Bangladesh Adventures

Friday, February 09, 2007

3 White men and 3.5 million Muslims together

On Saturday, 3 Feb 07 Elliot, teacher at Grace from England stands 6 ft 4, another man from the USA and myself, small USA looking person attended the three day Biswa Ijtema. However we attended it with, get this, 3.5 million Muslim men in an area of maybe 160 acreas or less. Biswa Ijtema is the second largest Muslim gathering after Hajj (Saudi Arabia). The whole area was covered by a gigantic canopy made out of burlap (jute).

It was unbelievable!! I have never been around so many people, I have never been around so many men, I have never been around so many Muslims, I have never been around that many men praying, before. I have wanted to come to this prayer gathering for 20 years but finally made it this year.

I wanted to bring the four boys but my wife said, “No way!” in both English and Bangla. She was afraid of the Muslims, afraid of the boys getting lost and afraid of me doing something that would bring attention to us. She knows me well. However, there were no children there at all- so my wife was right in that account.

Many scholars of Islam from BD and abroad gave sermons throughout the day. Biswa Ijtema was started back in the 1920s to both reform and revive Islam.

We walked around the outside first then went through a walkway under the canvas covering. On our way back from the other side to the point where we started we could not find a walkway and ended up walking thought, over, and around a lot of men who had just finish lunch and were relaxing on their prayer mats. Everybody was very nice to us.

The normal conversation went like this:

Muslim man, “Salaam A lekume!”
Kevin (me), “Walkume Salaam!”
Both- shake hands.
Muslim man, “What country are you from?”
Kevin (me), “From the USA!”
Muslim man, “Good. Are you Muslim?”
Kevin (me), “No, I’m a Christian.”

Now repeat that by 1 million conversation plus multiply it by 3 because it was the same conversation for all 3 of us. So we figure we met 3 million Muslim men that day!! Not bad for 2 USA and 1 English men.

Remember: I told a cousin of mine 15 years ago when I worked in the no man’s land between Iraq and Jordon during the first Gulf war with evacuees. He told me I was crazy to be over there without a gun. My answer to him:

“It is amazing how nice people are to you when you don’t have a M-16 machine gun pointing at them.” I have been around the world, in many hot spots and have be with 3.5 million Muslim men and NOT ONCE did I ever feel threaten or scared.

I know most of you don’t believe in peace and being a dove or you only give lip service to Jesus' teachings on peace but you should try it sometime!?! Guns and invasions are not the answers to the problems of this world. Moreover, just to keep you all happy or upset with me- please tell President Bush that!

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