Sunday, August 05, 2012

An Open Letter from the Buddhist Community on Islamophobia

Danny Fishcher
July 31, 2012.

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.


Joshua Eaton, M.Div., Boston, MA, USA
Rev. Danny Fisher, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Rod Meade Sperry, Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Sharon Salzberg, Barre, MA, USA
Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda, Oakland, CA, 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. James Ishmael Ford, Providence, RI, USA
Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown, Boulder, CO, USA
Shastri Ethan Nichtern, New York City, NY, USA
Lodro Rinzler, New York City, NY, USA
Lopon Rita Gross, Eau Claire, WI, USA
Rev. Maia Zenyu Duerr, Santa Fe, NM, USA
Gary Gach, San Francisco, CA, USA
Allan Badiner, Big Sur, CA, USA
Rev. Wakoh Shannon Hickey, Alfred, NY, USA
Koshin Paley Ellison, New York City, NY, USA
Steve Kanji Ruhl, State College, PA, USA
Martin Aylward, Cubjac, Aquitaine, FRANCE
Karma Yonten Gyatso, Richmond Hill, Ontario, CANADA
Arun Gandhi, Rochester, NY, USA
Claire Michalewicz, Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Martin Whelan, Slingo, County Slingo, IRELAND
Susan Wirawan, Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
Luke McKean, Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
Miguel Marcos, Madrid, Community of Madrid, SPAIN
Catherine DeLorey, Boston, MA, USA
Stephen Hale, Muir Beach, CA, USA
Rik Center, San Francisco, CA, USA
Kris Freedain, Laguna Niguel, CA, USA
Rev. Michael Tran, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Brant Henne, Swampscott, MA, USA
Craig Thomas, York, PA, USA
Zoey Roy, Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Angela Gunn, Savannah, GA, USA
Laurie Knowlton, Boothbay, ME, USA
Jessica Bizub, Milwaukee, WI, USA
Robin Reed, San Francisco, CA, USA
Prof. Kristopher Short, Cranston, RI, USA
Vivien Phung, Laguna Niguel, CA, USA
Jean Lamont, State College, PA, USA
Kathleen de Vries, Napa, CA, USA
Peter Muller, New York City, NY, USA
Dee Levy, Swindon, England, UNITED KINGDOM
Sandra Madera, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Chaplain Karen Morris, M.Div., Johnson City, TN, USA
Anda Peterson, St. Petersburg, FL, USA
Matthew Gegenhuber, Hawkins, WI, USA
Dean Hill, Albany, NY, USA
Karla Passalacqua, Atlanta, GA, USA
Ven. Hue Hai, Alhambra, CA, USA
Terry Evans, Bangor, North Wales, UNITED KINGDOM
Jim Hasse, Walnut Creek, CA, USA
Karma Sonam Lhamo, Penllyn, PA, USA
Geoff Haynes, Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
Lynnea Bylund, Dana Point, CA, USA
Victor Spence, Edinburgh, Scotland, UNITED KINGDOM
Upāsaka Raymond M. McDonald, La Verne, CA, USA
Imtiaaz Gafoor, Johannesburg, Gauteng, SOUTH AFRICA
Nisar Ahmed, Karachi, Sindh, PAKISTAN
David Cabrera, Hollywood, FL, USA
Rev. Michael W. A. Henderson, Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Christina Omorochoe, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
Kelly Hills, Ardmore, PA, USA
Thom Stromer, Baltimore, MD, USA
Roger K. James, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, BRAZIL
Stephanie Cianfriglia, Endicott, NY, USA
John Christensen, Chicago, IL, USA
Tanis Moore, Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA
Nancy A. Jefferis, Santee, CA, USA

Click here if you are a Buddhist and you would like to add your name to the list.

Comment: This is a very significant and well timed gesture. 

As a Muslim I would like to thank the signatories above for taking this brave step to demonstrate our shared concern and common humanity.


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