Victoria Acosta / Tejano Tribune
Abdullah Antepli speaks out on religious extremism and Islam.
More than 100 people packed the second floor lobby area of the “A” building at the Valle Verde
campus for the El Paso Community College’s Diversity Program’s guest speaker Abdullah Antepli.
Antepli, who is the Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs and Adjunct Faculty of Islamic Studies at
Duke University, visited the campus to speak on religious extremism and ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) on Feb. 6. He said he was “delightfully surprised” at the event’s turnout.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Antepli said.
“I have never been to El Paso, but I really loved the welcoming spirit and the gracious crowd. The topic is a juicy one.”
Antepli, a Turkish native, spoke for more than 30 minutes about why “evil” people are doing “evil things” in the name of Islam, and how we need to step back and realize that it is a human problem, not about Islam as a religion and Muslims as people.
“We are facing unique challenges when it comes to religious extremism,” Antepli said in his lecture.“Religion itself never becomes violent, never becomes disruptive or extremist by itself.”
Antepli also said that although he hates people like Osama bin Laden,he cannot deny he is muslim and others need to be honest with themselves.
“I cannot say what he [Laden] represents has nothing to do with Islam,” he said. “It will be dishonest and inaccurate.
There are so many Muslims that will say, until their face turns blue, that this has nothing to do with Islam, which is not helping anybody.
They distort the Koran.
But can you say the Crusaders are not Christian?
Denying somebody,sticking your head in the sand does not help anybody.”
Trying to understand what conditions, situations and realities produced these “evil people” is what
Antepli said is the goal of his lecture.
He said the United States and humans as a whole need to help build Islam from the bottom-up.
“These people are products of deeply failed societies,” Antepli said.
“They are the product of deeply failed foreign policies, including our own. They are the product of
failed economic policies, including our own.
They are the product of deeply failed political, religious and civic leadership, including our own.
“Without making anybody necessarily guilty,” he added, “we need to understand our [United States] role as well.”
Wanting to get more information about Islam and ISIS, Ngoni Griffith, who is not an EPCC
student but identified herself as a concerned citizen and christian, said she read about the
lecture in the El Paso Times and decided to attend.
She said that although she has always been a peace-loving person, a friend’s husband, who is
from Pakistan, told her that there is no such thing as a peaceful Muslim.
“I’m open to other views but I’m confused to the conflicting statements,” Griffith said.
“I felt his [Antepli’s] lecture was more of a promotion for joining their religion.
When he [Antepli] was talking about how there was a radical Islam and peaceful Islam, I find there’s inconsistency.
I just spoke with a man that came from the No. 1, top terrorist country and he’s saying that
there’s no such thing as a peaceful muslim. So the conflicting differences bother me.”
In response to Griffith’s views, Antepli said she should verify who is right by asking the eight million
Muslims in America and the 1.7 billion Muslims in the world.
“If it is between what her friend said and what I said she should go and verify,” he said. “Fact check and do research, read books, take classes with Ph.D.s. I do have a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies, but I guess it’s not enough.”