Recently, Grambling State University Fulbright Scholars presented at the 32nd Annual Mid-South Sociological Association Conference in Lafayette.
The panel consisted of GSU faculty Dr. Sue Abraham, Melanie C. Thomas, Gay Lynn Bond, and Dr. Brenda Wall and Dr. Eurydice Osterman of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala. The session was entitled Women, Religion, and Secularism in Turkey.
Chairing the panel and moderating the discussion was GSU’s Fulbright program director, Abraham. She gave an overview of the Fulbright Program and the seminar in Turkey.
The first presenter was Wall. Her topic was centered on women and secularism in Turkey. She said that when Islam came to Asia, some women benefited from its socializing influences.
“The doctrine was comparatively liberating in Arabia where many women knew abuse and were treated as chattel. On the other hand, in Turkey the influence of Islam was more repressive to a people, who appreciated women in roles ranging from goddess to leader,” said Wall.
Wall said Ephesus occupies an important place in understanding the role of women because of their reverence for women. “From the Amazons to the Greek and Roman goddesses and even the most recent veneration of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus has historically recognized women as sources of power and honor,” she said.
Thomas presentation was on Islam. “Turkey, the only secular place within Islam, adopted Islam in the 9th century. The core point of the Islamic faith is the unity of all life of creatures, wholeness. Contrary to what many people believe, it is a religion that is based upon love and unity, not hate.”
Osterman’s presentation was primarily on music. However, she presented on the three areas of study that the Fulbright Scholars engaged in while in Turkey – Islam, secularism, and women.
She focused on four types of music: classical, folk, church, and commercial.
"Music reflects the culture and the unique sound is present in all of the music except for western pop music that is played over the airwaves," said Osterman.
Bond focused on Islam and Sufism. She said there are shared roots among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. “Abraham, who lived roughly 2000 years before Christ, is regarded by all three religions as an important ancestor or father of their religion.
“The annual pilgrimage to Mecca for the hajj was begun by Abraham when he was commanded to build the KaA-bah, the first structure devoted to the worship of only one God. The pilgrimage reenacts some of the rituals of Abraham,” she said.
“The idea that God is one implied two significant things about human kind. It implies that all humans are equal simply because we are born of one man and one woman. Because we are equal and have been given free will by our creator, we have certain unalienable liberties,” she said.
After their presentations, the group answered questions.