|James Bowley, Ph.D.|
Theme of the event was Dialog between East and West. Around 300 distinguished guests including elected officials, Senators, State Representatives, Mayors, security officers such as State Judges, FBI agents, Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, City Prosecutors, University Presidents, community and religious leaders and students were present at the the dinner and shared their tables with one another.
In the event where Governor William Winter was keynote speaker, Dr. James Bowley, an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Millsaps College, also shared his remarks. Below, you may find the full video of his talk and an excerpt of its transcript.
"…I was asked to speak a little bit about Fethullah Gulen, and I'm very delighted to do so because in my own life and in my own teaching he and his writings have made a definite impact, and have made an impact for my students as well. So, as all professors have to do, we have to have at least three points, right? So, I have three points tonight and that's just to let you know when I'm about to be done.
So, first point is, I think we are long past the time where those of us who may not be Muslims need to teach the world that the stereotypes of Muslims as violent people is long past gone and stupid.…Anyone who recognizes the Muslims in our own neighborhoods, in our city, and the leadership of people like Fethullah Gulen across the world, must recognize that there are whole hubs of Muslims who are not like that at all anymore than people in our own religions are. And it is long time where those of us who are Muslim who feel defensive about this issue need help from those of us who are their neighbors. We need to recognize that this is not the stereotype that is good for our world; this is a stereotype that is very bad for our world, regardless of how many news agency try to perpetuate this stereotype.
If there is anybody who was born in 1921 or after who shows the ridiculousness of this stereotype, it is Fethullah Gulen. I would ask you to read some books, I would ask you to go online, I would ask you to do any research on this man, and you will see how much he has done for our world. Just like you've heard before; Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi; there are not many people who have done more work for the sake of education, understanding, and harmony than Fethullah Gulen. And I think we owe him a great of thanks because of his work, and those of us who are sitting here tonight, enjoying this good meal are certainly those people who owe him a good deal of thanks.
Which brings me to my second point and that is this, there is an old world virtue and that is virtue is hospitality. There is probably nobody in this city who demonstrates the virtue of hospitality better than IID. We read many stories in ancient Jewish writings about Abraham and the great hospitality that he had. And certainly IID in our modern world is a group that for those of us in Jackson, and all over the United States, have demonstrated the great power and virtue of hospitality. And we even have a word for this, our English word company, right? It is a word that means to share bread with; those people who you share bread with, those people are those of your company. I've been at so many IID dinners, and so many IID Noah Puddings and all kinds of other interesting things. I really think IID really stands for Institute of Interfaith Dining. We meet together so often and it is so wonderful, whether it is Sabri or whether it is Fatih, all the eating together means so much because that is what we as humans need, right? It is the basics, it is the bread that brings us together. And the IID, inspired by Fethullah Gulen, is what has brought us together tonight.
And the third point is this, if we think that IID is just sort of a PR campaign for Turkey or for Muslims or something, then we really have to recognize the work of IID outside of Jackson and other places. IID in Turkey and many other places means so much more. It is not just dinners, it is schools, it is businesspeople giving money, it is people educating people in Turkey and Central Asia and many other countries; it is people putting education first, it is people putting understanding other religions first, it is people putting harmony first; it is not just about a PR campaign for us. It is about understanding and education for all of the world. IID and Fethullah Gulen have done so much that has inspired so many great things, so many levels of society in Turkey and outside of Turkey; we're just at the very tip of what IID does, and I think we're all very thankful for that.
…If you want to learn a little bit, I would encourage you to go to the website interfaithdialog.org, and on that website you can learn about Buddhism, you can learn about Hinduism, you can learn about Judaism, and of course you can learn about Islam as well. You can learn about all the great work of IID, all the wonderful things that they had done, and all the wonderful things that Fethullah Gulen has inspired through his work, through his work that has been a lifetime achievement; I can't imagine how much energy this man must have. We sit here tonight in appreciation. I thank you all for coming and I thank IID for allowing me to be here tonight, thank you."