Commentary: “America’s first Buddhist Terrorist”?

I’ve seen a headline asking if Aaron Alexis was “America’s first Buddhist terrorist.” This is wrong on two counts. Three, actually.

First, a terrorist who happens to be a Buddhist is not a “Buddhist terrorist.” That would be someone who uses terror to advance a specifically Buddhist agenda, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. Second, he doesn’t seem to be a terrorist at all — which is not simply a violent person but someone who consciously uses terror for political purposes, probably in concert with others.

Finally, we are obliged, as all minority religions are in America, to emphasize that what Alexis did has nothing to do with Buddhism, which is the practice of non-aggression. As obvious as that it is, and as obvious as it is that no religion is responsible for the actions of deranged individual members, that shouldn’t be necessary. But it is. The media needs to get its terms straight: he was not a “Buddhist terrorist,” he was probably not a terrorist at all, and when it comes down to it, he wasn’t a Buddhist, no matter what he called himself. If he really were, he couldn’t have done this.

Previously: After the Navy Yard shootings: “Put my Trauma Center out of business”


  1. ppk says

    Overall agree, but I am not sure saying he couldn't have been a Buddhist is that helpful – certainly there are practicing Buddhists with mental health problems including violence. Indeed some people may turn to Buddhism in an attempt to deal with their mental health problems. I think the bigger question is how as a community and as individuals do we proactively respond to people with mental health problems?
    Right now, with those headlines, the response of he isn't one of us, is understandable, but it isn't the response that is going to move us forward. He is always one of us.