The Chinese government has branded the Dalai Lama a “violent extremist” and Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) “sympathizer” after the Buddhist leader made remarks urging “dialogue” with the jihadist terror group.
“By saying, ‘listen, understand and respect’ them, it exposes, in his very bones, his sympathy or endorsement for ISIS,” Chinese Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee chairman Zhu Weiqun said of the Dalai Lama in an interview with China’s Global Times, according to Reuters. Zhu went on to declare that the Dalai Lama has “never given up violence in his political way of life,” and that the Dalai Lama has “incited” Buddhist Tibetans to self-immolate as a protest to living under Beijing’s communist rule. Self-immolation, he declared, was its own form of “violent extremism.”
The Chinese government has previously accused the Dalai Lama of “manipulat[ing] and instigat[ing]” self-immolation in Tibet. The Dalai Lama himself has called self-immolations, of which upwards of 130 have occurred in China in the last five years, “very sad,” but said that such an act is “less negative” if accompanying a “more compassionate, more calm mind.”
The Dalai Lama’s recent declarations regarding the Islamic State triggered this latest condemnation from the Chinese government. Speaking with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, the Buddhist leader said peace with ISIS can only be achieved “through dialogue,” adding, “One has to listen, to understand, to have respect for the other person, regardless. There is no other way.” He went on to call Islam a “religion of peace.”
Chinese interest blog Shanghaiist recalls that, in contrast to this declaration, Islamic State “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has labeled Islam “a religion of war” and “never for a day the religion of peace.”
The Dalai Lama has previously praised European nations that have welcomed large numbers of Muslim refugees from war-torn nations. “I think some, especially Germany, [have given] a very good response, and Austria,” he said of the migrant crisis, though he ultimately noted that “ultimately we have to think how to reduce this killing in their own countries,” not merely taking them in.
Reuters noted that this condemnation of the Dalai Lama follows reports that the Chinese government is attempting to turn the leadership under the head of the religion against him. The Panchen Lama, Buddhism’s second-in-command, has allegedly been harassed into denouncing the Dalai Lama, and is seen by many in the religion as a fraud. The man currently in the position is not the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama, who disappeared at age six, but a Chinese appointee.
The attempt to identify the Dalai Lama as an Islamic State sympathizer also follows weeks of taunting on the part of ISIS, beginning in earnest with a full-page spread in the jihadist organization’s magazine, Dabiq, announcing the beheading of Chinese hostage Fan Jinghui. ISIS has also released its first Mandarin-language nashid, or jihadi fight song, urging Chinese nationals to join them in Syria and Iraq.