Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh


.. has been my main reading interest over the last week or so. I’m reading Malcom X’s autobiography (published shortly before his assassination, and a surprisingly good read), while referencing The Complete Idiots Guide to Understanding Islam.

Yes, there is a The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam. I liberated it from VSO’s library during our induction (it will be returned upon leaving Bangladesh. Promise.). I’ve kind of paged through it before now, but it’s really coming into its own as a reference guide for Malcom’s book.

I’d heard about the Nation of Islam before, but didn’t really know many details besides it being a anti-white Muslim organisation. But, with my Idiot’s Guide…, I now know that anit-white and Muslim shouldn’t be put next to each other in the same sentence. Basically the guy who founded the Nation of Islam just made stuff up as he went along. Stuff like in the beginning of time, the moon separated from the earth, and there were no white people until a mad scientist called Yacub decided, in a fit of rage against Allah, to create a devil race – a bleached out, white race of people.

Ja. However, Malcolm did make his pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca before he was assassinated, and discovered the real Islam. And Mecca is where Abraham’s faith was tested when God requested him to sacrifice his only son. So a shrine was built by Abraham and son (Christianity and Islam disagree which son it was, Isaac or Ishmael) in celebration of passing this test, and this shrine was the forerunner for the present-day Ka’bah. Which is what Muslims circle around during their Hajj ritual. And the annual Hajj ends with Eid ul-Adha, which is the slaughter Eid recently celebrated where I saw pieces of cow strewn across the streets of Rangamati. It all ties up rather nicely.

The Islamic descriptions of the end of the world are pretty far out there, and very, very specific. But then for anyone has read the Book of Revelations, you’ll know that the Christian descriptions are way, WAY out there too (if I remember it correctly). Same goes for the beginning of the world in the Book of Genesis, but the Islamic description is more akin to the Big Bang theory. Kind of. But who really knows for sure how it all started, and how it will all end, anyway. So any theory is really as plausible as another, I guess.

And again I find myself blogging about religion. How does this happen? It’s just that it’s so interesting. Really, it is. (Some) people live their lives according to it, wars are fought over it, and people die because of it. It’s a cornerstone of life here in Bangladesh, whether people are Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or Hindu. It’s something people hold onto very tightly.

I’m also interested to learn more about Sufism, which I understand to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. So is Sufism like the Islamic version of the Jewish Kabbalah? How can I find a Sufi here in Bangladesh? Any ideas? Obviously I’m Google-ing this as I type…

I was recently asked (by Julie I think) ‘So what do you DO in your spare time?’. It appears I spend my time vacillating between worrying about my roots, and contemplating the mysticism of the world’s great religions. On some days. Other days, I bake bread.



  Megan wrote @

Have you read ‘The Holy Cow’? It’s an Australian journalist’s account of two years in India, and exploring its many religions and religious practices (including Sufism). I’d highly recommend it, and especially good to read while in the sub-continent. I’ve got a copy if you want me to bring it to Dhaka?

  estellevisagie wrote @

Hey Mega, yes I’ve read Holy Cow. But given my new found interest in the religions of the world, I would be keen to read it again actually. So yes, please bring it to Dhaka. Ta!

  Alan wrote @

I read Malcom X’s autobiography when I was a volunteer too… haha. It’s interesting to me that Malcom found the “real” Islam, because what is the “real” Islam? To an insider it always seems real. I guess anything’s better than an island of evil white people and a mad black scientist (Yacub, island of Patmos).

But then again, Jesus walked on water and that’s “real” too 🙂

I have the Malcom X DVD here, in Kenya… Denzel Washington does a great job!

  estellevisagie wrote @

Hey there Alan. I know, what is ‘real’ anyway? Who knows. Think I’ll put the Malcolm X movie on my list of pirated DVDs to buy next time I’m in Dhaka. I always wonder how other country’s VSO experiences differ from the Bangladesh VSO experience… which can be um… well… you know. I’m sure the archives in your blog will give me a clue….

  Julie wrote @

Your life is so much deeper than mine. I live in Dhaka, therefore I shop. x

  estellevisagie wrote @

Wanna swap? Oh no, you’re on your count down outta here… boo.

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