Bethlehem, PA, USA, 13 July 2008 (By Michael Rubinkam, AP) - The Dalai Lama said Sunday that "it's totally wrong, unfair" to call Islam a violent religion.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, appearing at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, offered a defense of Islam in response to a question about the rise of violent religious fundamentalism. He added that he has made a point of reaching out to Muslims since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Dalai Lama arrived at Lehigh on Thursday for a series of talks on a 600-year-old Buddhist text. He took a break Sunday to lecture on "Generating a Good Heart," and afterward took questions from Lehigh President Alice P. Gast that had been submitted in advance by the public.
Asked why so many Americans are depressed and anxious, he joked: "I'm the wrong person to ask. You should ask Americans." Then he answered that U.S. society is too competitive and that people always want "something more, something more, something more."
The Dalai Lama, who attracted a capacity crowd of about 5,000, did not mention next month's Beijing Olympics. The Chinese government has demanded that the Dalai Lama express support for the Olympics and repudiate efforts to disrupt them as a condition for continued talks.
China has governed Tibet since the 1950s. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid a failed uprising in 1959, has said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.
The Dalai Lama, who turned 73 on July 6, said Sunday that he's looking forward to "complete retirement." He joked that he's now considered a "senior most respected adviser" to Tibet's government in exile.
He is scheduled to speak at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday.