The Dalai Lama laments religious intolerance in today's New York Times, seeking a "mutual understanding" among faiths. The theme is neither novel nor controversial, though perhaps always in need of retelling.
But the devil's in the details. The Dalai Lama notes "vigorous signs of [intolerance's] virulence":
In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith.
He then indentifies "compassion" as a "common ground" among faiths which can bring "harmony" to humanity.
Again, the broad theme is obvious to Western audiences. But are faiths truly equivalent in their offenses of intolerance and prioritization of compassion? Invoking 9/11, the Dalai Lama chastises "those who paint Islam as a militant faith" and "blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion."
While laboring upon the deficiencies of other faiths (to the exclusion of seeking similarities) would prove counter-productive, a simple-minded aversion to reality is equally inadvisable. Muhammad was a military general of many battles. His relics in Istanbul include his sword, shield, armor, horse barding, throne and a letter informing an infidel king that the impending slaughter of his tribe was owed to his refusal to convert.
Surely there is compassion in Islam, but the Dalai Lama reinvents history and insults the intellect by scolding those who recognize militant aspects at the core of Islam which differentiate the faith from other world religions.