Friday, May 04, 2007

Islamists and Buddhists

In a fascinating interview published on the Benador Associates web site, a Danish Buddhist named Ole Nydahl provides the historical context for radical Islamists' hatred of Buddhism:

"Almost all the destruction suffered by Buddhist culture has happened through Islam. In their persecution of polytheism Muslims have probably been unable to distinguish between the Brahmans and the Buddhists. They have seen a lot of idols and assumed that Buddhists worshipped them as exterior forces. However, our paintings and statues do not depict gods but forms of energy facilitating super-personal and liberating experiences."

"If we go southward in Afghanistan from Mazar-i-Sharif and down to Kandahar and then east, we will find the old Buddhist core area that was destroyed by three Muslim invasions over the period from 900 to 1100. That was Ashoka's[A1] old core area and where Buddhism originated. Later Islam began to penetrate down through India. And, according to new Indian research, the Muslims killed some 80 million Indians from ca. A.D. 1200 up until the English stopped it in the 18th century. We are talking about Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and others. If you peruse Arabian sources, the term "budh" — the root word of Buddha and Buddhism — denotes someone worshipping many gods and whom Muhammed says must be killed under all circumstances. Who cannot even obtain dhimmi-status. Even the original Buddhist ‘little road' through Central Asia was destroyed by Muslims. So one might say that we have had much to thank Islam for throughout the years."

It is wrong to believe that all or even most Muslims hate Buddhists or Buddhism. After all, the Bamiyan Buddhas stood relatively unmolested for hundreds of years before being obliterated by the Taliban. Still, like other aspects of Islamism, hatred of Buddhism does have its roots in elements of the Islamic tradition.


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