In the anti-Semitic and secular town in southeastern Turkey where Abdullah Antepli grew up, no one expected him to work in interfaith Jewish-Muslim relations one day. They were proven wrong.
In August, the now 46-year-old was ranked among the NonProfit Times Power and Influence Top 50, in honor of his work co-founding the Muslim Leadership Initiative, also known as MLI.
The MLI recruits engaged, pro-Palestine American Muslims, ranging from scholars to journalists. These participants are connected with a credible Zionist institution, the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI), whose stated mission is to help “strengthen Jewish peoplehood.” During the program, members learn to critically understand the complex religious, political and socioeconomic issues of people in Israel and Palestine, Antepli said.
“I am extremely proud of this cutting edge social and educational experiment that we were able to initiate,” Antepli said.
In his brand-new office in Rubenstein Hall, the Sanford School of Public Policy’s new associate professor of the practice and long-standing associate professor of interfaith relations at the Divinity School apologizes for “the mess” in his perfectly tidy bureau. His office does, however, overflow with books, most of which are religion-themed.
“I never go anywhere without a book,” Antepli said. His gem at the moment is “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo.
Dressed in a grey shirt tucked in black pants with sleeves rolled up, Antepli first gives off the impression of a restless businessman. But the father of two’s hearty “salaam”—meaning “peace,” a common greeting in Arabic—immediately lets those who walk through his door know that he will gladly share his time.
A resentful child
Antepli, the University’s first Muslim chaplain and inaugural director of Muslim life at Duke from 2008-2014, grew up during a critical time in southeastern Turkey when religion was despised.
Although his parents were not religious, they were anti-Semitic, he said. His upbringing quickly led him on a path of resentment toward the Israelis. He recalled as a child scapegoating the Jewish community for the grievances of Muslim everyday life.
“The seductive thing about hate is that it gives simple black and white answers to complicated questions,” Antepli said.
Muslim friends and teachers introduced Antepli into the world of Islam and he promptly came to devour the religion. His religiosity just happened to emerge simultaneously with the Israeli-Palestine conflicts.
FULL ARTICLE FROM DUKE CHRONICLE