Dave Grimland spent nearly 30 years as a foreign service officer – “telling the U.S. side of the story,” he says – in Bangladesh, India, Cyprus, Turkey and other nations with large Muslim populations. He wrote ambassadors’ speeches, arranged cultural gatherings, and more than once hunkered down as angry mobs gathered outside the embassy to protest American policy.

Now retired and living in rural Montana, Grimland is once again telling a side of the story – only this time, in quiet pockets of the Big Sky State, he’s trying to tell the Muslim side to non-Muslim Americans.

“I’m going to ask you, at least for this evening, to try to put on a pair of Muslim glasses and see what the world looks like,” Grimland said one recent night to about 40 ranchers, farmers and others in the basement of the county library near the spot where Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan meet.

Outside, it was snowing and 16 degrees. The nearest mosque was about 120 miles away, in Regina. Many in the audience said they had never met a Muslim other than Plentywood High School exchange student Alisher Taylonzoda, from Tajikistan.

For two hours and 40 minutes – including a brief break for cider and baked goods – the Montanans listened intently as Grimland covered a sweeping amount of history and made a case that the vast majority of Muslims are like the great majority of Christians, Jews or Buddhists.

“No worse; no better,” he said. “They want peace. They want to live their lives.”


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