The Dalai Lama has a history of one-way dialogues with Muslims, in which he keeps saying the same thing: don’t judge Muslims by a violent and unrepresentative (how does he know they are “unrepresentative”? what does he know about the texts, tenets, attitudes, atmospherics of Islam?) minority, and so on.
And over the past two years, qua Buddhist, and just yesterday, he has presumed to preach to Aung San Suu Kyi about the so-called “Rohingyas” (the Muslim Bengalis who, beginning in the period of British Burma and British India, drifted into Burma) and to “deplore” — how happy the New York Times must have been to report this — what he, and of course all right-thinking people, find to be her strange silence. But her silence is not strange, but admirable. She has said to the Dalai Lama, he complains, that things “are not so simple,” that they are “more complicated” than he thinks.
What everyone is missing is that Aung San Suu Kyi is a very intelligent, strong-willed lady. And she will not be stampeded into what the herd demands of her — that she “denounce the Burmese monks” for their “mistreatment of the Rohingyas.” Her late husband, Dr. Michael Aris, taught at Oxford. He was a friend and colleague of the Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford, Ernst Gombrich’s son Richard. And Richard Gombrich’s son was also a friend of the late David McCutchion, whose field of special study were the temples and art of Bengal. And it was David McCutchion who saw what Muslims had done to Buddhists and Buddhist monuments, temples, stelae, statuary, in Bengal; it was David McCutchion who expressed the wish that Pakistan had never existed.
Aung San Suu Kyi doesn’t need any lessons either from the Dali Lama, or from the editors of The New York Times, about Burma and the “Rohingyas.” She knows something about them. And that distinguishes her from the undifferentiated mass or herd that is supposed to speak for the “international community” (as in “the international community deplores the behavior of the Burmese government toward the Rohingyas.”)
She may ultimately succumb to such pressure but for now, she is standing firm, secure in her superior knowledge. She is, for this withstanding, to be admired and praised and, whenever possible, emulated.