Dalai Lama urges against generalizing Muslims after meeting pope

Vatican City - The Dalai Lama said after meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome that efforts should be taken to overcome dangerous generalizations depicting all members of a religion as "militants" ready to take up violence, the Italian state news agency reported.

The Dalai Lama's remarks Friday followed a speech Benedict gave in his native Germany last month in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

The speech provoked protests from Muslims across the world. The pope said the quotation did not reflect his personal view of Islam, and he expressed deep regret that Muslims had been offended by it. Some Muslim leaders have demanded a fuller apology.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, also referred Friday to "mistaken" judgments sparked by "a few mischievous Muslims," the ANSA news agency quoted him as telling reporters.

His remarks echoed comments he made in an interview with The Associated Press last month when he said: "Mischievous people often use religious faith for their own interests and create conflict. We have to look at the real message of all these traditions."

The Vatican has maintained a low profile on past visits by the Dalai Lama, including his last in 2003 to meet with John Paul II, to avoid a further chill in its icy relations with China.

The Dalai Lama wants autonomy for Tibet, which China has occupied since 1951. He led about 80,000 Tibetans into exile in 1959, and heads a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.

China's government bars Catholics from having contact with the Vatican and allows worship only in government-monitored churches. Millions remain loyal to the pope and worship in secret, but priests and members of their congregations frequently are detained and harassed.

Activist groups said earlier in the week that Chinese forces had detained a group of Tibetan children after border guards fatally shot at least one refugee trying to flee to Nepal across a Himalayan mountain pass.

Asked about the border case, the Dalai Lama told AP Television News on Saturday that it was "very sad."

"We have been experiencing such cases for more than 50 years. Very sad," he said.

Rome's Third University, part of the state university system, gave the Dalai Lama an honorary degree in biology Saturday in recognition of "considerable progress" made by the spiritual leader's Mind and Life Institute in exploring the relationship between the brain and the mind, biochemistry professor Pier Luigi Luisi said.