Where can you go to learn about the Turkish language and culture or to learn how to cook Turkish dishes?
The new Turkish Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts is located at 540 Meadow St., Suite 104, Agawam.
The public is invited to a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 20 from 6-9 p.m.
“Although the community center initially started to address the cultural needs of Turkish-Americans, it is open to all Americans regardless of their heritage,” said Dilara Celik, director of the Women’s Society at the Turkish Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts.
While the center promotes harmony in diverse cultural settings in the United States, it offers educational and cultural programs such as weekly social gatherings, Turkish language classes and weekend classes for children to learn topics ranging from math to Turkish culture.
The center is used also for Turkish coffee/cultural nights, Turkish festivals, panels, religious holiday celebrations, seminars, book signing/discussion events and cooking classes.
Facilities include a large meeting room and several offices.
“Our center plays a bridge role between Turkish and American cultures,” Celik said.
“On one side, the center plays an important role in facilitating Turkish immigrants' integration to American culture. On the other side, the center introduces, promotes and informs Turkish history and culture to Americans by bringing people together in an open-dialogue environment. It is the very culture of Turkish people to exercise sharing, loving and caring within the community. For such activities to take place, we feel that the cultural center is essential.”
The center was founded in 2008 at 520 Union St. in West Springfield; that location was damaged in the 2011 tornado and later demolished.
“As Muslim Turkish-Americans, we are very comfortable living in Western Mass.,” said Celik, who was born in Kazan, in west central Russia and lived in New Jersey before moving here four years ago. “We have not experienced any discrimination so far, nor do we expect to face any. We enjoy the religious freedoms of this great country.”
A Chicopee resident, she said Islam is the religion of peace, love and dignity. “We denounce all types of discrimination including racist or religious ones,” she said of her Western Massachusetts Turkish community.
She estimated there are about 3,000 people of Turkish descent in Western Massachusetts.
The literal meaning of Islam is peace, she explained. “Unfortunately, in the recent years, Islam is associated with terrorism. As Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Muslim-Turkish scholar stated after the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ‘A Muslim cannot be a terrorist and a terrorist cannot be a Muslim.’”
One of the key principles of Islam is to live in harmony with everybody and avoid harming others and forcing them to believe your beliefs, she continued. “An essential teaching of Islam is to love the created for the sake of the creator without discrimination.”
The Turkish Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts is open seven days a week during regular business hours.
For more information, call (413) 301-7720. Those planning to attend the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 20 are asked to RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission is free, and refreshments will be served.
Published on MassLive.com, 11 February 2013, Monday