This morning, 25 hours into a train ride from Lhasa, I received a phone call.  It was my buddy calling – “Hey, Brian?  Are you back in town?  Well, they looked at the moon last night and decided that the end of Ramadan was today and not tomorrow like they planned.  Yeah, Eid will start TODAY!”  … Oh, just great.  25 hours travelling across the Tibetan plateau at elevations over 17,000 feet and I find out I need to be ready to shoot a huge event in less than 30 minutes.  Beautiful.

I arrived at the train station 15 minutes later, caught a cab, and there I was –  8am shooting the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid and what is often claimed to be the third largest gatherings of Muslims in the world – the first largest outside of the Middle East (Between 80k and 350k depending on the year).  Talk about culture shock.  I had just spent the last 5 days knee deep in the heart of Tibetan culture only to shoot an event that, without being told, most would think was straight out of the Middle East and by no means right in the middle of China.

Something most people don’t realize is that there are millions of Muslims in China.  In fact, the city in which I live is between 35-40% Muslim.  The Muslim culture of Western China is significant.  The province I live in has close to 2 million Chinese and Tibetan Muslims (yes, Tibetan Muslims) all trying to scratch out an existence in one of the most difficult cultural climates in the world.

The reason I didn’t go home and sleep, like I truly wanted to, was because I knew how important it was for me to document this event for my own understanding.  Around the world, the Anti-Muslim rhetoric seems to be growing.  The reason I showed up exhausted, suffered through all kinds of questions from local police, and dealt with 80,000+ Muslims navigating their way to the mosque is purely because of a belief in one word:


Here’s the deal.  I’m not a Muslim yet I’m surrounded by Muslim friends treat me with great amounts of respect.  Despite or differences in belief, they treat me with dignity and never cease to recognize me as a human.  Hardly the picture many in the west are painting of the majority of the Muslim world.  Certain groups are trying to strip humanity from the Muslim people and culture and repaint it with words like evil and terrorist.  We even have people threatening to burn the Koran as an ill-fated message to the Muslim world.

For me, to ignore their humanity would be the active decision to lose my own.  You see, my gate guard is Muslim.  The man I buy food from every day is Muslim.  The restaurants I frequent are often Muslim run.  Half of my neighbors are Muslims.  These are great people – great human beings with passions, joys, desires, disappointments, heart breaks, and ups and downs who feel ALL the same emotions you and I feel.  These people aren’t terrorists, though there are bad eggs among the bunch, and by no means receive a majority of the ill words that come from the west directed at them.  These are people, just like you and me.

Whether you are a Muslim or not…whether you agree with their culture, religion, and society or not – denying their humanity is risky business and a slippery slope towards true hate.  It’s my true hope that in these images you can see humanity.**

**Luckily, we have groups like The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers – photographers battling for HUMANITY.   Please take a moment to check out the IGVP and what they stand for – “[a group of].. visual communicators devoted to peacemaking and breaking down stereotypes by displaying the beauty and dignity of various cultures around the world.” I’m proudly a member of IGVP and employ you to go and see what they are all about.  Humanity matters.