Abdullah Antepli, Duke's First Muslim Chaplain

'Walking with people on their faith journeys, their life journeys'

Abdullah Antepli with daughter Zainab. Photo courtesy of Abdullah Antepli.
Abdullah Antepli with daughter Zainab. Photo courtesy of Abdullah Antepli.

Name: Abdullah AntepliPosition: Muslim ChaplainYears at Duke:

What I do at Duke is: Ministry and teaching. I teach Islam in the Divinity School, and I provide faith-based religious leadership to the roughly 500 Muslim Blue Devils among the 14,000 undergraduates and graduate students at Duke. And I try to raise the Muslim voice at Duke.

If people want to start a conversation with me, they should ask me about: Food. I grew up in Turkey. I lived in Southeast Asia. I'm 37, and I've been to 49 countries. Food, in the context of diversity, they should ask about that.

If I had $5 million, I would: put it into primary and middle school education, particularly for those kids who need an opportunity to thrive, early on, before life mistreats them in such a way that it is difficult to reverse bad patterns.

My first ever paying job was: as a waiter in Yashar, a famous ice cream shop in Marash, my hometown in Turkey. I was useless as a waiter - I wasn't strong, and I spilled things. But I had studied German, and there were many German tourists, so they used me as an interpreter.

My dream job is: What I am doing now. I love walking with people on their faith journeys, their life journeys, their professional journeys, their relationship journeys. God Almighty has allowed me to land in a job where that is part of my job description.

The best advice I ever received was: from my daughter Zainab, when she was 6, and I came back from visiting Duke. I had fallen in love with Duke at first sight - just like I did with my wife. But I was still deciding whether to accept the job. Zainab told me, "If it makes you happy, just go for it." 

What I love about Duke is: Duke's global ambitions. Duke wants to engage with the world; to bring the world to Duke and take Duke to the world. 

When I'm not at work I like to: get involved in every opportunity that I have to respond to the craziness of post 9/11 American Islamophobia. I do everything I can to mirror this un-American reality to Americans to show them it doesn't make a better society. I try to find ways to see how we can recover from this increasing amount of poison and hate.

If I could have one superpower, it would be: the ability to alleviate all human suffering. But for now, I simply try to follow the Holy Qur'an's most repeated advice: "Do you love your Lord ? Then, go and serve your fellow human being..."