»I think that for many people who are academics, there’s a personal component involved,« says Prof. Wendy M. K. Shaw, art historian for Islamic cultures at the Free University of Berlin, who will partake in the panel discussion God Beyond Borders. Naturally, the personal component is involved in her case too.
»My mom is a Muslim Turkish and my father was an Orientalist scholar and he’s Jewish. He was born a Shapira, but when he was living in Egypt in 1956, his mother told him it was dangerous for him as a Jew, so he changed his name to Shaw. He never thought about it as a change of identity, because for him he was American. He was one of the first Jewish professors at Harvard, but it was an assimilation era. In Turkey, my family was also secular, but religion was present with in private spaces. That was much more dominant in my childhood. So I’m part of this personal scholarship legacy that’s very Jewish, but I know more about Islam. What makes it even funnier is that my parents got married on June 6th 1967 [during the Arab–Israeli War].
My mom used to say, ›we never thought of ourselves as different,‹ and I told her ›well, you got married on the last day it was possible to think that.‹«