President Barack Obama has denounced Isis as a “brutal, vicious death cult” that was involved in unspeakable acts of barbarism in the name of religion.
Speaking at an annual prayer breakfast meeting in Washington where the Dalai Lama was among the guests, the US leader said recent violence in places such as Iraq, Paris and Pakistan had revealed how faith and religious could be twisted to be used as a weapon.
He said Isis militants, who earlier this week sparked intense outrage outrage by releasing a video showing a Jordanian pilot being burnt alive, were “terrorising religious minorities like the Yazidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war and claiming the mantle of religious authority”.
At the breakfast in Washington, Mr Obama described the Dalai Lama as a “good friend” but he had declined to hold an official meeting with the Tibetan Buddhist leader as not to antagonise the authorities in Beijing.
The Chinese government has routinely denounced the 79-year-old and claimed he is trying to break up China. China often pressures foreign countries not to meet with him.
The Dalai Lama insists that he has for many years, campaigned for “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet, but not complete independence.
Mr Obama greeted the Dalai Lama with a bow and described him as a powerful example of “what it means to practice compassion and who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings”, the Associated Press reported. The religious leader sat in the front row along with Mr Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.
The exchange may still rile China. After the breakfast event was announced, Beijing said it opposed any country meeting with him under any circumstances.
Before the event, an English-language commentary issued by the state-run Xinhua news agency, which while not a formal statement offers a reflection of Beijing's thinking, warned against any encounter.
At the event, Mr Obama echoed some of the monk's own teachings, calling for religious tolerance. “We see faith driving us to do right but we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon,” he said.
Campaigners for Tibet said they were pleased the Dalai Lama had been invited to the breakfast but despaired over Beijing’s comments.
“The attendance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the [breakfast] is indicative of his significance as a moral and religious leader to both the American government and the American people,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.
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