In 2008, the Dalai Lama said what lots of Western leaders have been saying about Islam. 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 of what faith 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.” 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.”
Is it possible that the Dalai Lama really does not know by this point how Muslims understand “Jihad,” or with what murderous meaning the Qur’an endows that word? Perhaps he really doesn’t know — one more case of willful ignorance. Or perhaps he thinks it better for all concerned to play the game of Let’s Pretend in discussing what Jihad means, in the hope that Muslims will in time convince themselves that “Jihad” really is all about an inner struggle. We’re used to this by now; it’s what we’ve seen from other world leaders — 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 pontificate about Islam, a faith which they so maddeningly presume to know so much about.
In fact, the prominent Syrian cleric Ramadan al-Buti complained that when Westerners describe Islam as a “religion of peace,” they are trying not 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-Musilms ready to tell us what it’s all about?
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. Could he have forgotten that in every country in the Western world, people of different confessions co-exist peacefully? Or is it that he just doesn’t want to say anything in praise of the West, because that would invite comparison of how Muslim states treat non-Muslims (badly) with how the non-Muslim West treats Muslims (very generously)?
Then the Dalai Lama said 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. It’s just that the Indian government, in which Hindus predominate, can “offer lessons” to the government of Pakistan, in ways to assure people of different sects that they can live in relative security, because the police and army will dampen down communal 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 potential for violence can be held in check.
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 carried out by Muslims since 9/11; no one at the meeting jogged his memory with mention of Charlie Hebdo, Hyper Cacher, Bataclan, Magnanville, Nice, London busses and metro stations, Lee Rigby, the Atocha station in Madrid, Theo van Gogh’s murder in Amsterdam, or the attacks at Fort Hood, Boston,San Bernardino, Chattanooga, Orlando.
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.
He offers, instead, 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, so he has chosen to believe in a sanitized, even imaginary, version of the faith.
Yet the Dalai Lama has also shown 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 Allgemeine 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, but 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” (i.e., 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 owes the world’s Muslims exactly nothing.
But then, in a visit to Paris in September, 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 current 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 “dialogue” with ISIS is a fantasy solution, born of the despair of 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 do 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.
Given a chance by an interviewer to repeat his remarks about there being too many migrants in Europe,and that Germany should not “become Arab,” the Dalai Lama refused to do so, and was careful, during that press conference on September 13, not to repeat those words. He limited his response to discussing the need for a timely welcome of the refugees: “’In the present moment, it is essential to open the doors and welcome those who are escaping the danger and the unlivable conditions in their own countries. It is just as essential to provide the necessary facilities for the education of their children and the professional training for older students. In effect, countries have a duty to welcome those who flee from difficulties and to give them every possibility of returning to their own countries. The main idea is not to send these refugees back, but to provide them with the kind of training that will enable them to reconstruct their own countries.’ As for the question of European or Arab identity, the Dalai Lama thinks that it will take a century to figure out such questions of identity because, he said we are headed toward a situation where we will all be, mainly, citizens of the world. A world that by its very nature will be more and more global. The question of boundaries will be different. Each person should be able to live at that place on the planet where he can best fulfill his aspirations.”
What the Dalai Lama sees as a wonderful new future, where anyone can choose wherever on the globe he wishes to settle, would be a nightmare for the advanced West. Swamped by peoples from the places that are least desirable to live in, all of them flooding in to live in the places deemed most desirable, it would be akin to the current Muslim migration into Europe, but even more devastating in its size. The hope he expresses that each person will be able to live in “that place on the planet that seems the most appropriate to his aspirations” put me in mind of that prescient work from 1973 by Jean Raspail, The Camp of the Saints. That book is a novel about the mass movement of populations from the Third to the First World, and its consequences. Wikipedia sums up this dystopian novel thus:
In Calcutta, India, the Belgian government announces a policy in which Indian babies will be adopted and raised in Belgium. The policy is reversed after the Belgian consulate is inundated with poverty-stricken parents eager to give up their infant children.”
An Indian “wise man” then rallies the masses to make an exodus to live in Europe. Most of the story centers on the French Riviera,, where almost no one remains except for the military and a few civilians, including a retired professor who has been watching the huge fleet of run-down freighters approaching the French coast.
The story alternates between the French reaction to the mass immigration and the attitude of the immigrants. They have no desire to assimilate into French culture but want the goods that are in short supply in their native India. Although the novel focuses on France, the rest of the West shares its fate.
Near the end of the story the mayor of New York City is made to share Gracie Mansion with three families from Harlem, the Queen of the United Kingdom must agree to have her son marry a Pakistani woman, and only one drunken Soviet soldier stands in the way of thousands of Chinese people as they swarm into Siberia. The one holdout until the end of the novel is Switzerland, but by then international pressure isolating it as a rogue state for not opening its borders forces it to capitulate.
Should such a mass migration come to pass, which is what the Dalai Lama seems not just to countenance but to approve of (“Each person should be able to live at that place on the planet where he can best fulfill his aspirations”), it is the West that will be inundated, and it is in the West where the very idea of the nation-state, of a shared national history and culture, would dissolve in this flood-tide of desperate humanity; the ties of nationhood, the tug of patriotism, the little loyalties whose sum is a society, would disappear; every place would be available to individuals from everywhere, to settle where they list, untethered to any steadying national traditions. The motto of this future world will be the innocent idiocy of “people-should-be-allowed-to-settle-wherever-they-want.” Something like that undergirds the inability of Western leaders, with some honorable exceptions, to right now flatly refuse to admit Muslim migrants. Where did this supposed duty to Muslims come from? Should the Dalai Lama’s vision (of people moving wherever they want) come to pass, the future will belong to those who, in the midst of this breaking of nations, still consider themselves to belong to a supranational community, or Umma, of fervent believers in what is not only a religion but also a complete politics – that is, the world’s Muslims.
We are still only at the level of immigration of a few million into the advanced West. Imagine what things will look like if tens or hundreds of millions got on boats, in Camp-of-the-Saints style, and headed to Europe, a prospect that the Dalai Lama, in his latest comments, appears to regard with equanimity. Perhaps he’s just a little too “spiritual” for the real world’s own good.
If you are from Calcutta or Cairo or Cuzco or the Congo, you will certainly find the Dalai Lama’s notion of everyone being allowed to settle anywhere attractive. But if you aren’t, if you are one of those who doesn’t want to leave the West, your country, your culture, and don’t want, either, to see your own culture transformed by those who have neither the ability nor the desire to integrate, but instead appear satisfied to batten on the benefits the indigenes so generously provide, (this is not so different from the reality being created by Muslim migrants in Europe today), the Dalai Lama’s suggestion is absolutely hair-raising.
The Dalai Lama once insisted that migrants to Europe must be trained and then sent home, so that European countries would not be transformed, and he now claims that everyone should be allowed to settle anywhere, which would, of course, mean the destruction of the civilized world. And just last Thursday, he told the European Parliament that “‘Muslim terrorist’: That wording is wrong.”
“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,” the Dalai Lama said.
“All major religious traditions carry the same message: a message of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment, self-discipline — all religious traditions,” he continued.
This is arrant nonsense. It is presumptuous of the Dalai Lama to pontificate about Islam, about which he apparently knows so little. And when he makes remarks like these, he – this spiritual leader whom everyone loves to listen to as he crisscrosses the globe dispensing wisdom – shows himself to be both stupid, and cruel to a Western world that cannot bear too much more of this dangerous confusion.
Still, let’s give him one more chance, given that he once recognized the danger of Germany becoming “Arab” and even suggested sending migrants back.
We’d all like to know, crossing our fingers: will the real Dalai Lama please stand up?