We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
The following is a guest post from AUA Mosaic Fellowship recipient Adam Kruse. Adam volunteered in Bangladesh through The Advocacy Project during the summer of 2012. To find an amazing volunteer opportunity, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today.
I am uncomfortable comfortable. I don’t have 40 men in my face trying to sell me tea, mangos, shirts, bookmarks, and rubber balls; I sleep at night in an air-conditioned room with a bed that’s far too comfortable to feel good about sleeping in; I am not woken at 4:30 AM to the Morning Prayer or the blasting of a diesel truck’s air horn; everything is far too comfortable. People seem as rooted and unwilling to explore the boundaries of their everyday realities. They are comfortable and would prefer to keep it that way. I sometimes poke a little bit at this comfort and create an uncomfortable situation for myself, so I can feel a little more at home.
I found myself retreating into isolation. I force myself to go out and I hesitate to answer the phone of friends calling excited to do things with me. I’ve tried to wedge myself back into the life I had before my experience in Bangladesh. It works sometimes, but other times I find myself ‘in my head’ – thinking about things that really don’t make any sense for anyone other than me.
In the news, there has been so much written about the tensions between the Christian and Muslim worlds. It surprised me to see how deeply religious the U.S population is. It’s hard to describe religions presence other than saying I can feel its power. In Bangladesh it was easy to put your finger on religion; all of the flowing robes, the loud prayers five times a day, the covered women, etc. Now that I am home, I feel the same presence of religion – but it’s just not as easy to point to.
Bangladesh is a society with a strong focus on groups and holistic attitudes; individuals have a weak sense of self. In the states, we focus on individualism – we’re analytical and detailed and we value our independence. It is almost as if our minds have been wired to value things differently over the generations.
I needed to use a car after I returned to the United States. I called several car rental companies only to find that I wouldn’t be able to rent one because they only accepted credit cards. I asked family and friends if it would be possible to borrow a car, but I was politely turned down over and over again. I kept thinking, ‘man, If I were in Bangladesh, I could have asked a guy who’d worked 20 years for a car and he probably would have let me borrow it, no questions asked’. Maybe not, but I noticed a difference. I was on the phone with a friend while all of this happened. I told her about the differences I was seeing and she said “yeah, people are different here”.
So here I am again. Caught in the middle of home and away in a nervous condition of not knowing what to keep, what to throw, and what won’t leave if I ask it to.