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25 replies on “Guestbook”

Asma Barlas is one of the rare educators who is truly with you everyday after you encounter her teachings. I felt incredibly lucky to be placed with her as my advisor upon entering IC in 2000 as a freshman who had chosen “Politics” as a major for the lack of an IR department, and also no real understanding that one could have been undeclared. The events that took place politically in my life and the world during the next four years were, at the time unprecedented to me. Having an advisor and professor in Asma Barlas during those years did more to guide me on the path I needed and wanted to be on than I could understand at the time. Though I never stopped thinking about the ways she pushed my critical thinking, I was really just trying to get out of academia. I remember asking her how she could even bare it. Her perseverance on such circumstances and her ability to share with me the scale of the real structure of conflict is an energy and viewpoint I always return to in an effort to have the same strength and mental sobriety through tough times. In the classroom she instilled and helped excavate curiosities that continue to push my lens through life and I reflect on that everyday. Her chosen texts, and particularly her book “Believing Women is Islam” opened up a whole new understanding of how powerful and valuable of a mind she is for the world to listen to. I appreciate her willingness to always speak truth to power with a finessed balance of calmness and vigor. She’s knows a buffoon when she sees one! May your retirement be full of new discovery and joys as you travel forward always being your true self. Thanks again for everything.

With love,
James Searl

Dear Asma,
I enjoyed with delight hearing some of the so many lives you have touched in your years at IC in yesterday’s recognition/celebration of your work. Your former students spoke so eloquently about the profound impact that you had in their intellectual growth and personal development. What an AMAZING legacy!

Personally, while I did not have the pleasure of having you as a guest speaker in my classes, I had learned about your teaching excellence through a number of my advisees who had taken your courses and echoed the same deep learning experiences that we heard from alumni yesterday. And of course, your scholarly accomplishments needed no introduction!

Your excellent teaching and superb intellectual productivity notwithstanding, what I have always deeply admired about you is your candor, your reflective and thoughtful mannerism and calling things the way you understand without sugar-coating them for the audience; integrity above all!

Thank you Asma for your genuine and caring friendship. I am honored and blessed by it.

All the best wishes in your years ahead.

Congratulations on your retirement, Asma! It was privilege to celebrate your life’s work and a delight to see you during the symposium. I appreciate your wisdom and miss our time connecting in the Center for Faculty Excellence. I feel honored that our paths crossed and hope they will again.

So pleased to be able to be part of this celebration/recognition of your extraordinary work at IC over the years. Your work and your persona affected hundreds of students and colleagues over these many years. I feel privileged to have been in your company for 11 years on campus. My only regret is that I never took a course with you!
I always enjoyed our time together and look forward to getting together in Ithaca post-COVID.
Thank you and all the best for the next chapter in life

Asma, what immensely moving and well-deserved tributes. Thank you for being a wonderful colleague in the halls of Muller, always penetratingly honest, direct, shrewd, and also kind. You will be much missed, and I wish you a very joyful and glorious retirement.

Thank you, Professor Barlas

My time knowing you at IC was brief and at the very end of my education there, yet your class and teaching have stuck with me as quotes and ideas return to me years later and add nuance and guidance to my thoughts and actions as I make my way through this complicated, beautiful world. Your genuine hospitality and open ear softened hard, personal realities, while sharpening my mind and those of my peers.

I am fortunate to have been your student.


Dr. Barlas,
You always leave me at a loss for words. Thank you for so patiently facilitating some of the most important growth of my life. Thank you for showing me how much work there is to be done, and how much joy there is to be had. Thank you for giving so much of yourself so that we (your students) can be better. I hope you are enjoying each day of retirement — I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.

Professor Barlas, I just wanted to thank you for all that you’ve done to improve my time at Ithaca College now that it has drawn to a close. It was not a particularly easy or enjoyable experience for me, but every class I took with you felt meaningful and was the class I most looked forward to in a given semester. Even dating back to my very first semester of freshman year in the fall of 2015 I can remember being struck by the sincerity and honesty in our class discussions as well as the respect you gave to the minds of your students, and I am very fortunate that I was able to take my first college course with you. I had never had a teacher encourage us as students to think critically about our own thoughts and feelings in relation to the content we studied as you did, and your teachings of Freire and the banking model of education really helped me process my own experiences and gripes with the educational system. Even after graduating, your classes stand out from the rest at Ithaca College. They were the only time it truly felt like I was in college to educate myself about the world, its history, the structures and people that make it up and my place in all of it, as opposed to just checking off boxes to get a degree. But even more than that, you always offered your support to us as students. This was especially apparent leading up to and during the protests at the end of 2015, as well as the times you would check in on us in office hours or would invite us over to your house at the end of the semester. Even if I may have seemed distant or disengaged due to situations outside of your class, I still appreciated the care for the well-being of your students that you showed, and I wish I could have shown more of this appreciation in my time in Ithaca.

I will carry with me the lessons and experiences I’ve gained from your classes for the rest of my life, and for that I am extremely grateful. Congratulations on your retirement, and thank you for touching so many lives during your time at Ithaca College. I wish you nothing but the best with whatever the next chapter of your life may bring!

It took me until my senior year to finally get into a class taught by Asma Barlas – a 100 level course, but regardless, I was excited to be there. You challenged us every time we walked in the room; telling us to question our surroundings and understandings of the world for a genuine and deep learning.

Although I (selfishly) wish the opportunity appeared earlier to be your student – so you could challenge me, to be better, to do better for the world – I am thrilled to have gotten any of your time at all.

Once our new world opens and your next chapter has been well dived into, I hope to see you and celebrate. Congratulations on a well-deserved retirement, Professor Barlas.

Hi Dr. Barlas,

Thank you for everything that you have done for the school and the student body. I really enjoyed taking Understanding Islam in the spring of 2019. Many of the conversations we had in that class helped me grow and think about many complex topics in a new light. I also thank you for suggesting books for my senior thesis topic on Indian indentured labor in Guyana. They were very helpful starting points to understand the field and complete my thesis. I am sorry that your last year at Ithaca College is ending this way but it does not take away the profound impact that you have had on the school and the students. I hope that you enjoy this new chapter in your life!

Dearest Asma,

I’m sorry the celebrations around your retirement will be curtailed, but I want to wish you the very best. You’ve provided the college with great scholarly knowledge, undaunted dedication to the Center and beyond, and a profound personal perspective that helped to guide us all toward the important issues.

I hope retirement frees you up to focus on things that give you great meaning in life.

Warmest regards,


Wade and I are so fortunate to have met you and Ulises when we arrived in Ithaca, and we look forward to many more stimulating conversations and excellent meals together. We are sure that your “retirement” will bring many good things, and this next stage in your journey will continue to be fulfilling and, obviously, interesting!

Dear Asma,
you so deserve all of this clamor, these amazing words from your students, former students, colleagues, and friends. these are incredible testimonies of the impact you have had, in their lives, in ours. thanks for being a great colleague, for pushing the bounds in so many important ways. congrats on the last week of teaching, though i know this teaching will continue onward in other ways!
much love, p

Meri Asma Jaan:

Asma by name, Asma by nature — you are indeed exalted, and for so many reasons:

* the fearlessness with which you have always spoken truth to power, whether to tinpot generals, to mansplaining mullahs, or to petty workplace despots (accompanied by that raised eyebrow, slightly pursed smile, and wagging finger of doom!)

* the sheer giddy altitude of your intelligence, which never ceases to amaze me with its rigour, its relentlessness, but also its deep humility (accompanied by the intensity of your gaze mid-conversation!)

* the deep, unswerving love you lavish on Uli and your dearest friends, which makes us exalt you all the more even as it raises us (accompanied by one of the loveliest laughs I have ever heard!)

As the great repository of Urdu shayari, “Sholay,” puts it:

Yeh dosti hum nahin todhenge
Todhenge dum magar
Teri saath na chhodenge

With all my love, Gil

I did not need to be Asma’s student to know she is brilliant.
I did not need to live with Asma to know she is loving.
I did not need to grow up with Asma to know she is loyal.
I did not need to know Asma more than a day to know she is a lifeline.

Asma begum, Asma jaan, beloved Asma, there is no one quite like you in the world! Your profound charisma, your breathtaking intellect, your hearty laugh, your capacious heart — how many people have benefitted from this extraordinary concoction! I consider myself absolutely lucky to be your friend and to have been your friend for so many years. We are tied together by food, language, and love. Thank you for being, always, the #1 Begum in my life:. Here is some beauty from Begum Akhtar to commemorate your own beauty: .

Having read these extraordinary tributes from so many former students of Asma’s, whose lives she influenced in such challenging, affirming, and transformative ways, I am kicking myself for not having taken one of her classes while I was at IC!

What a wonderful learning atmosphere she created, and despite the often jolting lessons she guided her students through experiencing, it is clear that she did so with love, empathy, and concern for them.

Wow. Just wow.

My own interactions with Asma *in person* have not been many, except on a few committees including Diversity Awareness, and if I remember right, the original ad hoc committees that led to the inception of the Center for the Study of Race, Culture, and Ethnicity and the (late, lamented) Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies. We also were among the (way too few) faculty/staff members who actively and vocally protested the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq (and together weathered a battering of furious pro-war pushback), and who later actively and visibly supported the student actions, including the 2016 occupation of administrative home PR Williams Center in protest of malicious and racist practices by then-college president Rochon. (Those protests did lead to Rochon’s eventual departure, but he would take another 19 months to leave, supported by the board of trustees, and officially “retiring.” In itself that was a painful lesson for all our students in how power works, and how the powerful support each other rather than serve the interests of justice.) But the students did get what they had worked for, even if the satisfaction was delayed and touched with grimness — another important lesson that I am sure Asma was able to use creatively in her later classes.

Through the years I’ve known Asma, we have kept connected through our shared desire to open minds and give space and amplification to the voices of those who are seldom heard. We intersect on many issues, disagree on some, and are able with mutual respect to connect on many levels.

I hold Asma in the highest esteem and look forward to a lengthy and rich future connection as she goes off to open more minds and, I sincerely hope, take good care of her amazing self and enjoy time with Ulises and others dear to her.

Good health, many salutations, and gentle hugs to you, dear Asma, as you open the next chapter in your remarkable life.

Thank you, Asma, for welcoming us in Ithaca when we first arrived there. We always enjoyed coming to your house. It is a pity that my arrival at IC coincides with your retirement, but I am looking forward to seeing you more often nonetheless. I wish you a wonderful retirement with many new ventures coming your way. Stay well and healthy!!

Dear Asma,
It’s been a great honor to count you as my friend. Reading your work, talking to you and spending time with you and Ulises has always been an inspiration and learning experience for me. I’m so glad to be able to see more of you from now on. Wishing you all the best!!! Jeanette

Dear Asma:

While I was never your student, not directly at least, it only took a few conversations and a classroom visit in St. Petersburg for me to see what an amazing, complex, challenging teacher and mentor you are. Since those early days and especially over the last year and a half, one of the lovely surprises for me in our neck of the woods has been the deepening friendship that you, Ulises, and I have been cultivating. I treasure it deeply and I expect and hope that we enjoy its fruits it for years to come. In the meantime, all the testimonies gathered here speak to the deep and lasting marks you have left on the souls and bodies (the two can only be separated by Western-trained philosopher-fools; the rest of us know better) of generations of young men and women, here and elsewhere. I have not seen too much of what you do in the classroom – even though I’ve heard the stories. But I suspect it is, in a climate of deep conservatism perpetuated by all sorts of institutions, the type of magic summed up in one of my (few) favorite TV shows, Rita, about a Danish K-12 teacher, single mother, and a woman knows how to pull no punches. When challenged by a frenemy about her pedagogy, she had this to say in response: “I teach to save the kids from their parents!” I strongly suspect there are a lot of kids you’ve saved from (not only) their parents over the years.

With much love, Niko

Professor Barlas has arguably had the biggest academic impact on me, and so many of my peers, in my entire academic career. She fills the gaps in American education that we simply would not receive otherwise. There is a reason why so many of us students take every course with her that is available. She challenges us to question American values and institutions in a way many classrooms would never dare. Her classes, in a way, have formed its own micro-community on campus. She is an integral part of the Ithaca College community and will be sorely missed. I wish only the best to her in retirement.

Dear Asma, I’m still here on the site – laughing, nodding and empathizing as I slowly read these beautiful memoirs and testimonies from your former students. I’m exclaiming at the beauty of the lives and experiences compressed in their before and after photos. This is such a wonderful tribute to you. I’ll be back to leave a ‘proper’ comment when I’m done reading. But sitting here with social distancing and isolation in effect and the campus shut down, the voices, and letters of your dear former students from across the world are like a tonic. I’m so glad they wanted to share their experiences in your class with all of us. Now let me get back to reading.

Dear Asma, congratulations on your retirement! Thank you for being a model teacher, a colleague with the courage to speak truth and to act with conscience, and for encouraging those of us who continue to teach, learn, and find joy in the academy. I’m so grateful for the chance to have worked with, and learned from, you.

Celebrating decades of collegial, intellectual, political, transcultural, anti-racist, multiple feminist, non-binary, dialectical, transformative, ideas and thoughts and arguments and discussions with you. Such a rich set of dialogues which have built an extra-ordinary camaraderie. In celebration of all of it.

Dear Asma, my infinite gratitude for being part of our family and for always being an ispiration for Ulises May you enjoy your retirement every single day.

Thank you, Asma, for many great years working together and for many years of friendship. May you enjoy your retirement in good health and joy.

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