Fethullah Gulen inspired dialogue

Rumi Forum's blog on Hizmet, Fethullah Gulen, peacebuilding, education and interfaith efforts.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Fethullah Gülen on Political Islam

Fethullah Gülen on Political Islam excerpt from Muslim World Journal


Q: In a time when political Islam has become very popular, what are your thoughts on the relationship between Islam and politics?

Fethullah Gülen: In my opinion, people have either gone too far or not far enough with regards to understanding the relationship between Islam and politics.  Some have said that the religion of Islam has no relationship with politics; others have perceived the religion as politics itself, ignoring the varied and rich aspects of religion. In the Holy Qur’an, there are verses concerning administration and politics.  The Prophet’s practices also occupy an important place in this regard.  For example, the Qur’anic terms “ulu al-amr” (those who rule), “ita’at” (obedience to the rulers), “shura” (consultation), “harb” (war), and “sulh” (peace), are all examples of some Qur’anic references with regard to political and legal decisions.  In addition, there are Qur’anic verses related to legal institutions and also some which point to politics and governing.

However, in Islam it is not possible to limit the concept of governance and politics into a single paradigm, unlike the principles of faith and the pillars of Islam. History shows us that in the Islamic world, since the time of the Prophet, there have been many types of states. This is so even if we exclude the elections in the early period of Islam and the qualities that were exhibited in those elections. Even if one cannot see some major methodological differences among these types of governance, there are many differences in the details. Those who are not aware of the principles of these different methods of governing have understood each of them as a separate system. I have to note that these differences were the result of the aspects of religion which are open to interpretation and related to the field of independent reasoning (Ijtihad).

In order to reach a healthy understanding and come to positive conclusions, one should refer to the main sources of Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunnah. There is no doubt that historical experiences are also an important source.

In the Qur’an, besides verses related to human relationships with God, there are many other verses regulating the relationships of human beings with one another.  The source of both kinds of verses is one, Allah. The verses that remind us about our duties and responsibilities to the divine essence have been preserved in its originality based on the understanding of the Prophet and his companions. The Qur’anic verses and prophetic sayings related to the second category focus on the principles of humans’ social, economic, political, and cultural life. At the same time, they hint at some wisdom, betterment, and benefits through their brief ending statements at the end of many verses. For instance, the verses on justice, respect for rights, truthfulness, being compassionate and merciful, carrying out actions based on consultation, living a chaste life, and not deceiving anyone are considered examples of this category.

These kind of verses that are directed to human relationships, if read thoroughly and correctly, will give some hints for Muslims about how to solve their future problems. Interpreters and the Mujtahids (those who are able to perform independent reasoning), to a certain extent, take this category as a reference for their interpretations and analyses.

There are many topics in the Qur’an and in the sayings of the Prophet whose relevance to human experiences continues to come to light as time passes. The details of such issues have been entrusted to the passing of time. The divine commands and prophetic suggestions about politics, the state, and ruling the community have been interpreted in diverse ways, resulting in different manifestations and various forms throughout history. You can relate this aspect of religion, if you wish, according to the concept that time is a great interpreter, or as an indication of the universalism of Islam which is also known as the natural and tolerant religion (al-hanifiyyah-al-samha). Yes, among the addressees of the Qur’an there were various groups of people: from Bedouins to civilized people, undeveloped communities to very developed nations, and simple masses to wonderfully organized and enlightened societies. The Qur’an has addressed all these groups considering their own understandings, approaches, views, evaluations, and even lives.

In the case of human relationship to the divine Being, it has given brief explanations leaving the details for the coming generations. In the case of human to human interactions, it has detailed and explained the specifics of some well established principles.

In this regard, there has been a consensus of understanding on this first case with the exception of some heretical groups’ interpretations of the Islamic tradition. As for the second case, there have been many varying interpretations in accordance with the conditions, time, and the situations existing in the world. Naturally, these differences have been reflected in the judicial and administrative institutions.

It would not be a correct understanding of Islam to claim that politics is a vital principle of religion and among its well established pillars. While some Qur’anic verses are related to politics, the structure of the state, and the forms of ruling, people who have connected the import of the Qur’anic message with such issues may have caused a misunderstanding. This misunderstanding is the result of their Islamic zeal, their limitations of their consideration solely of historical experiences, and their thinking that the problems of Islamic communities can be solved more easily through politics and ruling. All of these approaches within their own contexts are meaningful. However, the truth does not lie in these approaches alone.

Although one cannot ignore the effects of ruling and administration in regulating communal relationships between individuals, families and societies, yet these, within the framework of Qur’anic values, are considered secondary issues. That is because the values that we call major principles (ummuhat), such as faith (iman), submission (islam), doing what is beautiful (ihsan), and the acceptance of divine morals by the community, are references that form the essence of administrative, economic, and political issues. The Qur’an is a translation of the book of the universe, which comes from the divine commands of creation, an interpretation of the world of the unseen, of the visible and invisible. It is an explanation of the reflections of the divine names on earth and in the heavens. It is a prescription for the various problems of the Islamic world. It is a unique guide for bliss in this life and in the life to come. It is a great guide for the travelers in this world moving towards the hereafter. It is an inexhaustible source of wisdom. Such a book should not be reduced to the level of political discourse, nor should it be considered a book about political theories or forms of state. To consider the Qu’ran as an instrument of political discourse is a great disrespect for the Holy Book and is an obstacle that prevents people from benefiting from this deep source of divine grace.

There is no doubt that the holy Qur’an, through its enrichment of the human soul, is able to inspire wise politicians and through them to prevent politics from being like gambling or a merely a game of chess.

Source:
This article is taken from “An interview with Fethullah Gülen for the Muslim World Journal” The Muslim World Journal, Volume 95 – Number 3- July 2005. page 453-456

Muslims’ unique responsibility to fight terror

By Fethullah Gulen June 11 at 5:36 AM CET on Politico Europe
Updated 6/12/17, 12:39 PM CET


SAYLORSBURG, Pennsylvania — The brutal, deadly attacks in London and Manchester on innocent civilians are the latest in a series of senseless violent acts carried out by the so-called Islamic State, a group that deserves no designation other than the world’s most inhuman criminal network.

In response to this threat, the world’s Muslims can and should help intelligence and security communities ward off future attacks and eliminate the lifelines of this menace.

From its founding amid the ashes of Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS has dealt in deception as well as death. Despite its name, ISIS represents a perversion of Islam. The group’s dress, flags and slogans cannot hide their abhorrent betrayal of the spirit of this major world faith.

Denying this barbaric group a geographical base that emboldens them to claim statehood — an essential element of their propaganda to potential recruits — is a worthwhile goal that all Muslims should support. But the challenge isn’t only military.

ISIS, and other groups like it, recruits alienated Muslim youth by offering them a false sense of purpose and belonging in the service of a totalitarian ideology.

Countering that appeal will include religious, political, psycho-social and economic efforts. It will require that local communities and government institutions address structural issues such as discrimination and exclusion.

"Self-examination is an Islamic ethic. There are actions we can take, as Muslim parents, teachers, community leaders and imams, to help our youth protect themselves."

International organizations must protect citizens against violent persecution of the kind we witnessed in Syria and assist with transitions to democratic governance. Western governments, too, have a responsibility to adopt a more ethical and consistent foreign policy.

Muslim citizens and organizations can and should be part of these broader efforts, but we also have a unique role and responsibility in this fight.

Across the world, Muslims need to strengthen the immune system of our communities, especially our youth, against violent extremism. We must ask: How did our communities become grounds for terrorist recruitment? Yes, external factors must be addressed, but we must also look within.

Self-examination is an Islamic ethic. There are actions we can take, as Muslim parents, teachers, community leaders and imams, to help our youth protect themselves. We must defeat these murderous extremists in the battlefield of ideas.

A common fallacy of violent extremist ideologues is to decontextualize the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet (peace be upon him) and misinterpret them to serve their pre-determined goals. These ideologues turn snapshots from his or his companions’ lives into instruments to justify a criminal act.

The antidote is a religious education program that teaches the tradition in a holistic and contextualized way. To be able to resist the deceits of radical ideologues, young Muslims must understand the spirit of their scripture and the overarching principles of their Prophet’s life. We need to teach our youth the full story of how the Prophet moved his society from savagery into ethical norms shared by Abrahamic faiths.

A holistic religious education should start with a commitment to the dignity of every person as a unique creation of God, regardless of faith. When God says “We have honored the children of Adam” (Quran, 17:70), all humanity is honored. The Quran 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.

Violent extremists also commit another major fallacy: transplanting into the 21st century religious verdicts from the Middle Ages, in which political rivalries were often confused with religious differences. Today, Muslims have the freedom to practice their religion in democratic, secular countries.

The values of participatory governments align with core Muslim ideals of social justice, the rule of law, collective decision-making and equality. Muslims can and do live as contributing citizens of democracies around the world.

Proactively, we must develop positive ways to satisfy the social needs of our youth. Youth groups should be encouraged to volunteer in humanitarian relief projects to help victims of disasters and violent conflicts. In teaching them to help others, we will give them the tools to empower themselves and feel that they are part of something meaningful. We also have a duty to help the youth engage in dialogue with members of other faiths to help nurture mutual understanding and respect. As Muslims, we are not just members of a faith community, but of the human family.

"Being part of the worldwide effort to help stop violent religious radicals from repeating the London and Manchester cruelties elsewhere is both a human and religious responsibility."

Since the 1970s, the participants in the social movement Hizmet — the Turkish word for service — have founded more than 1,000 modern secular schools, free tutoring centers, colleges, hospitals and humanitarian relief organizations in more than 150 countries. By facilitating the involvement of young students and professionals as service providers, mentors, tutors and helpers, these institutions and their social networks foster a sense of identity, belonging, meaning and empowerment that constitute an antidote to the false promises of violent extremists.

Indeed, the best way to proactively protect our youth is to provide them with a positive counter-narrative. By offering opportunities for language learning and cultural exchanges, these kinds of institutions nurture a pluralistic outlook, critical thinking and empathy.

As part of their daily rituals, practicing Muslims pray for God to keep them “on the straight path.” Today, the straight path means examining our understanding of the core values of our faith, how we embody those values in our daily lives and strengthening our youth’s resistance to influences that contradict those values.

Being part of the worldwide effort to help stop violent religious radicals from repeating the London and Manchester cruelties elsewhere is both a human and religious responsibility.

Fethullah Gülen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate.

Source: http://www.politico.eu/article/muslims-unique-responsibility-in-fighting-terror-london-attack-fethullah-gulen/

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fethullah Gulen: The Turkey I no longer know

By Fethullah Gulen May 15 at 7:41 PM on The Washington Post




Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate.

SAYLORSBURG, Pa.

As the presidents of the United States and Turkey meet at the White House on Tuesday, the leader of the country I have called home for almost two decades comes face to face with the leader of my homeland. The two countries have a lot at stake, including the fight against the Islamic State, the future of Syria and the refugee crisis.

But the Turkey that I once knew as a hope-inspiring country on its way to consolidating its democracy and a moderate form of secularism has become the dominion of a president who is doing everything he can to amass power and subjugate dissent.
The West must help Turkey return to a democratic path. Tuesday’s meeting, and the NATO summit next week, should be used as an opportunity to advance this effort.

Since July 15, following a deplorable coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has systematically persecuted innocent people — arresting, detaining, firing and otherwise ruining the lives of more than 300,000 Turkish citizens, be they Kurds, Alevis, secularists, leftists, journalists, academics or participants of Hizmet, the peaceful humanitarian movement with which I am associated.

As the coup attempt unfolded, I fiercely denounced it and denied any involvement. Furthermore, I said that anyone who participated in the putsch betrayed my ideals. Nevertheless, and without evidence, Erdogan immediately accused me of orchestrating it from 5,000 miles away.

The next day, the government produced lists of thousands of individuals whom they tied to Hizmet — for opening a bank account, teaching at a school or reporting for a newspaper — and treated such an affiliation as a crime and began destroying their lives. The lists included people who had been dead for months and people who had been serving at NATO’s European headquarters at the time. International watchdogs have reported numerous abductions, in addition to torture and deaths in detention. The government pursued innocent people outside Turkey, pressuring Malaysia, for instance, to deport three Hizmet sympathizers last week, including a school principal who has lived there for more than a decade, to face certain imprisonment and likely torture.

In April, the president won a narrow referendum victory — amid allegations of serious fraud — to form an “executive presidency” without checks and balances, enabling him to control all three branches of the government. To be sure, through purges and corruption, much of this power was already in his hands. I fear for the Turkish people as they enter this new stage of authoritarianism.

It didn’t start this way. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2002 by promising democratic reforms in pursuit of European Union membership. But as time went on, Erdogan became increasingly intolerant of dissent. He facilitated the transfer of many media outlets to his cronies through government regulatory agencies. In June of 2013, he crushed the Gezi Park protesters. In December of that year, when his cabinet members were implicated in a massive graft probe, he responded by subjugating the judiciary and the media. The “temporary” state of emergency declared after last July 15 is still in effect. According to Amnesty International, one-third of all imprisoned journalists in the world are in Turkish prisons.

Erdogan’s persecution of his people is not simply a domestic matter. The ongoing pursuit of civil society, journalists, academics and Kurds in Turkey is threatening the long-term stability of the country. 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.

The people of Turkey need the support of their European allies and the United States to restore their democracy. Turkey initiated true multiparty elections in 1950 to join NATO. As a requirement of its membership, NATO can and should demand that Turkey honor its commitment to the alliance’s democratic norms.

Two measures are critical to reversing the democratic regression in Turkey.

First, a new civilian constitution should be drafted through a democratic process involving the input of all segments of society and that is on par with international legal and humanitarian norms, and drawing lessons from the success of long-term democracies in the West.


Second, a school curriculum that emphasizes democratic and pluralistic values and encourages critical thinking must be developed. Every student must learn the importance of balancing state powers with individual rights, the separation of powers, judicial independence and press freedom, and the dangers of extreme nationalism, politicization of religion and veneration of the state or any leader.

Before either of those things can happen, however, the Turkish government must stop the repression of its people and redress the rights of individuals who have been wronged by Erdogan without due process.

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.

Source: https://t.co/3hQ8i79Wje

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fethullah Gulen's Interview with Politico: ‘I don’t have any regrets’

By on 9/9/16 POLITICO

Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric that the Turkish government blames for the recent attempted coup, has long been reclusive, rarely granting interviews. But in the wake of the accusations against him, he’s sought to clear his name.


Other op-eds and articles by Fethullah Gulen here

Gülen recently agreed to answer a handful of written questions from POLITICO. The exchange is here in full:

You insist your movement is peaceful, not political. But multiple sources tell me that Hizmet has a dark side — where individuals are carefully groomed to enter government and related professions with the intent of an ultimate takeover. Is this true? If not, is it possible that these sorts of activities are happening without your knowledge?
I have served as a preacher for nearly 30 years before coming to the U.S. and my friends continued to publish my talks after I settled here. There are over 70 books based on my articles and talks. It is natural that in Turkish government there are people who share some of my views just as there are those who don’t share them.
My teaching has always been to act within [the] law and in an ethical way. If anybody who follows my works acts illegally or unethically, or if they disobey the lawful orders of their superiors, that is a betrayal of my teachings and I fully support their being investigated and facing the consequences.
If there is no discrimination, government institutions reflect the colors and patterns of its society. We know that in Turkish government institutions there are people of various political and religious orientations, such as nationalists, neonationalists, Maoists, Kemalists, Alevis, leftists, sympathizers of Sufi orders and others. For decades, none of these groups could be transparent about their identities except the Kemalists because of political profiling and discrimination. And now, loyalty to Erdoğan is replacing loyalty to Ataturk as the criteria for acceptable identity.
It is the constitutional right of every Turkish citizen to serve in their government institutions if they are qualified to do so. To accuse anybody of having a nefarious goal without evidence is slander. If people are afraid to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals, it is the regime’s problem, not theirs.
As far as my discourse is concerned, I have never advocated for regime change in Turkey. To the contrary, 22 years ago, in 1994, I told publicly that there will be no return from democracy in Turkey or elsewhere in the world. This was both a prediction and a commitment to democracy. Publications who are allied with President Erdoğan now, criticized me severely then, nearly calling me an infidel. When the military was dominating the domestic politics during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was charged in Turkish courts … but not a single piece of evidence could be brought to show that I supported any other regime but democracy.

What do you think the future holds for your movement in the wake of the attempted coup in Turkey and Turkish leaders’ demonization of your organization?
President Erdoğan appears determined to wipe all the institutions set up by Hizmet participants and prevent any future attempts to establish any new institutions. This is contrary to [the] Turkish constitution and all the international agreements Turkey is a party to. But unless world leaders take a stance with effective measures against this witch hunt, there is no internal dynamic in Turkey to stop the president.
Our friends have so far defended their rights through peaceful protests and in Turkish courts. Now even law offices are being raided and lawyers are being detained. People’s right to defend themselves in the court of law is taken away from them. [The] Erdoğan government is doing everything to push these people to violence. But so far they resisted and remained peaceful and I am confident that they will remain so. Some Hizmet participants have left the country to seek opportunities for investment or for professional work abroad.
This is a sad loss for Turkey but it is the only choice for some people. Private properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been confiscated. I hope and pray that this madness will not last for long.

If the U.S. government decides to extradite you to Turkey, will you agree to the decision?
The U.S. government has a long history of upholding the rule of law and respecting freedoms. Because of this, they have a respectable reputation around the world. I don’t consider it likely that they will abandon this tradition and undermine their reputation simply because President Erdoğan is so adamant about this issue. In the unlikely event that the extradition matter is decided on political grounds, I have already stated that they don’t need to force me out of the country, I will buy my own ticket and go on my own will without blinking an eye.

I am not worried about myself but I am worried about President Erdoğan’s insistence jeopardizing Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO. Both the U.S. and NATO played crucial roles in transforming Turkey from a single party regime to an imperfect democracy. If Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO are harmed, I don’t think it will benefit Turkish democracy in any way.

Is it true that you and President Erdoğan were once friends and allies? If so, what caused the tensions between you that have led to this situation today?
Many observers called our relationship an alliance but in truth, we were never very close. I met him two or three times, all before he ran for elections. When his party ran for elections I was already here, so I could not vote anyway, but Hizmet sympathizers supported his party through their votes and their voices in the media.
The reason for this support is not complicated. In going into elections in 2002 they [Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party] promised moving Turkey forward in its bid for EU membership by implementing democratic reforms; enhancing human rights and freedoms; better integrating Turkey with the world; ending public corruption, and government’s political profiling of people and their discriminatory measures. I and my friends supported them for these promises.
Leading into elections in 2011, they promised a democratic constitution that would be drafted by civilians without fear of military generals. But after winning that election they began to reverse every democratic reform they implemented before. The democratic constitution was first conditioned upon the inclusion of executive presidency and then completely forgotten.
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 Mr Erdoğan’s proposal was akin to a sultan regime. I could not support such a system with a clear conscience.
Mr Erdoğan put pressure on me and Hizmet sympathizers to publicly support his idea of a presidential system. He increased the pressure by supporting government-funded alternatives to Hizmet institutions and then began threatening to close them down. If we complied with his demand and became loyalists, we would be enjoying the Turkish government’s favors now. But we declined and we have been facing their wrath for the last three years.
This might be called the price of independence. It is a heavy price indeed but I don’t have any regrets and I don’t believe any of my friends have any regrets. My only sorrow is that the country continues to suffer because nobody can stand against his uninhibited ambitions.

If you had the opportunity to speak to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama now, what would you say to them?
I don’t think President Erdoğan would consider it worthwhile to speak with me. In the past, I made efforts to reach out to them via letters on the government’s profiling and discrimination, or on the issue of how to address the plight of Kurdish citizens. But none of those attempts were taken seriously. Now, I just pray that God gives him prudence so that he doesn’t jeopardize the future of this great nation.
I witnessed President Obama’s efforts to maintain the relationship with Turkey despite the challenges of dealing with an authoritarian leader. The U.S -Turkish relationship is very important for both countries but more vital for Turkey. I would be sad to see this relationship deteriorate. At the same time, President Erdoğan’s domestic actions are undermining core democratic values of U.S. and NATO.
I am worried that while trying to maintain the relationship, the ground on which this relationship is built upon is shifting. According to the media reports that I see, violent radical groups like ISIS are getting tacit support within Turkey, the handling of security concerns regarding the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is causing civilian casualties and suffering among Kurdish citizens and President Erdoğan’s ambitions to become a national hero is threatening to further destabilize the region. There is growing anti-Americanism and the media under President Erdoğan’s control is playing a leading role in this.
How to keep the relationship alive while preventing Turkey from turning into another Middle Eastern authoritarian regime is a very sensitive task and I hope that the president’s capable team of experts will lead him in the right direction in managing this challenge.


Source: http://www.politico.eu/article/fethullah-gulen-full-interview-politico-turkey-coup-erdogan/

Saturday, May 7, 2016

IFLC: Promoting Intercultural Dialogue





  • Turkish promote cultural exchanges
Luis Gonzalez
Nihao Mundo
Dominican Republic
In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, there are institutions linked to "Hizmet" or "volunteer movement" better known as "Gulen Movement", by the name of the person who inspired it, Fethullah Gulen, Turkey. It is an educational, intercultural and interfaith movement, transnational, with a presence in almost every country in the world.
These institutions in the Dominican Republic, are the "Horizon Foundation" and "Galaxy International School," which unofficially represent Turkey. Mr. Tayfun Tuna that is at the forefront of these institutions, invited us to participate in one of the most significant activities in which institutions related to Gulen Movement are involved. I mean the "International Festival of Language & Culture" which began performing in 2003 with the purpose of bringing children around the world through poetry, folklore, song and dance, organizing a festival on behalf solidarity and cooperation.
In the beginning, the festival took place in Turkish local audiences, nationally, but quickly the great reception among the population and the resounding success in the country, resulted in global expansion.
The International Language and Culture Festival is a pioneer in the exaltation of cultural and linguistic exchange as an engine for creating cross-border ties of friendship.
Tolerance, respect, understanding and friendship are the values ​​pursued through this Festival, and its promotion and acquisition from an early age, using music, dance and poetry as channels to convey this message. This year, just produced the 14th edition of the festival entitled "Beautiful Colors of the World", in Washington DC USA, on Thursday, April 28, at 630pm in the majestic Hall of the Constitution. In that we had the honor to participate and intoxicates observing both the rich cultural diversity of our world, as the extraordinary talent of young students from 26 countries who displayed their culture through poetry traditions, singing and dancing in a expression of friendship and hope for the future.
On Friday April 29, we participate in a version of the Festival, a little more solemn and formal, in the lounge (ECOSOC) Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (UN) in New York, where the message was reiterated by the same young players.
In addition to the same "Gulen Movement", we could identify as organizers of these events to institutions such as the "Peace Islands Institute", which has offices in the famous Fifth Avenue in New York.
An institution, also linked to the "Gulen Movement" which was our hostess, coordinator of the agenda exhausted in Washington, New York and New Jersey, was the "Nilufer Jamaica Foundation", based in Kingston, whose Director, Eyup Ensar Ozturk, as all who have Dr. Fethullah Gulen, as a guide, is characterized by service to others.
We hope this message will continue to multiply on the planet and that we achieve world peace in diversity.Education and opportunity for cultural exchanges with young people is an excellent way, because I congratulate the organizers and promoters.