2015 Tailwind Scholarship Recipients
We recognize and congratulate these bright young Muslim students.
Seeks to Change Inaccurate Narratives of Islam
Name Meral Kocak
School Harvard University
Major Theological Studies
“Why do Western narratives on the expression of Islamic revivalism often invoke appeals to a past history of barbaric medieval practices as though the historical trajectory of Islamic governance mirrors that of the West’s teleological focus on secularism? In direct contrast why do many modern Muslim societies experiencing Islamic revival movements disseminate images and stories that view the past as a golden age of prosperity and political justice?
Following these two accounts I am interested in the complex configurations of religious historical and political forces that encourage specific ideals of modern citizenship in Turkish populations, both within Turkey and the Turkish diaspora, through the categorical lens of Lara Deeb’s idea of an “enchanted modernity”; particularly the ways that Islamic history ontological categories and moral codes provide a language for navigating the uncertain world of the modern.
My graduate level research will investigate the increasingly commonplace calls to Islam as a deep-rooted aspect of national identity while encouraging the engagement of Turkish citizens in neo-liberal forms of governance and economic development. Specifically I wish to understand how images of historical Islamic figures play into politics of representation how they are interpreted and translated to modern aspirations such as gender equality, economic prosperity, and just leadership.
My goal in pursuing the MTS program at Harvard Divinity School is to acquire a solid background in Islamic theology, politics, and culture, focusing on formulations of modern day neo-Sufism, in order to structure a PhD level research project that I will pursue upon completion of my MTS degree. Regarding my career plans I seek to become a thought leader and influencer in my field through a combination of teaching, producing new knowledge and writing, and impact consulting to outside organizations.
I believe in the necessity for building discourse that challenges and refashions current trite narratives of Islam that hinder social cultural and economic cooperation throughout the world and hope to contribute to this field through media representation and building strong community networks. Furthermore, I am interested in leveraging my future expertise by working with international organizations and governments to reform education policies for Middle Eastern women, specifically working to improve adult literacy rates.”