Fundamentalism and communalism are the greatest enemy

by Visakha Kawasaki, Kandy, Sri Lanka, The Buddhist Channel, April 24, 2006

The article by Balbir K. Punj from The Pioneer, unfairly criticizes the Dalai Lama when he appealed for understanding and tolerance of Islam and Muslims.  The Muslim country of Iraq is being destroyed by the professedly Christian administration of the United States while Iran, another Muslim country, is being threatened with nuclear attack by the same Christian leadership.  Since 9/11, Muslims in the United States have been discriminated against and so it is quite appropriate for the Dalai Lama to urge tolerance.

There are some striking inaccuracies in the rest of the article. Any comparison of the lives of Jesus and Mohammed must be offensive to the followers of their respective religions, since Mohammed is the Prophet to Muslims and Jesus the Son of God to Christians. If Israelis visit Dharmsala in droves, it may be because they are disenchanted with Judaism or the Zionism that established Israel, displacing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, with no right to return.

It is also inaccurate to exclusively blame Muslims for the disappearance of Buddhism from India. Brahmanism (Hinduism) was perhaps the greater enemy.

Dr. Ambedkar was scholarly and accurate when he observed that the various invasions of India by Muslims were in fact wars among Muslims themselves. As he put it in his book on Pakistan (the 8th volume of his writings and speeches), “This fact has remained hidden because the invaders are all lumped together as Muslims without distinction. But as a matter of fact, they were Tartars, Afghans and Mongols. Muhammad (Mahmud?) of Ghazni was a Tartar, Mahommed of Ghori was an Afghan, Taimur was a Mongol, Babar was Tartar, while Nadirshah and Ahmadshah Abadali were Afghans.

“In invading India, the Afghan was out to destroy the Tartar and the Mongol was out to destroy the Tartar as well as the Afghan. They were not a loving family cemented by the feeling of Islamic brotherhood. They were deadly rivals of one another and their wars were often wars of mutual extermination.”

It is important to note that Dr. Ambedkar was never against Muslims or Islam. He had his own view of Muslims and Pakistan; what he opposed was communalism and he was totally opposed to the concept of Hindu Raj. In the section of his book entitled “Must There Be Pakistan?” he wrote, “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to the liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”

While all Buddhists should be deeply disturbed by the injustices being faced by traditional Buddhists in Bangladesh, Northern India, and elsewhere, we must reject the call to oppress in return where we are the majority. When Punj extols the Taksin administration for it’s brutal “no-nonsense approach towards Islamic succession in the south of Thailand,” that is approving the appropriation of those traditionally Malay Muslim lands, and applauding human rights abuses. Sorry, but just because it is a so-called Buddhist administration which is oppressing the minority, violation of human rights is still violation of human rights. The “decisive approach” that the Taksin government followed in the southern provinces was not Buddhist, not democratic, not justifiable. If Punj wants us to approve of the Thai “flushing out” of “recalcitrant elements” (actually, living human beings) and the subsequent death of 78 of them, he obviously doesn’t understand the teaching of Lord Buddha.

It is hardly a “bitter irony” to have a Buddhist monk defending Muslims as worthy of

tolerance and compassion, or speaking up to defend Islam. Perhaps the Dalai Lama meant that Islam is as much a religion of compassion as Judaism, Hinduism, Communism, or Christianity. Politically, the enemy isn’t Islam, or any other religion, but fundamentalism and communalism. At the very bottom, the foes are greed, hatred, and delusion, which result in this whole mass of suffering.
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