"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.
Perpetuating a Myth
Following on from my article published yesterday (23rd Aug 14) entitled, "Words as Weapons", in which I expressed concern about the tactics being used by the Dalai Lama to avoid addressing human rights issues I've been asked to give some further explanation.
There is a concerted effort by the Dalai Lama's representatives to portray the International Shugden Community (ISC) as the same organisation as the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). The intention is to then attack the NKT as a way to try and undermine the ISC and the protests against the ban of Dorje Shudgen, rather than explaining his actions.
Rhetoric rather than fact
The media packs use rhetorical, emotionally charged language to portray the protesters as being members of a fundamentalist cult, rather than address any of the issues to explain why Dorje Shugden practitioners are discriminated against in the Tibetan exile community.
For instance the Tibetisches Zentrum Event gGmbH (TZE) (organisers of the Dalai Lama's visit to Hamburg) wrote 3 press statements to give background information about the protests. Written by journalist Birgit Stratmann who is currently employed by TZE as the media liaison for the event, they are dated 9th Aug, 12th Aug, and 18th Aug.
They mostly differ in presentation but contain the same essential miscommunications intended to polarise the media against the protests rather than answer any issues truthfully.
One example is the way that she presents the protesters as being the NKT, even though she knows that this is untrue:
"Essentially, the protestors are members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). To organise
the protests, the NKT has continued to found new front organisations disguising the background of the protestors. The International Shugden Community (ISC) is already the third one like this. Those operating the Shugden website do not have an imprint, operate anonymously („domains by proxy“), and do not mention a person who is in charge of dealing with the press."
She offers no evidence to back up this claim that the protesters are the NKT, choosing instead to use the absence of evidence as proof. As I stated previously not even Geshe Tashi Tsering was able to support this claim during the SOAS panel discussion.
The ISC claimed that 400 protesters took part in demonstrations in Hamburg on 23rd Aug. Of those they stated approximately 80 were Tibetans. Anyone who actually witnessed the protests will be aware that there were several signs from the Tibetan Gyeden Tensung Society.
There is no valid reason given in the statement or witnessed in person to lend any credence to this claim that the ISC is the NKT, so why does she state it as a fact?
Being economical with the truth
Birgit then goes on to state that there is no clear explanation for why the protesters accuse the Dalai Lama of lying, again she knows this to be a lie. During the SOAS panel conference Kelsang Rabten of the ISC clearly explained the reasons for this accusation. By pretending not to be aware of this she sidesteps the issue.
Given that the final version of Birgit's statement was dated 18th August, 3 days after the Dalai Lama's representatives had seen the SOAS panel discussion, it is beyond doubt that they knew very clearly the reasons for this accusation.
In answering the accusation that the Dalai Lama's actions in implementing the ban of Dorje Shugden practice constitute a suppression of religious freedom Birgit states:
"The Dalai Lama has recommended discontinuing this cult practice which precisely
means that he does not accept those who continue practicing Shugden as his students.
Since the Shugden devotees do not acknowledge the Dalai Lama as an authority,
they could simply ignore his advice. The devotees could continue practicing Shugden
privately or in certain temples, for example monasteries in India and the communities of
NKT in the West – and this is happening."
Again Birgit uses the opportunity to refer to Dorje Shugden as a "cult practice" - a phrase designed to create a negative image of the practice.
The practice is not a cult, nor is it a 'fundamentalist' practice. As Thupten Wangchen of the Tibetan Parliament said in a recent interview, almost a third of all Tibetans used to engage in the practice. That figure includes lay and ordained Tibetans.
A third of all Tibetans is approximately 2 million people - a significant number. The practice was mainstream and completely accepted within Tibetan society as normal, not fundamentalist and definitely not cultish. These are the Tibetan governments own figures, but now we see it portrayed as a "spirit worshiping cult" if we are to believe Birgit.
The Dalai Lama has not "recommended" anything - he has enforced the ban of Dorje Shugden practitioners from all aspects of the Tibetan government its branches and departments (click here to read about the government's discrimination). Even Tenzin Peljor, a staunch supporter of the Dalai Lama said, "To enable a fair and democratic government in exile government members had to stop Shugden practice or to leave."
If you are forced to resign from your job simply because of your religious beliefs that is not the Dalai Lama ceasing to accept you as a student. That is the Dalai Lama taking away your livelihood, your career and your means of providing for your family. It is also recognised throughout the world as a breach of International human rights laws (for more information about the human rights issues click here).
In response to the accusation that the Dalai Lama has forbidden Dorje Shugden practice Birgit states, "The Dalai Lama, in his role as a spiritual teacher, is not in a position to forbid
practices." If this document is intended to provide accurate background information on the protests why has Birgit conveniently forgotten that the Dalai Lama was the official head of the Tibetan government until 3 years ago?
It was in his role as head of state with authority over the Tibetan exile community that he forbade the practice of Dorje Shugden amongst government employees. Birgit is well aware of this fact since she has been involved with the media team for the Dalai Lama's previous visits in 1998 and 2007.
So instead of providing any accurate information on the background of the protests Birgit has instead created a statement designed to draw attention away from the human rights issues suffered by the Tibetans in exile. It is designed to perpetuate the myth's of the Tibetan government whilst failing to provide any evidence to support its outlandish claims.
Crudely put, it's a pack of lies cleverly crafted by a journalist who is well aware of the lack of time other journalists have available to properly fact check it.
The re-appearance of Tenzin Peljor
For further information the document also includes 3 recommended sources of reliable information, all of which are connected to Tenzin Peljor. The first two recommendations refer the reader to a website designed and written by Tenzin Peljor and the third recommendation directs the reader to a press release from the Deutschen Buddhistischen Ordensgemeinschaft (DBO) which is written by their media contact - Tenzin Peljor.
For my critique of the DBO's press release, including it's justifications for discrimination and segregation click here.
It seems that Tenzin Peljor is always on hand to offer independent, accurate advice regarding this issue. It's no surprise that a confidential press pack I sent to NDR was leaked to him and subsequently found its way onto another of his websites. I needn't guess which person passed it on to him.
In my view the Dalai Lama has sunk to new depths to avoid addressing this issue. He seems to have moved on from the accusations of Chinese funding for the protests (likewise unsupported by any evidence) to now accusing the NKT of organising the protests.
This explains why there was an ex-NKT member on the SOAS panel discussion (click here for more info), why there is a declaration against the protests from a small number of ex-NKT members included in the media pack, and why Tenzin Peljor who is an ex-NKT member seems to pop up with alarming regularity.
Unfortunately the Dalai Lama's visit is now almost over and the chance to press him further on any questions about his discrimination and persecution of Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners is all but gone.
It is my hope that by providing this further explanation the public will start to understand the pressures and deceit that faces journalists when trying to responsibly cover this issue. When information is released days before the event journalists don't usually have a team of experts on hand to sort the fact from the fiction - they're already facing deadlines for other stories and have little free time before the event itself.
They sometimes trust the official channels at the expense of accuracy, and those working in media relations within the Dalai Lama's retinue know only too well the words to use and buttons to press to discourage a closer inspection of this issue.
I have included all 3 versions of the statement from Birgit so that you can see for yourself how this information is presented as fact. I won't include the full media pack, but hopefully from this statement and the explanation above you will have some greater understanding of why the media can only usually provide a small snapshot of such a huge issue.