Annual Iftar Dinner at John Carroll University
On Thursday night we attended the annual Iftar Dinner in the D.J. Lombardo Student Center at John Carroll University hosted by Professor Zeki Saritoprak, Beddiuzzaman Said Nursi Chair.
We were pleased to see that once again the gathering was very diverse. Among the people we knew who were there were Ms. Anita Gray from the Anti-Defamation League; Reverend Joseph T. Hilinski, Secretariat for Clergy and Religious in the Diocese of Cleveland; Rabbi Richard Block from the Temple-Tifereth Israel; and Mr. Pradip Kamat, President and CEO of Indus International, Inc.
Everyone arrived about 7:30pm for a before-dinner program opened by a brief talk by Professor Saritoprak in which he described recently attending an Iftar Dinner at the United Nations where he met a young woman who was fasting for the first time who told him that for her the process was more mental than physical. This is exactly how Professor Saritoprak said a successful fast should be when he spoke at the Turkish Center last weekend.
Professor Saritoprak then introduced Professor Sheila McGinn, Chair of the Theology Dept. at John Carroll who said that it was great that we could all come together in a peaceful way and enjoy gatherings like this in spite of very distressing current events like the shooting that happened in Orlando over the weekend. She then introduced a very effective film made by a student at John Carroll which dealt with the need to study the religions of the world in order that we might come to a place of understanding and compassion with other human beings and, moreover, to "come into communion with the world around us."
The keynote speaker of the event was noted scholar Professor Asifa Quraisi-Landes of the University of Wisconsin who first talked about Sharia Law and why the efforts to outlaw it from being practiced in the United States are very misguided. We had always sensed that this movement opposing Sharia was wrong but Professor Quraisi-Landes really put things into perspective for us.
She then spoke of tolerance and the need to oppose religious radicalization. She wisely concluded her presentation with a call for tolerance when she said that we shouldn't be intimidated by radicals who want to change who we are. But, on the other hand, we should not surround ourselves only with the like-minded. Instead we should reach out and embrace diversity and not condemn those who disagree with us. Thus, we should be strong but willing to learn from others.
Afterwards, we moved to our dinner tables and waited a little while for the sun to go down before we started our dinner. Among the people that we shared our table with were Mr. Bilgehan Aslan, the middle school principal at Horizon Science Academy (who we have met several times before) and his lovely wife, Ms. Aysegul Aslan, as well as Mr. Jeremy Gutow who works at both the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Maltz Museum.
At 9:05pm, Professor Saritoprak introduced Mr. Hilmi Yildirim, a young student who led us in prayers.
It was then time to consume an excellent dinner which was a great climax to a wonderful evening full of good cheer mixed with thought-provoking dialogues and friendship.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC