Stop fretting, you lot.
Islam is a religion of peace.
Not on this current trip, I don’t think; I didn’t hurry along to bask in the wisdom, myself, but some time ago I did see him on youtube nodding and smiling sagely as a Muslim professor of Islamic studies and philosopher, Sayeed Hossein Nasr, held forth in a kind of global interfaith session about “happiness.” His Holiness of course is a popular expert, author and judge on this subject.
The Dalai Lama likes Islam. He has said (2010, while receiving an honorary degree from an Indian Islamic university) that Islam is one of the most important religions of the world and that “it can not be blamed for a few miscreants creating trouble,” that it is a “religion of the heart and needs to be protected.” Jihad, said the Dalai Lama, means to “conquer the evil within individuals.” Indeed, he said, he has been defending Islam since 2001. And so on.
On another occasion, he said that compassion is important in Islam.
“Let me tell you about the Islam I know. Tibet has had an Islamic community for around 400 years, although my richest contacts with Islam have been in India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. An imam in Ladakh once told me that a true Muslim should love and respect all of Allah’s creatures. And in my understanding, Islam enshrines compassion as a core spiritual principle, reflected in the very name of God, the “Compassionate and Merciful,” that appears at the beginning of virtually each chapter of the Koran.”
The Dalai Lama, while gaining interfaith brownie points as he recalls his rich contacts, is forgetting a few things, even apart from the avowedly non-compassionate, harshly discriminative nature of Allah. Tibet did not always have a weak army and government, such as it had come to have by the time the Chinese invaded in 1950 (indeed, Tibet’s history includes a rather savage destruction of the shaman traditions by the Buddhists). Thus while Tibet’s relatively few Muslims may well have misunderstood their religion so much that they believed it was inherently peaceful, they may simply have been prudent enough to realize the pointlessness of pushing ahead with a supremacist agenda with insufficient support from outside and against the power of the Tibetan government.
Before the Dalai Lama’s time, Tibet’s Muslims came mainly from Kashmir and China’s north. They came as traders or when escaping famine, and predictably married Tibetan women. The fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) was impressed by the piety of Muslims he encountered and decided to encourage diversity in Tibet by granting the Muslims favours. Accordingly, they were given land for a mosque and cemetery, were able to practice sharia law among themselves, were exempted from tax, and were excused from observing certain respectful Buddhist traditions. Furthermore, they quickly dominated the meat industry, Buddhists being averse to the killing of animals if not the eating of them, and to this day have maintained this dominance; their treatment of the animals has however caused resentment from the Tibetans.
The Hui Muslims from China settled in north-eastern Tibet from the 17th century and some formed a separate community in Lhasa. The Muslims of Qinghai, the northern region so named by the Chinese, now number up to one million, or a fifth of the population. This growth has not always been peaceful or from immigration. The Muslim warlord Ma Bufang, in his attempt to establish an Islamic enclave in Qinghai in the 1930s, drove Tibetans off their land, and killed or forced many to convert.
Military opponents and would-be colonizers, history shows us, have different natures. The British Lieutenant Younghusband, on his expedition to annex Tibet in 1903, ordered the killing of several hundred Tibetans, mainly monks. His subsequent remorse was so strong, and so effectively conveyed back to Britain, that imperial designs on Tibet were abandoned, and Younghusband himself, impressed by Tibetan Buddhism but himself a Christian, adopted an “interfaith” attitude to spirituality. The Dalai Lama would no doubt approve.
Chinese remorse, after killing at least one million Tibetans since 1950, destroying monasteries and much of Tibetan culture and appropriating the wealth of Tibet, has been slow in coming, and the Tibetans are still an oppressed people.
So while the British abandoned their designs on Tibet, the Chinese imposed – or tried their best to – atheism, as they took control of the country.
After the Chinese invasion, the Dalai Lama was lucky enough to be accepted by newly post-colonial India, which had a nice hill village, abandoned by the British, to spare for the fleeing Tibetan refugees. Now, sixty years later, India is taking refugees from its own territory, mainly Islamic Kashmir, as well as from the territory it lost at Partition, Pakistan – because of a foe it is loath to identify in the way Tibet could identify Chinese Communism.
That foe, Islam, was responsible for the weakening of Buddhism in central Asia by means of forced conversion and killing. It is unimaginable that the Dalai Lama knows nothing of the history of his region and seems incomprehensible that he prefers to promote Islam as a religion of peace with a few bad eggs muddying its reputation. Buddhism in central Asia has been squeezed from the east by Communism and from the west and north by Islam. How does the Dalai Lama think Islam came to Ladakh? Between 1400 and 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states; that is why the Dalai Lama’s good Ladakh imam friend is enjoying the “love” of Islam now.
Somehow the “happiness” of the Dalai Lama comes across as rather indelicate, an affront to his suffering people and patronizing to Western people whose hunger for “happiness” he takes as insatiable. His promotion of meditation and peacefulness sounds historically incongruous, as his famously “spiritual” people allowed their army to decline. Tibet is at the top of the world, difficult to access, cold and inhospitable; if it had had a robust army (and if India had not followed the Gandhian path of “ahisma” but had helped to defend its neighbour) the Chinese could have been repelled. But an inward-looking culture and the pursuit of spirituality caused the country to become passive, “yin” to the Chinese “yang”, and eminently open to invasion. Is this a role model the Dalai Lama should promote for the West?
The Dalai Lama’s huge popularity is linked to a current reverence for not only pacifism but also for refugees, who are particularly honoured and sanctified by an influential element in Western society. This element is at work on our schoolchildren, who were much encouraged to attend lectures by the Dalai Lama during his visit and to absorb his message of compassion to refugees while turning a blind eye to the causes of their departure from their countries - or those people’s inability or unwillingness to resist invasion or totalitarianism.
The Dalai Lama gave $100,000 to the youth worker Les Twentyman for the work he does with troubled youth. I would have preferred to see that money given to people such as the south Sudanese, who now have to cope with thousands of Ngok Dinka, driven out of their homes by members of the Dalai Lama’s supposedly compassionate Islamic faith – or even given to the southern army which (heaven forbid!) is trying to defend the Dinkas and their land. At least our troubled youth are eating, and have homes to live in. But the problems they face can be construed, in keeping with political correctness, as being the fault of our insufficiently happy, insufficiently spiritual Western society, not the fault of a savage and unmentionable enemy, an uncomfortable reality which ensures scant global concern for the hounded non-Muslims of Sudan and elsewhere in the Islamic world.
As a student teacher, I was subjected to a lesson by a “global studies” specialist, who was there to instruct us how to create “global citizens” out of our students. In this class, we were told to teach our students that they should meditate because it will help in the cause of world peace. I have nothing against meditation; I myself am a sometime practitioner of an ancient and esoteric form of qigong, but have no illusions about its benefits outside my own health. But we were supposed, in our secular schools, to teach this fantasy as fact. Must we believe this is possible? Has this formula for peace been proven to be the case anywhere in the world? Did the Allies meditate to defeat Hitler? The example of Tibet is instructive, but unfortunately the wrong message is being promulgated.
The Dalai Lama could better employ his time – if he had the nerve – visiting terrorist training camps to promote world peace through the pursuit of happiness, or teaching Buddhist-flavoured meditation to Muslim children in “jihad” madrassas. But he conveniently believes Islam is already peaceful, except for a few of its practioners, just as with Christians and Buddhists; we in the West need the benefit of his wisdom much more than do Muslims.
Cynicism aside, it must be asked why the Dalai Lama has chosen to jump on the dhimmi bandwagon. To what purpose is his enthusiasm for interfaith “harmony”, rather than the promotion of his own religion as would be expected and as we usually see from the leader of a spiritual community such as the Pope?
A website called “The Green Agenda” claims to have the answer. Along with a staggering list of luminaries, the Dalai Lama is said to be a member of the Club of Rome, which has its aim the creation of a one-world government with, yes, a frightening “green” agenda to harmonize (in the most sinister meaning of the word) the world’s population. The UN is to oversee the uniting of the world’s religions into one; the UN is infiltrated by the Baha’i faith at the highest levels; the Baha’i faith is an offshoot of Islam.
And the organization is “green” to the point where it sees the enemy of the world as humanity itself, sorely in need of numbers reduction. As the UN is encouraging, even enforcing, the saturation of Western countries with Muslims, the role of those Muslims would hardly be likely to be discussed or challenged by the Dalai Lama if one-world “harmony” is his dream.
Elsewhere, the Western Shugden Society, which aims to defend Buddhism and expose unpalatable facts about the Dalai Lama, including his alleged collaboration with the Communist Party and financial shenanigans, claims that he was born a Muslim. The society says that he was born in a Muslim area, Takster in Qinghai, that he was taken from a Muslim family and that a good deal of money (400,000 pieces of silver) was paid to the warlord Ma Bufang in order that he could be released from his Muslim community. In Tibet, the Dalai Lama was referred to as the “saffron-robed Muslim”. These details, apart from the Dalai Lama’s birth as a Muslim, which however seems understood by the context, are confirmed in Lee Feigon’s book about Tibetan history.
All of this might be unfounded supposition; but to be suspicious of anyone in an influential position who defends and even promotes Islam is surely a rational response.
If, at his age, the Dalai Lama is still hopelessly naïve, then we are making utter fools of ourselves in glorifying his naivety and accepting it as an indication of spiritual superiority. If his defence of Islam springs from his birth as a Muslim and residual loyalty to Islam, or his connection with dubious one-world schemes of domination and control, we have even more reason for concern because of his dishonesty.
Tibet’s future appears to be dominated by the probability of its culture being overwhelmed by immigration from China. However, many of the immigrants are Muslim, and the Chinese Communist Party has since its inception shown itself less hostile to Islam than to Christianity, Buddhism or even Confucianism. Tibetans in Lhasa in 2008 rioted against Muslims and burned down a mosque, fearful of the encroachment of Hui Muslims in Lhasa. The Chinese Government was quick to assert control and downplay the incidents at the time, in its attempt to show a face of ethnic and religious harmony to the world. But it was noted at the time that Tibetans were blamed for intolerance of Muslims rather than Muslims for their provocative customs.
Yet the atheist Communists of China may ultimately find that they will have been the driving force behind the Islamisation of Tibet. This paradoxical situation has a parallel in the West, where politically-correct Marxism, militant atheism and the singling out of once-dominant Christianity for destruction is also creating conditions for the rise of Islam, which is threatening to turn our striving for “happiness” into a struggle for survival.
But the Dalai Lama prefers to see us focused on “happiness”, for reasons of his own.
Feigon, Lee: “Demystifying Tibet,” Profile Books, GB 1996