Memo to the Dalai Lama, Jack Kornfield, Huston Smith: please explain on what basis you believe that violent acts perpetrated in the name of Islam and justified by central Islamic texts and core Islamic teachings are not Islam.
Western governments have invested heavily in the proposition that mainstream, “true” Islam is peaceful, and that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Western countries accept the core values of Western pluralism. Yet this has been blind trust. No one has yet formulated an Islamic theology and jurisprudence that actually provides for these things, and definitively refutes the jihadists using Islamic texts. I do not believe it can be done, and I think that official Washington needs to be cognizant of that fact. From those who claim that it has been done I have only received airy affirmations that it isn’t worth bothering to show me.
All right. Yet again I am asking for anyone of good will to show me. Send me examples of Islamic religious scholars rejecting, on Islamic grounds, jihad violence against non-Muslims; rejecting the idea that Sharia law should be instituted in the Muslim and non-Muslim world; and teaching the idea that non-Muslims and Muslims should live together indefinitely as equals. Send me rejections of the ideas that women should not enjoy full equality of rights with men. Send me information that shows that those who write such rejections are not lone voices crying in the wilderness, with the wolves of Islamic orthodoxy ready to pounce upon them, but that they represent broad traditions within Islam and have large followings.
I’ll be right here, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Dalai Lama seeks to improve Islam’s image: He’ll meet with Muslim leaders in a mission of peace in S.F.,” from the San Francisco Chronicle, with thanks to PRCS:
The Dalai Lama, a powerful icon for peace worldwide, will gather with influential American Muslim leaders in San Francisco today to help refashion Islam’s image in the United States.
Concerned that Muslims are unfairly demonized in American popular consciousness, the world-renowned Buddhist leader hopes to help show Islam in what he sees as its truest form, one of peace.
“The enemy is not out there,” said Tenzin Dhonden, the Dalai Lama’s emissary for peace. “The enemy is within you. … How we see religion is in our mind. But religion itself is the truth: peace and harmony.”
The hurdles are numerous.
Polls in Muslim countries have shown that some Muslims think of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a good thing, said Muslim scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. Co-founder of the Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, Yusuf advised President Bush in the days after the attacks.
He also noted that polls have revealed that some Americans support bombing Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.
“Who are the extremists?” he asked. “It’s all of us. There’s no ‘us’ versus ‘them’ here. We’ve got extremists on both sides. If we let extremist agendas chart the course for us on both sides, we’re headed for a very, very frightening world.”
Speakers at today’s invitation-only event at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, “Gathering of Hearts Illuminating Compassion,” say violent images of Islam are sensationalized by a selective news media.
They say the faith of the vast majority of the hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide bears no relation to the beliefs of terrorists who claim religious authority.
“That’s not Islam,” said Jack Kornfield, a prominent Buddhist teacher and founder of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County. “Those are extremists and crazies. Quite honestly, you find that in every tradition. Right now, our media is highlighting that.” Kornfield is not participating in today’s event.
Even though Buddhist-Muslim relations are at the center of the gathering, organizers are emphasizing an even broader understanding of faith: that all religions are the same at their core.
This message plays well in the religiously diverse Bay Area, where believers of all faiths often adapt aspects of other traditions.
Organizers also plan to address the rise of fundamentalism in many religions, which they say can turn beliefs into political tools.
“It is hijacked religion that causes violence,” said Huston Smith, an author and former professor at four major universities and a speaker at today’s event.
“In warfare, you need power,” said Smith, a Berkeley resident. “Therefore, you have to believe that God is on your side and you are an instrument of God to do his will through warfare and fighting and the laying down of lives. The flip side of that is that the enemy is the demon, the axis of evil.”
The conference, limited to roughly 500 people, will consist of presentations by scholars and religious leaders.
In addition to Yusuf, they will include Imam Mehdi Khorasani, a spiritual leader born in Karbala, Iraq, who guides a 6,000-member congregation in Fairfax, and the Rev. Alan Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, an Episcopal church.
“As long as we are quiet and not trying to explain, the danger and misunderstanding remains,” said Khorasani, whose invitation to the Dalai Lama prompted today’s gathering.
Great. Clear up the misunderstanding. The world is waiting.