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Last Monday morning, I read with disbelief and dismay that Brandeis University was scheduled to honor Ayan Hirsi Ali by awarding her an honorary degree as part of their commencement ceremony at the end of this academic year. My incurable optimism even made me think for a minute that this might be a poor taste of a belated April Fool’s prank. This was particularly painful for me, simply because of my utmost admiration and respect to this outstanding Jewish-affiliated liberal arts university. My feeling stems from the University’s commendable track record in its commitment to equality, diversity, dialogue and social justice.
It is that time of the year again, and one of the most well-established Blue Devil Muslim traditions is coming up: Islamic Awareness Month.
One of the most intense and painful types of grief is caused by lost dreams. The bigger the dream is, the more real and likely to be fulfilled in your perception, the closer for these dreams to become reality in one’s mind, and the more unbearable it becomes to lose them suddenly.
Since I have been living in the United States, I have welcomed the celebrations and observance of Black History Month with mixed feelings. I believe, in principal, that dedicating a month in remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora in the West is a good thing. This month acknowledges the struggles with the troubling legacy of slavery, intentionally trying to come to terms with the shameful chapters of our own history vis-a-vis black Americans.
As you read these lines, more than 1.5 billion Muslims will be celebrating the birthday of their beloved prophet—or as we know it, Milad an-Nabi or Mawlid—all around the globe. Muslim love and admiration to Prophet Muhammad manifests itself beautifully through these various kinds of religious celebrations blended by local cultures and traditions in these birthday celebrations.
Muslims all around the world just celebrated Hijri, the Islamic New Year, and welcomed the year 1435. I wish a happy, blessed and prosperous year for all fellow Muslims together with the rest of humanity and all of creation for that matter. Muslims, like Jews and some other religious and ethnic groups, use the lunar calendar, which is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. This difference makes all Muslim days of observance and celebration float around the calendar year. We celebrate our festivals, like Ramadan, in almost every season. For those faith communities who always celebrate their religious holidays around the same season, Muslim holy days present a striking difference.
Nothing hurts or disgusts me more than seeing the denial of humanity in any shape or form. One thing that no government or individual has absolutely any right to do is to take one’s humanity away by committing human rights violations against individuals or collectives. Torture is one of the ugliest and most despicable of such aggressions. Whether government-sponsored or not, torturing a fellow human being in any situation denies that person’s humanity all together.
Tomorrow, 1.7 billion Muslims around the world will complete the four day celebration of one of the two most important religious festivals in the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Adha. The proper greeting for the occasion is “Eid Mubarak!” which effectively means “blessed and happy Eid.” I wish heartfelt Eid Mubarak to all fellow Muslims, especially the Blue Devil ones. Muslim majority societies celebrate this momentous event with over a week of public holiday observance. Everything shuts down during these days of celebration, and the rich spirit of the Eid al-Adha manifests itself through various religious rituals, cultural practices and more. As a part of these joyous celebrations, elders are visited and honored, kids are spoiled with tons of candies, money and gifts, the less privileged pockets of the societies are remembered and extended a hand of mercy and compassion. People who are not even religious often joyously take part in these Eid festivities and look forward to its arrival every year.
For anyone who has been paying attention to what has been going on in Muslim majority societies only through news headlines, it has really been a rough couple of weeks. To name a few, there have been the Kenya mall attacks, the Pakistan church attacks, increased sectarian violence in Iraq, senseless and barbaric killings in Nigeria, ongoing bloodshed in Syria, heart wrenching turmoil in Egypt and the list goes on. Seemingly, nothing good or positive goes on in any prominent Muslim majority countries. Is that true? If not, why do these horrific news stories, one after another, flood our news headlines? Finding the silver lining appears to be a worthless struggle and a no-win battle.
This column will be an unexpected continuation of my last column where I reflected and celebrated my family’s and my successful story of becoming—but more importantly feeling—American without hesitation or ambiguity in a very short period of time. The possibility of becoming and feeling American, which is encouraged and open to all races, religions and backgrounds in this country, is unique and worthy of celebration.
In my first column of this new academic year, I wish all members of the Duke family a rewarding and successful school year. May we all have a blessed one.
The dust has yet to settle in response to the horrific Boston bombings and the related events that have unfolded since then. It has been an incredible, difficult and painful week for all Americans to say the least. Without a doubt, it will take time for our nation to process our grief, fear and anxieties as we eagerly wait for so many pending questions to be answered. The tragedy has been particularly painful and traumatizing for millions of proud American Muslims, considering the two alleged perpetrators of these heinous bombings are Muslims and have been living in the United States for quite some time.
My beautiful state of North Carolina appeared in national and international news headlines last week in a troubling fashion. The Rowan County Defense of Religion Act supported by 14 state legislators, all of whom are from the same party, sparked a controversy whose dust has yet to settle. It is amazing how news travels and gets sensationalized so quickly in modern times. I received emails, phone calls and interview requests within hours after the news broke, from many corners of the world.
For those who follow closely, exciting and encouraging developments have been taking place recently in my native country of Turkey. Just last Thursday, the jailed Kurdish separatist leader of PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party), Abdullah Ocalan, declared a “formal and clear cease-fire” with Turkey to end the bloody conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since it began in 1984. Ocalan’s call to end the armed resistance was immediately acknowledged and agreed upon by the acting leaders of PKK, most notably by Murat Karayilan, who has been leading the group as its field commander from the remote mountains of northern Iraq.
I wonder if I am the only one deeply disturbed and troubled by the recent Hollywood movie, “Argo.” My increasing sense of loneliness and alienation with “Argo” has been fed by the movie’s overrated fame, its undeserved success in the movie theaters and now more painfully by the multiple Oscars that it has won. To me, “Argo” and the response it has created shed light on larger problems that we face in our society, especially in our movie industry. “Argo” demonstrates how out of touch we are with crucial global realities and how disconnected we are from how we come across to the rest of the human family through these kinds of expressions.
One in every five people in the world is Chinese. As you read these lines, almost a billion and a half Chinese people all around the world have been celebrating the beginning of the Chinese New Year.
One of the international developments that I have been following with great pain and disappointment is what has been going on in northern Mali since early 2012. For those who are not paying too much attention, here is a brief summary: Mali, a former French colony, is a West African nation that had often been cited as a democratic model in that region. Since last January, several Tuareg and Arab insurgent groups, many of them heavily armed, have been fighting a campaign against the Malian government for independence for northern Mali, an area known also as Azawad.
Over the winter break, I was thankfully able to find some of those rare moments where I could read. One of the most interesting things I read was an amazing report on the religious landscape of our globe put together by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. The report is a comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by top-notch researchers from around the world. It includes both quantitative and qualitative studies of world demographics in regard to global faith communities, religiosity, religious bigotry and extremism, violations of religious rights around the world and more as of 2010.
One of the most repeated terms used in our media recently is “fiscal cliff.” Many media outlets have been chewing and spitting out the same stuff over and over. I wonder if I am the only one who is sick and tired of hearing the same shallow arguments and sickening partisan bickering around the issue. We are bombarded by various media outlets with sensational nonsense. They constantly ponder over what it is, whether it will happen or not, who needs to compromise and blah, blah and more blah.
Today is the sixth day of the Muslim New Year, and in two days we will celebrate the long-awaited Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. This is a providential overlap created by Islam’s lunar calendar crossing paths with the Western Gregorian calendar. This overlap seemingly invites me and many others to take part in many layers of joy and festive celebrations. But the mood in the Antepli household is far from joy and celebration, mainly because of the recent outbreak of violence in Gaza. I think many households in the U.S. and around the world share this bitter and resentful mood of ours and join the Antepli family in our grief and mourning over what has been going on in Israel and Palestine in the last couple of days.