Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bahrainis in Iowa


Every time I think I’m distant from events in the Middle East, I remember that I live 2,000 miles closer to it now than I did eight weeks ago. Really, living within walking distance from a Big 10 university means never being that far from other countries. Not only is this city diverse —I hear languages from Russian to Japanese every time I visit the local coffee house—but last week, five Sunni and Shi’a clerics from Bahrain visited American clerics here, the university’s Daily Iowan reported. (Registration may be required.)

The article doesn’t say much about these clerics’ lives in Bahrain, how they were chosen, who paid for their flights to the U.S. and then India, or how the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council set this meeting up. But I can’t help but be encouraged at the Bahraini visit to the heartland; there’s a mosque in Iowa City (it’s nearly indistinguishable from neighboring buildings, but still), and the oldest designed-and-built mosque in the U.S. is just 20 miles away in Cedar Rapids, as well as the only cemetery in the U.S. that’s reserved exclusively for Muslims. Of course, the tombstones all face Mecca.

Just because of its location, Bahrain is a highly diverse nation both ethnically and religiously. It can only help for some of its religious figures to see landlocked Iowa as more complex than just 33 million acres of farmland tilled by just one sort of (Christian) American.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like a State Department visitors' program.

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