[Buddha-l] Return of blasphemy?

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 4 01:01:49 MDT 2011


Nice to see you posting here again. Unfortunately associating Tariq Ramadan 
with "tolerance" is perverse (I'm with Curt on this one). He smooth-talks 
when doing his Islamic apologetics, and is anything but tolerant when 
talking about Israel (and a variety of other topics). One doesn't have to be 
a neocon to see that, although anyone who seems willing to point out that 
the emperor has no clothes in public quickly gets accused of being in that 
camp. Since many on the left share his prejudices, they see his intolerance 
as an asset rather than a problem.

As for the conference proposals, "denigration" is not a useful criterion. 
Large chunks of the New Testament, not to mention everything since the early 
patristic period who have to be excised (or exorcised) for what it says 
about Jews; ditto the Quran (Jews and Christians and esp. infidels); the 
Hebrew Scriptures for what they say Moabites, Canaanites, etc.; a lot of 
Indian religious literature -- Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Carvaka, etc. -- which 
turned criticism of other traditions into various esteemed literary genres; 
same for Confucian, Shinto, and Religious Daoist literature. In other words, 
with few exceptions, if any, this is what religions themselves do, and have 
always done.

A slightly more useful criterion might be "defamation," which tends to be 
defined as: "the offense of writing or saying something bad about someone 
that is not true and makes people have a bad opinion of them," the crucial 
point being "that is not true." One would still have to allow leeway for 
humor, parody, satire, etc. And deciding what is and isn't
"true" has its challenges. But by this criterion Tariq Ramadan would be 
found guilty. By this criterion, Mahayana Buddhists would not only have to 
stop denigrating and defaming "Hinayana," Buddhists and scholars would have 
to stop calling Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga, Sthiramati, Dharmapala, and 
Xuanzang "idealists," anti-Madhyamakans would have to stop calling them 
"nihilists" (nastika), and so on.

Which criticism is "fair" (and we should be even more afraid of a culture 
that does not tolerate criticism)? Maybe in the post-modern world, we all 
need to become duplicitous denigrators like Ramadan, finding a way to 
maintain a veneer of "tolerance" as we promote our lies.


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