Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Hizmet

Hizmet: “Important Clarifications Concerning Current Debates”

leave a comment »


At the suggestion of a reader, here is a statement from the Gülenist “Journalists and Writers Foundation” (the folks who organize the Abant Platform) on “current debates in Turkey.” It is concise, and highlights what appears to be the matter of greatest contention about the Hizmet (Gülen) movement—is it really apolitical?

Their response:

Hizmet, as a civil society movement, operates with a strictly civic character. It is not an organor an affiliate of a government program, political party or agenda. Likewise, this civil movement is not an opponent of any political party.

But here is another critical point: As in any other social movement, some participants in the Hizmet movement may act contrary to the movement’s core value of civic volunteerism. However, these mistakes cannot be attributed to Hizmet.

Establishing this, the statement goes on to address more “concrete matters”:

  •   What are Hizmet’s expectationsof politicians and political parties?
  •   What is the nature of the relationship between Hizmet and the Justice and Development Party(AKP) government?
  •   Does Hizmet have “people” within the state?
  •   Is there a crisis between the movement and the AK Party?
  •   What is the response of Hizmet to its alleged manipulation of ongoing judicial and bureaucratic processes?
  •   What is Hizmet’s position regarding freedom of the press?

Read more.

Written by M. James

May 21, 2012 at 7:35 am

Posted in Politics, Religion, Turkey

Tagged with , , , ,

Who is Fethullah Gülen?

with 5 comments

Countless websites sing the praises of Fethullah Gülen. Some of them take out ads.

I have, of late, begun to realize the absurdity of authoring a blog on Turkish politics, religion, and culture without significant attention (save an ominous reference) to what I will call the “Gülen movement” (sometimes called the Hizmet [service] movement).

From what I understand, Gülenism—a questionably apolitical movement within the Sufi strand of Islam—is the paradigmatic expression of Anatolian Islam. Though it has a distinctly Turkish pedigree, with roots in the late Ottoman Nur (Light) movement of Said Nursî (1878–1960), it by no means limits itself geographically. The movement has become notable more recently for its support of non-religious as well as religious education through an international school system, and an overarching attitude of tolerance—especially toward other religions.

Gülen (en.fgulen.com)

Muhammad Fethullah Gülen, after whom the movement is named, is an adequately interesting character to lead what has become a globally significant phenomenon. Born in 1941 near Erzurum, Gülen seems to have been a largely self-taught scholar, knowledgeable in subjects ranging from Qur’anic exegesis to Western existentialism. After a long preaching career in Turkey, which was met with great success since the ’80s (when Islam was seen by the state as a tool to fight socialism), Gülen eventually fled to Pennsylvania, of all places, in 1999. The overt reason for his flight was a legitimate fear of arrest for challenging the “secular nature” of the state.

He currently resides somewhere in the Poconos (in a “compound,” as some call it), issuing statements through an enormous, sophisticated (and easily recognizable) network of media outlets. Here is how a recent NYT article describes Fethullah Gülen:

… a charismatic preacher who leads one of the most influential Islamic movements in the world, with millions of followers and schools in 140 countries. He has long advocated tolerance, peace and interfaith dialogue, drawing on the traditions of Sufism, a mystical strain of Islam generally viewed as being moderate.

But this is where the concerns spring up. With a network of media outlets, millions of dedicated followers, a vast associated system of private schools, and the simple fact that most people have never heard of the movement, the Gülenists—to those who have heard of them—face some well-deserved suspicion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

May 16, 2012 at 2:48 am