Sunday, August 5, 2012

Buddhism And Islamphobia

As disciples of the Buddha who live in the West, we would like to take the holy month of Ramadan as an opportunity to express our growing concern about Islamophobia, both within our governments and within the Buddhist community worldwide.
In North America and Europe, the past decade has seen peaceful Muslim communities targeted by hate crimes, police profiling, and even challenges to their basic human rights of free religion and free assembly. The New York Times reports that the New York City Police Department infiltrated peaceful Muslim groups across the Northeastern United States for indiscriminate surveillance. The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Murfreesboro, Tennessee has faced vandalism, arson, and legal challenges opposing their new mosque, while France and Belgium have outlawed wearing niqāb in public over concerns about immigration, the status of women, and the diluting of European culture.
In the wider Buddhist community there have been media reports of Buddhist leaders—including monastics—endorsing human rights abuses against Muslim ethnic groups. For example, The Independent reports that Buddhist monastic organizations in Burma are blocking aid shipments to refugee camps for ethnically Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine. The article also accuses monastic associations of encouraging ethnically Rakhine Buddhists not to associate with Rohingya. Ethnic tensions have resulted in human rights abuses and loss of life on both sides of this conflict.
Meanwhile, Newsweek reports that the Thai government has set up military encampments inside Buddhist temples—even using some of them as torture chambers—in their ongoing fight against a violent Malay Muslim insurgency in the southern states of Patani, Yala, and Narathiwat. More disturbingly, Newsweek reports the Thai government is paying ethnic Thais to resettle in majority-Malay areas in order to dilute the Malay population. Once again, there have been many human rights abuses and much loss of life on both sides of the conflict.
In this time of conflict, we believe that the life and teachings of the Buddha can be a shining example for the world. He taught us to practice mutual respect among all people without prejudice, to work for the mutual benefit of all beings, and to try to solve our problems without resorting to violence. In those rare instances where violence is necessary, he taught us to practice restraint and to protect innocent lives. It is in this spirit that we are writing.
In our own countries, we ask law enforcement agencies to stop targeting Muslim communities with indiscriminate surveillance and profiling. And we call on Americans to see their Muslims neighbors as fellow citizens, bound together with them through the shared values of democracy, equality, and freedom.
In the wider Buddhist community, we ask our fellow Buddhists to refrain from using the Dharma to support nationalism, ethnic conflict, and Islamophobia. We believe that these values are antithetical to the Buddha’s teachings on loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
The vast majority of Muslims the world over are peaceful, law-abiding people who share much the same dreams, hopes, and aspirations as their non-Muslim neighbors. They are our friends, our relatives, our colleagues, our neighbors, and our fellow citizens. Most importantly, they are our fellow sentient beings, all of whom, the Buddha taught, have loved and cared for us in the past. We stand with them during this holy month of Ramadan and denounce Islamophobia unequivocally.
By  Joshua Eaton.

Rev. Danny Fisher, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Sharon Salzberg, Barre, MA, USA
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Carmel, NY, USA
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, San Diego, CA, USA
Charles Prebish, State College, PA, USA
William Aiken, Washington, DC, USA
Rev. Maia Zenyu Duerr, Santa Fe, NM, USA
Rev. James Ishmael Ford, Providence, RI, USA
Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown, Boulder, CO, USA
Lopon Rita Gross, Eau Claire, WI, USA
Ven. Zenkei Blanche Hartman, San Francisco, CA, USA
Ken & Visakha Kawasaki, Swartz Creek, MI, USA
Rev. Wakoh Shannon Hickey, Alfred, NY, USA
Rev. Beth Kanji Goldring, Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA
Chap. Mikel Ryuho Monnett, M.A., BCC, Columbus, OH, USA
Acharya Sujatin Johnson, Newcastle upon Tyne, ENGLAND
Rev. Josho Pat Phelan, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Rev. Daishin Eric McCabe, Pennsdale, PA, USA
Rev. Patricia Dai-En Bennage, Pennsdale, PA, USA
Rev. Michael Tran, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Ven. Hue Hai, Alhambra, CA, USA
Upāsaka Raymond M. McDonald, La Verne, CA, USA
Rev. Michele Kaishin Tae, Boise, ID, USA
Rev. Jim Hokyo Dunn, Santa Fe, NM, USA

For other signatories see    


Rev. Danny Fisher said...

Thank you for the kind post, Venerable. The author of the letter is actually Joshua Eaton (, though myself and a group of other Buddhists offered tweaks and edits and little revisions to the letter. I put together the website and am working with Josh to get the word out about the letter.

Thank you again for spreading the word.

Soe am i said...

Dear King,

there is much evidence that the label Islam exists and is in widespread use in the world. And there is fear among many for that label, inciting anything from apprehensiveness to murderous intent. So this letter is intended to address the need to check that fear so we may not lose our own humanity to it.

May you be well and happy.

Soe am i said...

The article from The Independent also mentioned that "Some monasteries in Maungdaw and Sittwe sheltering displaced Rakhine people have openly refused to accept international aid, alleging that it is "biased" in favour of the Rohingya."

I hope more level-headed people of some authority can peacefully resolve the conflicts in these regions.

King David said...

@Soe am i, thank you for your rational & kind response.