Following Thursday’s annual National Prayer Breakfast, His Holiness the Dalai Lama attended a much smaller gathering of around a hundred American Muslims and American Buddhists, in Washington.
His Holiness began by discussing the challenges that many Muslims have faced since the Sept. 11 attacks. A few individuals’ behavior he said, should not generalize the entire religious tradition — “It’s not fair, not right” — and added that he was concerned about the bad image Islam was getting. It is a service, he explained, for Muslims to stand up and not be complacent or indifferent in this environment, especially when Islam has such global significance. Muslim faith is about loving everyone, he said. “Muslim practitioners must extend love toward entire creation of Allah,” he said. The audience interrupted in applause.
The Dalai Lama also shared an interaction he once had with President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. On a human level, His Holiness said, Bush was a very nice person. “‘I love you,’” the Dalai Lama recalled saying to Bush, “‘but some of your policies, I have great reservation [about].’”
The event was sponsored by the Development Organization for Societies in Transition (DOST), a Washington, D.C., secular non-profit started by Muslims that does civic programing in northern Pakistan. The panel, moderated by DOST executive director John Pinna, was the second in the group’s ongoing series of conversations between the Muslim community and His Holiness. The first was an informal gathering with two dozen American Muslim leaders and the Dalai Lama two years ago. American Muslim leaders including CEO of Islamic Relief Anwar Khan, vice president of United States Institute for Peace Manal Omar and the executive director of Muflehun Humera Khan, joined His Holiness and His Eminence for a panel conversation on the idea of service.
Sheikh Al-Sahlani added that “The greatest victim of the terror of the last 20 years was the religion of Islam.” It is time, he said, for Muslims to fix their own house. The Dalai Lama nodded.
Peter Manseau recounts the period when Americans feared Buddhists: When Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, authorizing the evacuation of all those of Japanese descent from the West Coast to war relocation centers, the Buddhist faith practiced by many Japanese Americans was itself regarded as a potential threat.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the formal entry of the United States into World War II, the FBI compiled a list of suspected collaborators that included not only members of groups with political ties to Japan, but the leaders of Buddhist temples.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s Custodial Detention List used a classification system designating the supposed risk of individuals on an A-B-C scale, with an “A” assigned to those deserving greatest suspicion. In Hoover’s system, Buddhist priests were designated “A-1”: “dangerous enemy aliens” whose arrest was considered a matter of urgent concern. [Continue reading…]