Diversity in our society

Diversity is a natural dimension of our society and geography. It would be a great mistake to claim that Anatolia is racially pure Turkish. Accepting and pronouncing this truth would be an important step toward a final solution showing that in the future diversity is not going to constitute a problem for us.

Diversity in our society

Fethullah Gülen

Diversity is a natural dimension of our society and geography. It would be a great mistake to claim that Anatolia is racially pure Turkish. Because, we have stepped into Asia a number of times, gone beyond Anatolia from top to bottom and spread out to the slopes of the West via the Balkans. As a result, Anatolia, as a place where different tribes have lived, is a rich and colorful geographical location. Accepting and pronouncing this truth would be an important step toward a final solution showing that in the future diversity is not going to constitute a problem for us.

The solution to our problem is expressed in a couplet by Ziya Pasha as, “Know the illness, then set out to treat it medically: Do you think any ointment is a cure for any wound?” We must learn the secret of how we ruled tens of nations of different race, religion and world-views together in the past. Another side of this matter is that it is necessary to accept diversity as a source of enrichment.  When we go back to ancient times, we can see the riches that many societies like the Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians and Romans left in Anatolia. All of these contributed different enrichment to our culture. The Seljuks left a quite different culture, which we can say was an integration of Asian and Anatolian cultures, and which culminated in the Ottoman culture. This culture, which has been passed on to us orally and in writing, has made our nation a distinct society. In my opinion, this cultural richness should be used and evaluated in the future as an unmatched treasure and source of strength.

Especially in the last one or two centuries, some powers, knowingly or unknowingly, have acted to take advantage of this diversity in our society in a negative way by bringing about dissension. They have tried to produce enemy camps and then play these camps off against one another to turn Turkey into an arena of conflict. (1) Now, at last, I think that our people, who have been tempered and matured in the crucible of events, will not be prey to those games. Finally, the far-sightedness and common sense of our nation has, with God’s help, spoiled the intrigues arranged by some groups bent on dividing the people. The public conscience acted with foresight and, overcoming emotions, solved many problems.

After this, for the continuation of our unity and order, a brotherly/sisterly environment should be built on a rational basis rather than on emotional ties. We have numerous bonds or common points requiring unity in society. These points of unity should continually be elaborated very well in the different segments of society, and our unity that has usually been based on emotions should be deepened to levels of rationality, intelligence and ideas.

The first step towards this end should be the acceptance of everyone as they are.  Everyone can think differently about different issues. For example, due to their ethnic priority, some may not feel fully a part of this nation or there can be different opinions regarding beliefs or world-views.  In societies where democracy has reached a certain level, people solve their problems by means of discussion and persuasion, not by using brute strength and force as is the case among uncivilized ones. In a time when we all share common grounds and when everyone is given the freedom and right to work, think and express himself/herself, we are all longing to build a world without conflict and contention based on tolerance and dialogue. Today all of us should take full advantage of this process and the circumstances that pave the way for it and accept that it is natural for everyone to benefit from these same rights.

During this period of tolerance and dialogue that began in recent years in Turkey, (2) I have had the opportunity to speak with and get to know many people from different segments of society.  The most important observation I have personally made from these dialogues is how closed we are to our own society. Many times when I encountered someone who did not think as I did, I thought unpleasant things would ensue. But it is interesting that in hardly any group did I see a sour face. We were able to draw close to one another quite comfortably, and everyone who thought they were very different from each other actually warmed easily to one another. In fact, when embracing one another, everyone’s eyes were full of tears. There was no feigned flattery here.

Personally, in this new embrace of each other, I thought I had found our lost paradise. Also, seeing that our people are ready for this is another source of joy. At the same time, importance should not be given to the discontent of the marginal groups on the right or left.  These existed in every period and always will.

Now our society is turning towards feeling and realizing the brotherhood/sisterhood it yearns for. This opportunity should be taken advantage of. Unity should be given precedence on every platform, and the process that has begun should be completed no matter what.

(1) What the author means is many opposite camps have been created in Turkey like Turkish-Kurdish, Sunni-Alevi, leftist-rightist, etc.

(2) Author makes reference to early 1990s of Turkey.


M. Fethullah Gülen, 2004. “Toward a Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance.” The Light, Inc, New Jersey.

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