Monday, September 24, 2007

Working Quietly to Bridge Gaps

By Bill Sherman - Tulsa World - Tulsa, OK, U.S.A.
Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Turkish Muslim group is quietly working to improve communication and understanding between Islam and the West.

The Institute of Interfaith Dialog was formed in Austin, Texas, by Educator Muhammed Cetin, a Turk, who founded the nonprofit organization to promote tolerance and understanding between diverse religious groups.

Among the early volunteers in the organization, now based in Houston, was another Turk, Omer Akdeniz, who moved to Tulsa in 2003 and formed a Tulsa chapter of IID.

In 2004, the chapter sent a group of Oklahoma leaders to Turkey to experience that nation first-hand, and held an Iftar dinner, inviting 140 non-Muslims to join with Muslims in an after-sunset dinner breaking the daily Ramadan fast.

Since then, the Tulsa chapter has held Iftar dinners annually, drawing more than 200 people from a variety of faiths, and has sent many more Tulsans to Turkey. At this year's dinner, held Tuesday night at the Renaissance Hotel, mistress of ceremonies Nancy Day, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice, called Akdeniz "a Tulsa treasure."

Several participants in this year's trip to Turkey shared their experiences, including Alice Blue, chairwoman of the Tulsa Human Rights Commission and wife of Tulsa Rabbi Marc Fitzerman of the B'nai Emunah Congregation. She pointed out that this year Ramadan, the Muslim lunar month of prayer, fasting and introspection, falls during the Jewish High Holy Days, also a time of prayer, fasting and introspection.

Ramadan began Sept. 13. The Jewish High Holy Days began with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on Sept. 13, and end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which began at sundown Friday.

The concept of the Iftar interfaith dinners during Ramadan was started in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1994, by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish religious leader who inspired the creation of IID, Akdeniz said.

Gulen invited Roman Catholic, Jewish, Christian Orthodox and other Turkish religious minorities to participate in the Muslim dinner. "It was big national news in Turkey," he said. "It changed the way Ramadan is observed in Turkey. "It was unbelievable. It changed people's view of minority faith groups in Turkey. "

"IID decided to bring that tradition to the United States," he said.
IID chapters in 18 cities in six states held Iftar dinners this year, including in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The cultural exchange trips to Turkey are a second key part of IID's work: nearly 500 educators, religious leaders and other Americans have been guests of IID's chapters.

In addition to the Iftar dinners and trips to Turkey, IID sponsors cultural programs such as bringing Whirling Dervish dance troupes from Turkey to the United States, and a variety of seminars and panel discussions. The Tulsa IID chapter opened an office this year, a 4,000-square-foot, seven-room facility at 6804 S. Canton Ave. with office space, meeting rooms, kitchen, classrooms and a prayer room.

It serves as IID offices and also a Turkish cultural center, offering classes in the Turkish language and Sufism.

Sufism focuses on the spiritual aspects of Islam, Akdeniz said, how to get closer to God through prayer, self-discipline, humility, sincerity, and "doing all you do for the sake of God, and the love of God." One of its key leaders was the 14th century mystic Rumi, whose poetry is still popular in the United States. His followers are celebrating his 800th birthday. He was born Sept. 30, 1207.

IID chapters are locally supported, and its leaders and workers are all volunteers, Akdeniz said. Some of that support comes from Muslims meeting Islam's requirement to give away at least 2.5 percent of their income. The Turkey trips are financed by a cooperation between IID in the United States and its counterparts in Turkey.

[Picture: Omer Akdeniz, director of the Tulsa chapter of the Institute of Interfaith Dialog, stands between a Turkish and American flag Wednesday in the IID complex in Tulsa. Photo by Sherry Brown.]

1 comment:

irving said...

A very touching post about a wonderful group :)

Ya Haqq!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Working Quietly to Bridge Gaps
By Bill Sherman - Tulsa World - Tulsa, OK, U.S.A.
Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Turkish Muslim group is quietly working to improve communication and understanding between Islam and the West.

The Institute of Interfaith Dialog was formed in Austin, Texas, by Educator Muhammed Cetin, a Turk, who founded the nonprofit organization to promote tolerance and understanding between diverse religious groups.

Among the early volunteers in the organization, now based in Houston, was another Turk, Omer Akdeniz, who moved to Tulsa in 2003 and formed a Tulsa chapter of IID.

In 2004, the chapter sent a group of Oklahoma leaders to Turkey to experience that nation first-hand, and held an Iftar dinner, inviting 140 non-Muslims to join with Muslims in an after-sunset dinner breaking the daily Ramadan fast.

Since then, the Tulsa chapter has held Iftar dinners annually, drawing more than 200 people from a variety of faiths, and has sent many more Tulsans to Turkey. At this year's dinner, held Tuesday night at the Renaissance Hotel, mistress of ceremonies Nancy Day, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice, called Akdeniz "a Tulsa treasure."

Several participants in this year's trip to Turkey shared their experiences, including Alice Blue, chairwoman of the Tulsa Human Rights Commission and wife of Tulsa Rabbi Marc Fitzerman of the B'nai Emunah Congregation. She pointed out that this year Ramadan, the Muslim lunar month of prayer, fasting and introspection, falls during the Jewish High Holy Days, also a time of prayer, fasting and introspection.

Ramadan began Sept. 13. The Jewish High Holy Days began with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on Sept. 13, and end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which began at sundown Friday.

The concept of the Iftar interfaith dinners during Ramadan was started in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1994, by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish religious leader who inspired the creation of IID, Akdeniz said.

Gulen invited Roman Catholic, Jewish, Christian Orthodox and other Turkish religious minorities to participate in the Muslim dinner. "It was big national news in Turkey," he said. "It changed the way Ramadan is observed in Turkey. "It was unbelievable. It changed people's view of minority faith groups in Turkey. "

"IID decided to bring that tradition to the United States," he said.
IID chapters in 18 cities in six states held Iftar dinners this year, including in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The cultural exchange trips to Turkey are a second key part of IID's work: nearly 500 educators, religious leaders and other Americans have been guests of IID's chapters.

In addition to the Iftar dinners and trips to Turkey, IID sponsors cultural programs such as bringing Whirling Dervish dance troupes from Turkey to the United States, and a variety of seminars and panel discussions. The Tulsa IID chapter opened an office this year, a 4,000-square-foot, seven-room facility at 6804 S. Canton Ave. with office space, meeting rooms, kitchen, classrooms and a prayer room.

It serves as IID offices and also a Turkish cultural center, offering classes in the Turkish language and Sufism.

Sufism focuses on the spiritual aspects of Islam, Akdeniz said, how to get closer to God through prayer, self-discipline, humility, sincerity, and "doing all you do for the sake of God, and the love of God." One of its key leaders was the 14th century mystic Rumi, whose poetry is still popular in the United States. His followers are celebrating his 800th birthday. He was born Sept. 30, 1207.

IID chapters are locally supported, and its leaders and workers are all volunteers, Akdeniz said. Some of that support comes from Muslims meeting Islam's requirement to give away at least 2.5 percent of their income. The Turkey trips are financed by a cooperation between IID in the United States and its counterparts in Turkey.

[Picture: Omer Akdeniz, director of the Tulsa chapter of the Institute of Interfaith Dialog, stands between a Turkish and American flag Wednesday in the IID complex in Tulsa. Photo by Sherry Brown.]

1 comment:

irving said...

A very touching post about a wonderful group :)

Ya Haqq!