NEW YORK, April 16: In an effort to quell the anti-Islam tide and to improve its declining image in the West, prominent Muslim leaders on Saturday met for the first time most influential Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, in San Francisco (California) enlisting his help to correct Islam’s negative image.
“Some people have an impression that Islam is militant,” Dalai Lama said. “I think that is totally wrong. Islam is one of the world’s great religions and it carries, basically, a message of love and compassion.”
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, representatives from the world’s major religions — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and American Indian traditions — came from as far away as Egypt, some at just two weeks’ notice.
The main issue of this conference is to provide a platform to teach that there is no room today to say or invest in anything but love,” said Imam Mehdi Khorasani of Marin County, who had extended the invitation to the Dalai Lama. “We are happy and grateful for His Holiness’ decision to lend his energy to this cause.”
The Los Angeles Times observed the the organizers hoped that the Dalai Lama’s support would help mend Islam’s reputation in the West. The religion’s image has been battered by world events, including the attacks of Sept 11, the subsequent war in Iraq and riots over Danish cartoons.
The Buddhist leader pointed to his homeland of Tibet as an example of a place where Buddhists and Muslims have existed together in peace for centuries. In an interview earlier, the Nobel laureate and religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism said: “Promoting the genuine message of Islam and the proper impression of the Muslim world — that is my hope.
“Some of my Muslim friends have told me that those people who claim to be Muslims, if they create bloodshed, that is not genuine Islam,” he said. “Those few mischievous ones do not represent all Muslims.” Some of those in attendance suggested that the open display of mutual support might not play well with more extreme members of either Islam or Buddhism. “It’s a brave thing for imams to reach out to the Dalai Lama — it’s likely to be seen in some circles as an act of weakness and undignified of their own traditions,” Caner Dagli, assistant professor of religion at Roanoke College in Virginia told the newspaper.