Lama meets Muslim leaders
correspondents in San Francisco
THE Dalai Lama has defended Islam at an historic religious
gathering in San Francisco today, saying suicide bombings
were tragic “mischief” that could plague any religion.
The Dalai Lama took centre stage at an unprecedented
anti-terror summit with Muslim clerics and other religious
leaders from around the world.
Tibet's spiritual leader came in response to a prominent
California imam's invitation to help form a “United Nations
of Religion” devoted to countering extremist violence.
Imam Seyed Mehdi Khorasani said the idea came after he
met Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso in the US state of Idaho late
Religious leaders and scholars from approximately 30
countries were brought to San Francisco, which Khorasani
said was selected because it was where the United Nations
Among the supporters of the religious solidarity movement
was former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, leader of
that country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama,
which has 40 million members.
Holland Taylor delivered a letter from Mr. Wahid praising
the gathering and offering to align himself with the Dalai
Lama in future meetings of the newly established group.
“What is going on is a struggle for the soul of Islam,”
Mr. Taylor said.
He said Mr. Wahid and other top Muslim leaders were on
the Dalai Lama's side in the “tug-of-war” against religious
Mr. Taylor referred to Sunni and Shiite leaders forming a
public alliance with the Dalai Lama as “ideological jujitsu”
to deflect the power of radicals and unite moderates that
represent “the true heart of Islam”.
Organizers heralded the assembly as the establishment of
a multi-religious body that will work to quell violence and
promote harmony between people of different faiths.
“I'm excited and so very happy,” the Dalai Lama told an
invitation-only crowd of 500 people gathered in the Mark
Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill.
“Because nowadays, to some people, the Muslim tradition
appears more militant. I feel that's totally wrong. Muslim,
like any other tradition, is the practice of compassion.”
Suicide bombings and other violence by extremists have
unfairly skewed the world's perception of Islam, the Dalai
“Such mischievous people are not just in the Muslim
community, but among the Hindus, the Christians, the
Buddhists,” he said. “In any community, a few mischievous
people are always there.”
“Generally, I consider myself a compassionate person, but
if my emotion gets out of control, then this compassionate
person no longer is a compassionate person.”
The Dalai Lama urged the leaders of all faiths to stand
together on their common ground to defend Islam and promote
the ideal of respecting the faiths of individuals while
embracing religious diversity in communities.
The Dalai Lama lauded the example of society in India,
where Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhists live as
“When I see conflict in the name of religion in Ireland,
Pakistan, and now in Iraq,” the Dalai Lama said, “then I
think India's tradition of living together in religious
harmony is wonderful.”
Modern cultures are so unavoidably entwined, that it is
vital to foster respect between people of different
religions, the spiritual leader said.
“The new reality is that everything is interconnected,”
the Dalai Lama said. “Especially in the Arab world, due to
oil, and in China because of the economy. All the world is
becoming one small community.
“Now, we must find a way to work out the contradictions