Are Buddhsist Racist

Read my one & only interview in the New Statesman

What is Racism?

 

Race can be defined as:

"A classification system used to categorise humans into distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, and/or social affiliation.”

 

Racism can be defined as:

“The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

 

When a group of people are labeled according to a certain religious belief or affiliation and their access to public services, jobs, livelihoods and social freedoms are denied or restricted on the basis of this belief or affiliation this is racism.

Manipulating the Media

Updated & Updated Again - Please also read Part Two of this article here

In perhaps their most audacious attempt to manipulate the media, the Central Tibetan Authority (CTA) appear to have successfully subverted a charity funded principally by the UK Government to aid them in their campaign. As to whether this organisation has been a willing partner in the CTA's manipulation of the media or just unknowingly influenced remains to be seen.

Ever since he was ordained by the Dalai Lama in 2006 Tenzin Peljor has been working for the CTA, assisting with their campaign to try and discredit the protests against the persecution of Shugden Buddhists. As was explained in our in-depth investigation into Tenzin he has spent years manipulating various online forums and websites to disseminate CTA propaganda designed to portray the protesters as fanatics and cult members.

Despite mixed results he has been tremendously successful in influencing "Inform", a UK charity to assist in his presentation of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) as a cult. As previously explained the NKT was the first organisation that took a stance against the Dalai Lama's persecution of Shugden Buddhists by participating in public protests. It has been the policy of the CTA ever since then to try and persuade the media that the NKT is a cult and with Inform, Tenzin had found the perfect organisation to assist in this approach.

 

Inform

Inform is a UK registered charity (reg. no. 801729) which was founded in 1988 by Professor Eileen Barker and is based at the London School of Economics. It states its primary aim is, "to help people by providing them with information that is as accurate, balanced, and up-to-date as possible about alternative religious, spiritual and esoteric movements."

Inform receives the majority of its funding from the UK Government's Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Education. In their latest filings with the Charities Commission they received a total of £245,000 in funding from these two departments. This is compared to just over £28,000 which they received from other sources.

The notion of Inform's heavy dependence on Government funding, without which it could no longer function, is to enable it to maintain its independence from the various organisation it works with. However, in the case of the NKT their impartiality appears to have been significantly, if not irrevocably, compromised.

Inform's approach to researching minority religious groups seeks to understand them from the perspectives of both current and ex-members. They claim to make several 'field visits' in the course of their research which gives, "invaluable personal understanding of the beliefs, practices, and understandings of those currently or formerly involved with the movements." (taken from Inform's website).

With such an approach it seems fairly obvious there will be potential pitfalls of bias, trust and reliability of data that may hamper their ability not only to provide accurate information, but also to provide it impartially. Such a system appears open to abuse from outside parties who wish to present a skewed view of a particular organisation, and this certainly appears to have been the case with Inform's approach to the NKT.

 

Skewing the Data

If someone wanted to artificially magnify the focus of Inform towards a particular minority group they would need a cadre of people who were ex-members of the group they could drive towards Inform's researchers. This is exactly the situation Tenzin Peljor and Carol McQuire found themselves in with their newly created "NKT Survivors" group in 2008.

In examining the way both Tenzin and Carol interact with members of their survivors group the situation usually follows a predictable pattern. Members are regularly encouraged to write only about their negative experiences within the NKT, whilst any positive experiences are systemically discouraged by the rules of the group which are strictly enforced by its moderators.

If people post comments explaining that the NKT is in any way good they are routinely admonished and accused of being "NKT trolls", subject to possible suspension or permanent exclusion. In this way it becomes a strongly peer controlled environment which encourages reinforcement only of members negative perceptions about the NKT.

The other pattern which emerges alongside this critical narrative is the regular pressure applied to members directing them to contact Inform about their experiences. Notably only those who exhibit negative accounts of their time in the NKT are encouraged to contact Inform, and it is usually under the guise of protecting other vulnerable members in the future.

The survivors group therefore becomes not only a breeding ground for criticism of the NKT but also a de-facto lobbying group focussed on shaping Inform's perception of the NKT. This pattern of behaviour rapidly developed soon after the group was established and continues to the present day. Carol McQuire having recently posted the following encouragement, "Anyone who can write to Inform and send in those letters - that would be appreciated."

One member who commented that they had written an account of their time in the NKT was eagerly responded to by Carol, "You can send it to Suzanne Newcombe at Inform. she can advise you expertly on publishing. highly recommended"

So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, a factory manufacturing tales of discontent. Taking in, on one side, vulnerable people who are in the process of leaving their faith, with the promise of support and help, whilst converting them to Inform statistics is a strategy intended to boost the CTA's presentation of the NKT as a dysfunctional group.

Whilst the NKT, like every other volunteer based organisation has flaws and will over time give rise to negative experiences amongst some of its members, it is this exploitation by Tenzin of some of their ex-members which gives rise to serious concern.

This is where Inform's method of first hand research is easily open to abuse because although they may claim to maintain a balanced outlook, anyone who approaches them after contact with Carol and Tenzin's group is clearly primed to present only a negative account of their experiences. An account which may very well have been shaped more by their interactions with the survivors group than by their actual experiences within the NKT.

Those ex-members who encourage people to work through their problems and not simply blame the NKT are rapidly removed from the survivors group, labeled as 'trolls' trying to spread NKT propaganda.

 

Maintaining Independence

In such a situation the ability of Inform to maintain it's independence depends to a significant degree on its ability to be conscious that it is being manipulated, and unfortunately it doesn't appear to have been sufficiently aware this was taking place.

For example, if you are readily being presented with accounts from ex-members of a group, you would expect to engage in some equal measure of research with current members. However, the degree to which Inform has conducted this research appears to be somewhat biased towards the ex-members shepherded their way by Tenzin and Carol.

In their annual report for 2013/14 they list the visitors to their offices from different groups. For instance they state they had visitors from both current and former members of ISKCON, the Unification Church and the Church of Scientology. However only ex-members of the NKT visited their offices.

In terms of 'field visits' Inform stated their researchers visited over 30 different religious organisations, even managing to interview a Jewish Voodoo priestess in New Orleans, yet they make no mention of visiting or interviewing any current members of the NKT. Whilst its researchers managed to travel widely at the expense of UK taxpayers, for some reason they had neither the time nor inclination to visit the NKT, which has 2 residential centres within a 10 mile radius of their offices in London.

This apparent bias is evident in every one of Inform's annual reports. In 2012/13 no current members or representatives of the NKT visited their offices, only ex-NKT members. However Suzanne Newcombe did attend various meetings with, "members and former members of the NKT", although no figures or further information was given.

All their annual reports prior to 2012 omitted specific details about visitors from different religious groups, however none of them show any researchers having undertaken any 'field visits' to interview current members of the NKT.

From this perspective it appears that Inform's principal source of research regarding the NKT comes from ex-members who have been prepared by Tenzin Peljor and Carol McQuire. Clearly this is bound to have a significant effect on the independence and context of the information they present. In this respect Tenzin Peljor has effectively co-opted Inform into his work for the Central Tibetan Authority.

 

The Final Result

Once Tenzin had all of his pieces in place it was simply a matter of presenting the information to the media and directing their enquiries to Inform to confirm that the NKT was indeed a cult. In doing so Tenzin worked on various press releases for the Dalai Lama's European visits, either through proxy organisations he volunteered for (such as the DBO), or by directly assisting the event organisers.

Numerous press releases for the Dalai Lama's visits directed journalists to Tenzin's websites and also to Inform. They made bold claims about the protests, stating that they were organised by "fringe groups", "fanatics", and a "cult". The narrative was simple, the protests are organised by the NKT, they are a cult, contact Inform if you don't believe us.

They made claims that Inform had more enquiries about the NKT than Scientology, failing to mention any figures to put that claim in context. Between 2010 and 2014 Inform received an average of 24 enquiries per year about the NKT. This figure includes enquiries from the media as well as enquiries from ex-members and the public.

Between 2001 and 2010 Inform received an average of 14 enquiries per year about the NKT, again including those from the media, ex-members and the public.

Placed in this context we can see 2 patterns emerging - firstly the NKT doesn't appear to be a cult, and secondly when you take into account the fact that Tenzin Peljor was encouraging people to contact Inform from 2008 onwards you see the effect of his campaigning is noticeable.

By purposefully skewing the data in this way Tenzin has almost doubled the number of enquiries that Inform receive about the NKT, pushing it higher up their list of groups. By so doing he has created the false appearance that the NKT is a cult, one of his primary objectives for the CTA.

His remaining objective was to present to the media the appearance that the protests are organised solely by the NKT, thus undermining the protesters claims and credibility. Incredibly it would seem that Inform also helped him with this.

 

Connecting the NKT to the International Shugden Community (ISC)

This step is key to the success of the Central Tibetan Authority's strategy to undermine the credibility of the protests and deflect attention away from its human rights violations. In order to effectively discredit the protests the CTA need to show that the NKT is behind them.

From one point of view it's an easy task since NKT members make up approximately 70% of the ISC protesters. The difficulty for the CTA is the remaining 30%, which tend to come from several different Buddhist groups, such as the Gyeden Tensung Society, the North American Gelugpa Buddhist Association and so forth.

Rather than focussing on the full 100% of the International Shugden Community the CTA instead focus on specific members who are also NKT members. During the protests in Norway they did just that when dealing with a publication called The Foreigner.

Prior to the protests The Foreigner carried an article explaining the issues raised by the ISC about human rights and discrimination. Tenzin Peljor immediately contacted the journalist who had written the article and presented his view that The Foreigner had been tricked by the ISC which was really a dangerous cult called the NKT.

He arranged for a follow up article and enlisted pro-Dalai Lama academics to refute the human rights issues, such as Dr Nathan Hill of the SOAS University, who incidentally doesn't believe in human rights as a concept. To establish the NKT's relationship with the ISC The Foreigner was directed to Dr Suzanne Newcombe at Inform, who Tenzin by now had a long established working relationship with.

Remarkably Dr Newcombe seemed to go out of her way to help Tenzin by stating to The Foreigner:

"If the directors of the International Shugden Community are full-time monks and nuns, who are supported by their positions in the New Kadampa Tradition as ‘Resident Teachers’ and other roles (holding no outside source of income or resident address) – in fact the voluntary work is a kind of ‘donation in kind’ from the NKT and certainly could not happen without the agreement of the New Kadampa Tradition"

It seems particularly strange because Dr Newcombe's logic of 'donations in kind' was thoroughly untenable. It appears that she was consciously trying to help Tenzin present the NKT as somehow being in control of the ISC.

According to her thinking anyone who works full-time and receives no other source of income is duty bound to seek the agreement of their employers before they volunteer for any organisations. Likewise any voluntary work is to be considered a 'donation in kind' from their employer.

Clearly the logic is preposterous, so why would a highly intelligent, well educated researcher make such an absurd claim?

When Dr Newcombe was asked to explain why she had made this statement she refused to answer, likewise Inform and the London School of Economics could offer no explanation.

Further investigation into another aspect of this controversy revealed yet another unusual involvement with Inform.

 

The SOAS Conference

In August 2014 a public discussion was organised by the SOAS University in London, the subject of which was Dorje Shugden and the Gelug Tradition. At the time we covered the event perhaps the most noticeable anomaly was the inclusion of Carol McQuire on the panel (more coverage here).

Carol's inclusion was out of character since her only focus was the NKT and Dorje Shugden, whereas all of the other panel members were discussing the Gelug tradition and Dorje Shugden. It seemed in fact that Carol's main function was to keep the focus on the NKT and to try and present it both as a cult and as the organiser of the protests.

Although administered by the SOAS the conference was sponsored by Karma Chura Tsang, Director of Tibetan Youth UK, through his company London Ney. Not only does Karma have strong ties to the Office of Tibet in London through Tibet Youth UK, they also commission his business to provide audio visual productions for them.

In reading many of Carol's comments in her various Facebook groups devoted to the NKT and Dorje Shugden it quickly becomes apparent that she is acting under the instructions and guidance of others. Several times she comments that she is doing everything at the insistence of members of the Tibetan community, that if it was just her she wouldn't be involved.

Carol even resorted to lying to cover up the fact that her survivors declaration against the protests had to be changed on the instructions of the CTA before it could be added to their official website. At the time of writing this Carol is attending the Dalai Lama's teachings in Basel as a guest of the CTA.

Her most unusual revelation about the SOAS conference however was how she become a panel member at the request of Inform.

 

 

Why was Inform in any way involved in organising panel members for a discussion most likely financed by the Office of Tibet?

When questioned, Inform repeatedly refused to explain the nature of their relationship with Carol, their involvement with the SOAS conference and any ties they or Suzanne may have with members of the Central Tibetan Authority.

 

Conclusions

Whilst the issues raised in this article, when taken separately, could be explained by lax research practices by Inform, or a simple naivety about their susceptibility to influence and manipulation, when combined it gives an altogether different and far more worrying impression.

Readers may find it difficult to suspend their disbelief long enough to ignore all of the alarm bells. Here we have a charity funded principally by the UK Government which appears to be complicit in the manipulation of the media to fulfill the aims of the Central Tibetan Authority.

It is highly doubtful that all of these incidents can have occurred by chance, that no-one at Inform thought it strange that ex-members of the NKT were visiting their offices as well as funneling other ex-members to them. The Facebook post below, from one of the many groups run by Carol, is just one of a multitude of examples I encountered in my own research:

 

 

Did no-one at Inform wonder why the NKT was suddenly, "at the top of its agenda for the last 5 or 6 years" as Carol states? Six years before this post is 2008, the year that Tenzin and Carol began manipulating them.

If Inform didn't realise it was being manipulated to make a religious group appear as a cult the question arises as to whether it is presently being manipulated by other groups, such as extremist Islamic groups into thinking that they are not extremist.

It is clear that Inform's information is far from balanced when it comes to the NKT. Not only do they appear to rely too heavily on the spoon fed information via Carol and Tenzin but it is clear that Dr Newcombe is operating beyond the remit of her role.

As mentioned at the very beginning of this article it would appear that Inform's independence, at least in relation to the New Kadampa Tradition is irrevocably destroyed. The question which remains is whether this is due to the effect of one of its researchers being unduly influenced or whether it is a problem systemic within the organisation as a whole.

Given that Inform are dependent on UK Government funding one would expect there to be some oversight from the Department for Communities and Local Government as well as the UK Charities Commission. Quite how Inform have managed to lose their independence so significantly in this matter is an issue of grave concern, especially at a time when the very security of the UK depends on accurate information about religious groups.

Is Inform capable of being independent, has its research been manipulated in relation to other religious groups, and if so what effect might this have on the organisations that rely upon its advice, such as the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism at the Home Office?

 

Notes:

If you have been affected by the content of this article and wish to raise your concerns you can contact the following people and organisations:

If you wish to raise any questions or concerns with the UK Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP you can tweet him here, or contact him as follows:

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4428
Fax: 020 7219 2783
email: picklese@parliament.uk

If you wish to raise any questions or concerns with the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hilary Benn MP you can tweet him here, or contact him as follows:

2 Blenheim Terrace, Leeds, LS2 9JG
Tel: 0113 244 1097
email: hilary.benn.mp@parliament.uk

If you wish to raise any questions with the Chair of Inform, Professor Eileen Barker you can contact her as follows:

Inform
Houghton Street
London
WC2A 2AE

email: e.barker@lse.ac.uk

 

Update

Since publishing this article Carol has responded cryptically by stating:

"A CONVERSATION IS NOT PROOF OF AN ORDER
ASSOCIATION IS NOT PROOF OF EMPLOYMENT"
[her emphasis]

She goes on to state, "In the same way as I am being accused of collusion with the CTA and with INFORM, Kelsang Rabten could easily be accused of all sorts of things because we had a conversation in Basel."

Clearly in her defence Carol is admitting that she has had conversations with the CTA, which she claims do not prove she is ordered what to do by them, nor employed by them. However her involvement with the CTA goes far beyond a simple conversation or two.

As revealed in the above article Carol was invited to attend the Dalai Lama's teachings in Basel at the expense of the CTA which constitutes a form of payment for her work for them. She did not seek to address or refute this point.

On January 31st 2015 Carol posted information to Facebook notifying people of a Tibetan Day celebration taking place in Stamford in March. Initially she said she would be attending the event thinking it was based in London. When she realised it wasn't she posted the following comment:

"Just looked it up - I really can't go! Too far, too expensive, how? I'd have to stay somewhere overnight and that puts the fares up too. Oh well, it was a nice idea while it lasted!"

One week later however money didn't seem to be a problem for her since she was able to travel to Switzerland to attend the weekend of the Dalai Lama's teachings there. With flights costing over £100, accommodation costing between £250-£300, and a ticket cost of £160, just the very basics to attend this event would have cost Carol over £500.

Aside from the sudden wealth that Carol must have acquired to be able to attend the event there are certain key aspects that prove beyond any reasonable doubt that she was a guest of the CTA in Basel.

In October 2014 the organisers of the event posted the comment below warning people that tickets had almost sold out. I have added a note indicating where Carol was seated:

 

 

The reason Carol has refused to comment on how and why she attended the Dalai Lama's event is because she has no way to explain it other than by admitting the CTA paid for her to be there. In addition to the financial issue she cannot explain how she managed to get a ticket in the VIP area at the front of the arena when they had already sold out months beforehand.

As well as preferential treatment from the CTA with her seating arrangements she also had a tour of the stage in between sessions where she managed to take the photo below:

 

 

The photograph is of a painting that was attached to the rear stage curtain behind the Dalai Lama's teaching throne. As you can see from the angle of the image Carol must have been standing on the stage in close proximity to the throne to take this.

Given the high level of security that is applied to the Dalai Lama's teachings it is not in any way normal for people to be allowed on stage in between sessions. The security is overseen by the CTA's own Department of Security, which means that for Carol to take this photo she must have been known to, and approved by, the CTA to be allowed on stage.

Bearing in mind the CTA know many Tibetans who attended the teachings their treatment of Carol in this way is highly unusual and indicates how well placed her contacts within the CTA are. Out of the 7,500 people attending, most would have loved to go on stage, so why was Carol allowed when they weren't?

So we have a sudden improvement in Carol's finances, a ticket in a seating area at the front of the arena that had sold out 4 months previously, and approval by the CTA's Department of Security to be on stage and photograph elements of it in between sessions.

Are we still expected to believe that Carol isn't working for the CTA? Or do money, gifts, and preferential treatment not equate to payments?

If they are payments then what are the CTA paying Carol for?

Are they paying her to promote their agenda by manipulating ex-NKT members and manipulating research charities such as Inform?

If you consider her role from an intelligence perspective she would be considered to be an asset of the CTA. I'm not suggesting a simplistic situation where Carol was issued with a set of orders which she had to follow. Modern intelligence services operate in a much more skillful and sophisticated manner as anyone familiar with Valerie Plame's account of working for the CIA is aware.

The question is, as before, how a charity such as Inform which advises the Metropolitan Police Service and Office of Security and Counter Terrorism at the Home Office, could have allowed itself to be duped so easily by an agent of a foreign government. What checks and balances, if any, exist there and why did such a catastrophic failure occur?

Inform have still refused to comment in any way about the issues raised by this article. They were given notice before its publication and were also informed when it was published. At all times they have been clearly informed that they have a right to comment on it as well as a public duty to explain themselves. Each time they have refused.

It is strange that an organisation which specialises in advising the media feels itself to be above any form of public accountability or scrutiny when it makes mistakes itself. It is simply unacceptable.

I understand why Carol refuses to explain her involvement with the CTA because other than lying or admitting to working for them there is little she can say. On the other hand Inform have an obligation to the public and the bodies which rely on the claimed accuracy and independence of their research to explain why they have been manipulated by a foreign government.

Even though Inform and the London School of Economics will continue to refuse to comment to me on these issues it is my hope that they will have to offer some form of explanation and improvement of their practices when the Department for Communities and Local Government investigates these issues.

Should you wish to add your voice to the calls for an investigation into these issues you can contact Inform's main funding body below:

Department for Communities and Local Government
2 Marsham Street 
London
SW1P 4DF

Or you can email them using their online form by clicking here

 

Further Update:

Since publishing the update above Carol McQuire has responded to this article stating that, "your estimation of ‘over £500’ spent on me last weekend is completely inaccurate."

She states that she stayed with family near Basel and her flight was £58, not £100, which her son kindly paid for.

She refuses to explain how she manged to acquire a ticket for the Dalai Lama's teachings despite the fact they had been sold out for months, or who paid for it.

In response to allegations that she is working for the CTA she states:

"I would say, firstly that ‘intention’, not the amount paid, indicates whether I am ‘working for’ or compromised by any contact with the CTA. I could accept £20 as a direct ‘payment’ for ‘services’ and a gift in kind worth much more but not be ‘paid’ or compromised."

Carol, like Tenzin Peljor, has consistently played down any connections between the Central Tibetan Authority and their activities. They have kept trying to portray themselves as simple ex-NKT members with no agenda other than to help other ex-members. Yet as I probe deeper into this controversy the links have become so obvious that they have had to gradually admit more and more to the role the CTA play in their actions.

Carol claims these contacts and 'gifts' do not constitute her working for the CTA since that depends on her intention.

However, if you are in contact with officers from a foreign government, receive payments from them and at the same time promote the agenda of that foreign government it is quite clear that you are acting in their interests. Intention doesn't change the facts of a situation.

Now at least it is clear for everyone involved that Carol, by her own admission, is in contact with the Central Tibetan Authority and is in receipt of 'gifts' from them.

 

©2014-15 Are Buddhists Racist - The author asserts copyright over all content of this publication unless otherwise stated.

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