Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Prof. Kemal Silay’s Opening Remarks from the Islamophobia Conference

Prof. Kemal Silay’s Opening Remarks

It is with honor that I am welcoming all of you this evening to our conference entitled “Islam, Political Islam, and Islamophobia.” It actually feels great to be at this conference that I had decided to cancel one night... With little or no institutional support (not even a symbolic one), and many suspicions surrounding this conference, I am grateful that we are all here tonight opening this significant scholarly gathering. After the announcement of the coming of this conference, many people on this campus and in other places begun to question my so-called intentions by organizing such an event joining forces with my friend and colleague Dr. Tuğrul Keskin of Portland State University.

Some people wondered if was going through some sort of psychological crisis by organizing an event on Islamophobia since I have been publically criticizing the politicization of Islam, and that have been a determined intellectual in the fight against militant Islamism. I had also organized and/or proudly involved with many events on anti-Semitism. Let me make it very clear tonight that I am not an Islamist, and by organizing an event on Islamophobia, I am not attempting to justify the global operations of militant Islamism nor am I providing a platform to apologetics towards radicalism of any sort. I believe in justice and genuine pluralism not a liberal/capitalist implementation of it. This conference examines the intersections between Islam, political Islam, Islamophobia, and human rights. Islamophobia is a form of prejudice against Muslims. With racist and fascist overtones, it often manifests itself as an irrational fear of Muslims. This must come to an end! There may be only one Islam but Muslims come in 1.5 billion colors with their vastly different interpretations and practices of Islam. And they are for sure not responsible for the evil crimes of the 19 terrorists.

I would like to thank the Center for the Study of the Middle East, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies, and the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center for their contributions. I am especially grateful to my dear students Defne Jones and Batuhan Bozdoğan, and April Younger and Karen Niggle of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies.

With this let me introduce our Keynote Speaker Dr. Deepa Kumar:

Deepa Kumar is an Associate Professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University.

Her work is driven by an active engagement with the key issues of neoliberalism and imperialism. Her first book, Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization and the UPS Strike is about the power of collective struggle in effectively challenging the priorities of neoliberalism.

Kumar began her research into the politics of empire shortly after 9/11.

Her second book titled Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire looks at how the "Muslim enemy" has historically been mobilized to suit the goals of empire.

She is currently working on a third book about Political Islam, U.S. foreign policy and the media.

She has been active in various social movements for peace and justice and has written numerous articles in both scholarly journals and alternative media. She is a much sought after public speaker and has spoken at dozens of university and community forums on a range of topics: Islamophobia, Political Islam, US foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia, the Arab Spring, women and Islam, etc. She has shared her expertise in numerous media outlets including BBC, NPR, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Hürriyet Daily News (Turkey), Iran Fars News (Iran), Al Arabiya (UAE), and other national and international news media outlets.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Deepa Kumar to Indiana University, Bloomington!

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