same Quran and also pray five times a day. However, they are killing each other owing to differences between the sects like Shia and Sunni,” he said.
The Dalai Lama said, “I was in Ladakh. I suggested to Ladakhi Muslims that Indian Muslims should make some efforts to reduce the conflict between Shias and Sunnis.”
He told the audience that a national conference of Muslims would be organised in the coming months, which will be followed by a similar convention at the international level.
He said that modern India has remained by and large peaceful due to over 1000-year-old history of religious harmony.
The Dalai Lama’s claim is bizarre. Modern India did not “remain by and large peaceful” during the last 1000 years. It was the scene of bloody conquests by invading Muslims, who killed many millions, and once they had conquered and subjugated the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist populations, they killed tens of millions more. The Indian historian K. S. Lal has written that 70-80 million non-Muslims in India were killed by Muslim armies. Tens of thousands of Hindu and Buddhist temples were destroyed. How can the Dalai Lama be unaware of this long history? After the Communist Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959, he fled to India, where he, and tens of thousands of his followers, were given permanent refuge. Has he not, in all the decades he has lived in India, had the slightest interest in studying the history of the country that gave him refuge, and the effect of the Muslim conquests on Hindus and Buddhists? Is he unaware that Buddhism, his own religion, was virtually wiped out in India by the Muslim conquerors? Can he, the spiritual head of one branch of Buddhism, really be unaware of what happened to Buddhism in the land of its birthplace? Wasn’t he interested enough to find out?