One of the foundational principles of the teachings of M. Fethullah Gulen, and thus one of the animating principles of the Hizmet movement, is the notion that education is one of the primary means by which the human person becomes most authentically human and thus reaches her or his full potential.
Gülen defines “Muslim” as someone who conforms to his description of being tolerant. His view of Islam, simply put, is of a faith that exemplifies the principles which he embeds in the word “tolerance.”
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.”
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.
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.
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: 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.
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 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.
The world into which Gülen was born in 1941 was one where, in his country of birth, the Ottoman reality with a staunchly proclaimed declaration of complete religious freedom had been succeeded by a secular republic in which religion would play absolutely no role within the administration of the state and religious practice was suppressed in the public sphere.