Dharamshala — His Holiness the Dalai Lama left for Id-gah, Ladakh, shortly after the inauguration of Dudjon Nunnery on July 26th. Id-gah is an open-air enclosure reserved for offering Ramzan prayers, where he was the guest of the Sunni and Shia Muslim communities .
The President of the Sunni Community saluted His Holiness as a living symbol of love and peace. He pledged that the Muslim community from the Zoji Pass to Turtuk would continue to do its best to maintain communal harmony in Ladakh. He added that despite the deeds of some black sheep and distorted reports in the media, Islam is a religion of peace.
He invited His Holiness to present a gift to a woman belonging to a Buddhist family who has looked after the Id-gah on behalf of the community. He added that when they recently wished to extend the property, their Buddhist neighbors gave them the land saying, “monastery or masjid, they’re one and the same thing”. After requesting His Holiness to release a history book by Abdul Ghanisheikh, he ended, “Please sir, keep coming to Ladakh. We pray for your long life.”
His Holiness responded, “Dear brothers and sisters, I feel really honored. I’m happy to come here once more to visit the Muslim community of Leh. I have a commitment to trying to make this a happier, more compassionate world, because we are all the same as human beings. We are born the same way. As human beings we share the same basic compassionate nature. I’m also committed to promoting religious harmony. I’m a Buddhist monk and I might even claim to be a Buddhist scholar. We need our different religious traditions with their different philosophical points of view because of our different needs and dispositions. Millions follow these different traditions and we should respect them.
“In this country, India, we have a living example that the world’s religions can live in harmony with each other. I have suggested before that representatives of Indian Muslims consider interceding in disputes in other parts of the world between Shia and Sunni for example. As a Buddhist there’s not much I could do, but as fellow Muslims, you might help.
“What I often do say these days is that to use the label ‘Muslim Terrorist’ is a mistake. Once someone embarks on acts of terrorism they cease to behave as proper Muslims. I’ve been told that a follower of the Qur’an should respect all creatures of Allah and that one who sheds blood is no longer a proper Muslim. What’s more, I repeat what Farooq Abdullah explained to me that jihad is actually about the inner struggle with our negative emotions. For these sorts of reasons I made clear at a commemoration of the September 11th event in Washington DC that it was wrong to criticize the entire Muslim community for the mischief of a few.”
His Holiness reported that on his recent visit to Zanskar, where there has apparently been friction between the Buddhist and Muslim communities, he advised both that since they have to live together, they should help each other and try not to boycott each others’ shops.
He further reported being impressed when in Srinagar he met Muslims who used to live in Tibet, whose young people have learned to speak the exquisite Lhasa dialect of their parents. He has also counseled the Sikyong to look into employing some of them in the CTA.
In offering words of thanks in Ladakhi at the end, the President of the Shia Community’s wish for His Holiness’s long life was met with unanimous applause. His Holiness then enjoyed a delicious lunch with his hosts, before returning to the Shiwatsel Phodrang.