The Dalai Lama’s entourage stood ready to whisk him across the Indiana University campus on Wednesday afternoon to a waiting audience of thousands at its main auditorium, where he was overdue to resume a daylong series of teachings. But he wasn’t rushing. He lingered patiently with several prominent American Muslims at a table, admiring a book newly published in Louisville that formed the basis for their short but momentous meeting in a nearby campus building. And he left only after standing and blessing each one, draping prayer scarves across their shoulders. One by one, he and several Muslim leaders had issued statements recognizing each other’s religions as valid spiritual paths, which participants described as a potential breakthrough in relations between the two religions that encompass much of Asia and count nearly 2 billion people as followers worldwide. “All major religious traditions (are seeking) something beyond words,” said the Dalai Lama, the 74-year-old spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and for many the most recognizable face of Buddhism in the world. He said it’s “very unfair” to paint all Muslims as terrorists for the actions of some. “All have some ability to bring holiness to all of humanity,” he said. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Indiana-based Islamic Society of North America, praised the Dalai Lama for “remaining dignified in the face of persecution” from Chinese authorities and thanked him for defending Muslims from accusations their religion is inherently violent. And Plemon T. El-Amin, imam of a large Atlanta mosque, said the Quran calls on Muslims to “relate to those who believe and practice righteousness,” which he said includes devout Buddhists. The meeting followed years of dialogue between Buddhists and Muslims and was timed to coincide with teachings the Dalai Lama is giving this week at IU, hosted by the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, which was founded by his late brother. The leaders were drawing on a new book of scholarly essays, “Common Ground Between Islam & Buddhism,” published by Fons Vitae of Louisville. In addition to the Dalai Lama, several prominent Buddhists also have endorsed the book.
Ingrid Mattson was elected as President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 2006 after long service as an ISNA functionary including as ISNA Vice-President. As documented in a Hudson Institute report, ISNA grew directly out of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. The organization has a long history of fundamentalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism and during the recent Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial, ISNA was named as an unindicted co-conspirator as a result of what the government called “ISNA’s and NAIT’s intimate relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Committee, and the defendants in this case.” Although it is true that recently ISNA has issued condemnations of terrorism which for the first time identify Hamas and Hezbollah by name, there is no indication that the organization has ever addressed or acknowledged its history of support for terrorism. Also, as the Hudson Institute report observes, almost all of the ISNA founders remain active in the organization and ISNA maintains close relations with all other components of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.