Dilyara Celik, 26, of Chicopee, is director of the women’s association of the Turkish Cultural Center of WesternMassachusetts in West Springfield, and a senior at Westfield State University.
She was born in west central Russia, in the city of Kazan, which, she says, is “very famous for the peace and harmony among religions and cultures.”
She has lived in the United Sates for eight years.
Where were you when 9/11 happened?
When 9/11 happened I was 16 years old and in my last year in high school. I was shocked when I heard that the Twin Towers were struck. Islam is a religion of peace which teaches that killing one person means killing the whole of humanity.
How can you kill more than 3,000 innocent people in the name of Islam? This is not (the Islamic concept of) jihad but terror. Jihad doesn’t mean to kill the innocent people in the name of Allah or Islam.
Jihad is the struggle of a person against his self desires, ego and evil wishes to be humble, modest and a good man of dignity and sincerity.
I became very sad since the way people perceive Islam may change dramatically because of this horrible terrorist attack done by some monsters in the name of Islam.
After this horrible attack, a famous Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen, said: “A terrorist cannot be a real Muslim, and a Muslim cannot be a terrorist.” This is the summary of my thoughts.
Prior to the attacks, were you very public about your religion?
I think religion and faith are sacred and very personal. I have never been very public, unless my religion requires that. For example, the wearing of the scarf.
My religion requires women to cover. For some this is publicity; however, for me it is sacred and a requirement of my faith.
I started wearing the scarf seven years ago, here in the United States. So, if you consider wearing a scarf as being “very public,” then I can say I have become more public after 9/11.
I did not have any restraints or any problems here regarding my religion.
How welcome an area is the Pioneer Valley toward Muslims?
It has been almost three years since I live in this area. I moved from New Jersey and I have had only a good experience here in the Pioneer Valley.
Many of my friends from the Turkish community will agree with me. But, there were some negative situations, which would make anyone upset.
I will relate those not to people, but to the media and not enough of diversity and knowledge.
What changes did you see in how people view Muslims?
This attack triggered a lot of things. People have lots of questions about Muslims and Islamic culture.
They are more suspicious about Muslims than a decade ago. Some people are afraid of Muslims, and are cautious since they do not have too much knowledge about Islam and because of the stereotypes and misinformation about Islam in the media.
Ten years ago I thought that this is the country of freedom, democracy, human rights, diversity where people celebrate their differences, colors, languages etc. but now it has been changed a bit.
What does living in America mean to you and how do you see your self as a Muslim and an American?
For me, my religion is the root of my life and mental well being. I am also very happy and honored to live in America and to be a citizen of this country.
This country is my home, I love it a lot. Love, unity, diversity, peace — these are the values that made America, AMERICA.
I will always try to live Islam in the best way to show the people what Islam is all about. Islam is the religion of peace, love and dignity. source