Democracy in the Thought of Gülen and Erdoğan’s Politics

Fethullah Gülen: In the past, I did support the idea of a presidential system if it is to be modeled after the U.S. or France or other countries where there are checks and balances against the president. But Erdoğan’s proposal was akin to a sultan regime. I could not support such a system with a clear conscience. Erdoğan put pressure on me and Hizmet sympathizers to publicly support his idea of a presidential system.

Structural and operational concepts of Hizmet

In the Hizmet Movement collective decision making (istişare) is performed on a consensual basis by participants in a network, activity or project. Gülen is known to apply this norm to his own activities and to encourage his students and friends to follow this practice. In addition, every project, business or activity has a mütevelli heyeti—essentially a board of trustees that comprises managers and financiers who “consistently carry out the responsibilities that fall on (their) shoulders.”

A select biography of Fethullah Gülen

Gülen pursued his secular education in positive sciences, literature, history and philosophy through informal self-education. During his military service, his commander recommended a number of major thinkers for his reading. Among the writers whose work he encountered this way were Hugo, de Balzac, Kant, Shakespeare and Einstein, and French existentialist philosophers such as Sartre and Camus, as well as Marcuse’s critique of modernity and Shakespeare’s plays. With this background, he would later develop his thoughts on reconciling modernity and spirituality through Islamic values.

Was Gulen really “Once a close ally” of Erdogan?

Taking into account their contrasting roots and development in broader perspective, contending that Gulen and Erdogan were once close allies is not reasonable and accurate. Particularly, using this clause to justify the organized cruelty and tragedy in Turkey is completely unfair. Their ideology and viewpoints generally contradict. Hostility of and distrust by the National Outlook against Gulenists persists for decades.

The Gülen Community – Who to Believe, Politicians or Actions?

For those who know Mr. Gülen personally or have had contact with the open-hearted and idealistic members of the Hizmet movement, claims of subversive “terrorism,” (in Erdoğan’s words) seem incongruous. I have known Mr. Gülen for over 20 years and find the retired, soft-spoken Qur’an-teacher to be preaching and living a particularly attractive interpretation of Islamic faith.

Gülen: Muslims have a unique responsibility in fighting terror

Gülen: God says “We have honored the children of Adam” (Quran, 17:70), all humanity is honored. The Qur’an describes taking the life of even one innocent person as a crime against all humanity (Quran, 5:32). Even in a legitimate defensive war, the Prophet’s teachings specifically prohibit violence against any noncombatants, especially women, children and clergy. The belief that one can enter paradise by killing others is a delusion.

Gülen, Hizmet, the state and the AKP

The questions such as “What does the Hizmet movement want from the state?” “Why has Gülen been determinedly encouraging his sympathizers to accept state jobs?” and “Why are there several media outlets owned by Hizmet-inspired people?” cannot be answered convincingly without referring to modern Turkish political history.

The Turkey I no longer know

The Turkish population already is strongly polarized on the AKP regime. A Turkey under a dictatorial regime, providing haven to violent radicals and pushing its Kurdish citizens into desperation, would be a nightmare for Middle East security. I probably will not live to see Turkey become an exemplary democracy, but I pray that the downward authoritarian drift can be stopped before it is too late.