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Margaret W. Wong Forum on Foreign Born Individuals of Distinction

On Friday, June 17, 2016, my Colleagues and I, Mrs. Cecilia Wong, Ms. Sage Wen and Mr. Michael Patterson, had the honor of attending and participating in the “Margaret W. Wong Forum on Foreign Born Individuals of Distinction 20160617_132459at Cleveland City Club.

City Club CEO, Mr. Dan Moulthrop, acknowledged Mrs. Margaret W. Wong for her continued support of immigrants and international and domestic institutions, such as the City Club Forum.  Also, former City Club President, Mr. Dick Pogue paid tribute to Mrs. Wong during his closing remarks.

Keynote Speaker, Mr. Mustafa Akyol, Renowned Turkish writer, Journalist and Scholar noted in his speech titled, “Is Islam Compatible with Freedom”?  Elaborating on this important issue, Mr. Akyol stated that the answer is “yes” as long as Islam is practiced in a more open way, where choices are given to people, and similar to the U.S. and the rest of the free world.  Further, Mr. Akyol added, “Islam embraces Liberty for men and women, entrepreneurship, and liberalism in today’s modern world”.

Mr. Akyol started his speech by condemning “the horrific and tragic events” in Orlando last week.  His contention was clearly stated in his statement saying, “we are prone to misunderstanding due to the media's treatment of other 20160617_131648cultures, adding that Extreme Islam threatens the Muslim people themselves in the first place.  Extremism is considered abroader problem to the Muslim world.  Most of the extreme Muslims are found in countries such as, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, most Arab Gulf countries, as well as some parts of Turkey”.

The main question for Mr. Akyol remains, “Is Islam dominant, or compatible with Freedom”? “In many Muslim countries you can see women not wearing the veil, known as “Hijab” and can practice their freedom without restrictions.  There are however, some serious problems with the Islamic Laws, known as” Sharia”.  These laws can punish gay people for instance, and be sentenced to death due to their homosexuality and sexual orientations. This is considered the authoritarian version in those countries practicing the Sharia laws, better known as “Authoritarian Islamic Regimes”.  In Saudi Arabia for instance, women cannot drive.  Here we see the interpretation of Islamic laws in Quran are impacting certain social issues in particular, and this population to a great deal. In one of the Quranic verses, it is stated that, Prophet Mohammad said, “During wars do not send women to the desert alone”. 20160617_132451

Additionally, Apostasy is considered a crime that should be punished for.  During the Ottoman Empire era, wars were declared against the Byzantines and Romans, so apostasy was considered a treason, but    if we look at Liberal Islam, apostasy is not considered a crime. Also, during the same period, we notice that Islam stopped prosecuting and killing gay people.  One can say that this is largely about Justice and fairness in Islam.

However, we need to admit that there are some interpretations in Islam that are authoritarians and can be confusing with respect to various issues when conveying the appropriate message.


George Koussa

Public Relations Administrator

Arabic Translator

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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