Fethullah Gulen inspired dialogue

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

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.







Friday, February 26, 2016

Fethullah Gulen: The real conquest is not the winning of territory but the atmosphere of peace

Fethullah Gulen, the prominent Muslim cleric, has urged people of all faiths to come together to address global conflict at the first-ever US Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference in San Diego, CA, which seeks to promote interfaith dialogue and mutual respect worldwide.  







Gulen was not able to attend the US Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference due to his poor health. His speech was read by Zeki Saritoprak, professor of Islamic studies at John Carroll University.

Below is full text of Fethullah Gulen’s message:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dear Dr. Anthony Cirelli,

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi,

Dr. Sayyid Syeed,

Dr. Khurshid Khan,

Dr. Moustafa al-Qazwini,

Most Rev. Robert McElroy,

Most Rev. Donald Hanchon,

Most Rev. Barry Knestout,

I thank you for your kind invitation to make the opening remarks for the American Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference held at the national level for the first time this year.

That exceptional leaders from the American Muslim and Catholic communities have formed such a dialogue venue is very meaningful for the advancement of peace and tranquility in our age. I congratulate every one who has contributed to this initiative.

My health condition unfortunately doesn’t allow me to be with you in person.

However, I would like for you all to know that this invitation is very meaningful and valuable to me.

Although it may seem that the series of unfortunate events humanity has endured in recent years validate those who predicted dark scenarios in the so-called clash of civilizations framework, I have personally always been hopeful for the future of humanity.

In the shared perspective expressed in the Holy Quran and the sources of divine religions grounded in revelation, humans by nature seek the good and the beautiful.

I thoroughly believe that humankind will be attracted to the atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, and will embrace each other. Hope is an expression of trust in God’s grace. Desperation, on the other hand, is the primary obstacle before any progress and leaves individuals crippled, unable to tap into their potential.

The Earth has never been free of those who propagate fear, hate, and enmity for various motives. Today, unfortunately, we observe examples of these individuals and groups in both the East and the West. However, undeniably, humans are tired of wars, violent conflicts, bloodshed, atrocities, and they are thirsty for universal dialogue and peace. Our globalizing world presents a historically unprecedented ground for developing affinity, integration, and mutual acceptance.

Although hostilities and conflicts in history have essentially been driven by a clash of worldly interests, sometimes nationality, class, and religion have been used as means in order to rally the masses to a certain side. In reality however, the fundamental vision of all religions that have been embraced by a significant segment of humanity, in particular, religions based on revelation, are societies whose individuals attain internal tranquility, and a world of universal peace that such societies constitute.

In the Holy Quran, eeman (faith) and amal-i-saalih (righteous deeds) are always mentioned in tandem. Amal-i Salih is the name of deeds accepted by Allah. Sulh (peace) and salih (righteous) are two words from the same root; Salih means that which leads to Sulh (or peace), and is guided by the pursuit of peace. Therefore, Islam, a religion of unity, demands his adherents to be on the path to universal peace and tranquility.

It is clear that in an atmosphere of conflict, peace cannot be served by simply opposing and reacting to the agendas of others. In this regard, at a time where core values of human civilization are cherished at least as a vision, humans, who are civilized by nature of their creation, can solve their issues only through communication facilitated by dialogue venues.

The vast majority of the world’s population adheres to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In the 21st century, therefore, it is an inevitable conclusion that the universal peace will depend on the dialogue among the adherents of these religions and traditions. I have stated that initiatives for dialogue are long overdue on the occasion of our meeting with his Excellency the late Pope John Paul II in 1998.

14 centuries ago, the Holy Quran called for dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians, the latter two it referred to as Ahl-Al Kitaab, or people of the book. However, in the intervening centuries periods of conflict outnumbered periods of peace due to the conditions of those times. Now, however, the following centuries should be defined by mutual respect, love, and coalescence.

By the use of the term “people of the book” the Quran is addressing not only Jews and Christians but also all individuals in contemporary society pursuing knowledge and enlightenment through reading and writing. As Bediuzzaman Said Nursi pointed out, it can be said that the people of learning and enlightenment are also invited to dialogue.

Again, the Holy Quran refers to the Hudaybiya peace treaty signed by the Muslims of Medina with the polytheist Meccans as a “conquest” as opposed to the surrender of Mecca two years later. The real conquest is not the winning of territory but the atmosphere of peace when weapons are set aside and people enter a period of peaceful co-existence and dialogue. With the Hudaybiya peace treaty, the doors to fighting were closed, and the doors to hearts were opened, and the grounds were laid for the breaking of false prejudices.

When the ideas that the Prophet Muhammad, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, expressed in the treaty of Medina and in his farewell sermon are evaluated within their historic socio-political context, the type of civilization Islam enjoins for its adherents becomes clearer. We regard the idea of upholding the dignity of every human being, and accepting them in their respective positions as the pillars of this civilization.

The initiatives for dialogue among adherents of all world religious, especially between Muslims and Christians, taken with this consciousness are steps towards a common human civilization where peace and tranquility will reign.

If humanity’s adventure so far is any measure, it would be unrealistic to expect all conflicts on the Earth to cease anytime soon. However, it is also not wishful thinking to expect that relations among various communities around the world will become more humane, driven by access to information, the reliance on reason and the increased first-hand knowledge of each other facilitated by dialogue in our increasingly shrinking world. At the least, it is possible to localize problems and to impede their spread. The issue facing us is what we will do intentionally out of a feeling of responsibility in this context.

The ground of dialogue that you established in order for adherents of different religions to better understand each other is the reflection of the attitude of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. However, this activity that you have persistently continued for 20 years is symbolically much beyond a candle and instead is praiseworthy as a lighthouse and beacon of hope.

Destruction is easy whereas construction and repair are difficult. At times, in the face of burning fires of war, atrocities, stirring of hostilities, and conflicts around the world, those working to serve peace through means such as dialogue may feel defeated and fall into pessimism. Amidst the waves of grave hostilities and conflicts humans face or partake in, one might question what our efforts may signify.

However, it should not be forgotten that there is a special value in setting a good example. Humans, who are naturally disposed to beauty, will sooner or later will take interest in these good examples, and eventually embrace them. One day they will say, “up until now we tried fighting and war, now let us give a chance to dialogue and mutual acceptance.”

There are many precedents in the history of humanity where small groups influence much larger groups with the help of the centrifugal force that they generate. In this regard, the steps taken in particular by widely respected leaders of religious thought, like your selves, are crucial.

Ever since humans have existed, the struggle between compassion, love and hope on the one hand, and fear, hate, and despair on the other has continued. Just as the essence of the messages of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, upon whom all be God’s peace and blessings, are compassion, love, and hope, their life stories are also embodiments of those essences. Our world today is in equal, and maybe even greater, need for this message.

I congratulate again those who organized and participated in this conference as a collaboration of Muslims and Christians who are representatives of this message today and share their belief in the importance of dialogue.

I pray God the All-Compassionate to deliver humanity to those days where peace and tranquility reign in all continents of the Earth and human beings warmly embrace each other. And I ask God to accept this conference as an active prayer toward the same end.

Sincerely,

Fethullah Gulen

Monday, January 4, 2016

MEDIA: French editor says Gülen’s messages on anti-terrorism revolutionary

A French editor-in-chief has praised the anti-terrorism messages in an article written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and published by a prestigious French daily last month, describing them as revolutionary and one of the "signs of hope" in 2015, which he said was marked by terror and fear.


Fethullah Gulen's op-ed in Le Monde

Jean-Pierre Denis, editor-in-chief of French weekly magazine La Vie, dedicated his editorial in the latest issue of the magazine to examining Gülen's messages in an article he wrote for the French daily Le Monde on Dec. 17.

In the article, which was titled "Muslims, we have to critically review our understanding of Islam," Gülen expresses his deep sadness and revulsion in the face of the attacks perpetrated by terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

"We Muslims have a special responsibility to not only join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, but also to help repair the tarnished image of our faith. … We must categorically condemn the ideology propagated by terrorists and instead promote a pluralistic mindset with clarity and confidence," he wrote.

Paris was the scene of multiple attacks by ISIL in November, which claimed the lives of more than 120 people and which sent waves of horror across Europe.

In his article Denis said the piece written by Gülen in Le Monde is revolutionary. He said while many intellectuals call for a more determined fight against supporters of extremism, their efforts remain mostly isolated or made by people who don't find support in their societies.

Yet, he said the case of Gülen is different.

"This Turkish citizen who lives in exile in the US was a person who used to give inspiration to [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan before he became his biggest opponent. Even this shows his political and religious weight," he said.

Erdoğan launched a war against Gülen and the faith-based Gülen movement he inspired after senior members of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan's government were implicated in a graft probe that went public in December 2013. Erdoğan accused the movement of masterminding the probe to overthrow his government despite any evidence to this effect.

Denis also said Gülen puts greater responsibility on the shoulders of Muslims to eliminate terrorism and he rejects the approach that blames the Christian West for all the unfavorable developments in the world.

Noting that Gülen is fighting against a culture of hatred courageously and openly, Denis said: "I voluntarily stand behind this voice by making long quotations for the last editorial of this year. 2015 has not only been a year of those who spread unhappiness and desperation but it has also been a year of people like this [Gülen] who spread hope."

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 3 January 2016, Sunday

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fethullah Gulen's Op-ed in Le Monde: Muslims, we have to critically review our understanding of Islam






 Words fall short to truly express my deep sadness and revolt in the face of the carnage perpetrated by terrorist groups such as the so-called ISIS. I share a profound frustration with a billion and a half Muslims around the world at the fact that such groups commit terror while dressing up their perverted ideologies as religion. We Muslims have a special responsibility to not only join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, but also to help repair the tarnished image of our faith.

It is easy to proclaim a certain identity in the abstract with words and symbols. The sincerity of such claims, however, can only be measured by comparing our actions with core values of our self-proclaimed identities. The true test for belief is not slogans or dressing up in a certain way; the true test of our beliefs is in living up to core principles shared by all major world faiths such as upholding the sanctity of life and respecting the dignity of all humans.

We must categorically condemn the ideology that terrorists propagate and instead promote a pluralistic mindset with clarity and confidence. After all, before our ethnic, national or religious identity comes our common humanity, which suffers a setback each time a barbaric act is committed. French citizens who lost their lives in Paris, Shiite Muslim Lebanese citizens who lost their lives in Beirut a day earlier and scores of Sunni Muslims in Iraq who lost their lives in the hands of the same terrorists are first and foremost human beings. Our civilization will not progress until we treat the suffering of humans regardless of their religious or ethnic identity as equally tragic in our empathy and respond with the same determination.

Muslims must also reject and avoid conspiracy theories, which have so far only helped us avoid facing our social problems. Instead, we must tackle the real questions: do our communities provide recruitment ground for groups with totalitarian mindsets due to unrecognized authoritarianism within ourselves, domestic physical abuse, neglect of youth, lack of balanced education? Did our failure to establish basic human rights and freedoms, supremacy of the rule of law, and pluralist mindsets in our communities lead those who are struggling to seek alternative paths?

The recent tragedy in Paris is yet another reminder for both theologians and ordinary Muslims to strongly reject and condemn barbaric acts perpetrated in the name of our religion. However, at this juncture, rejection and condemnation are not enough; terrorist recruitment within Muslim communities must be fought and countered by an effective collaboration of state authorities, religious leaders and civil society actors. We must organize community-wide efforts to address all factors that aid terrorist recruitment.

Ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means


We need to work with our community to set up the necessary framework for identifying at-risk youth, preventing them from seeking self-destructive paths, assisting families with counseling and other support services. We must promote a proactive, positive government engagement so that engaged Muslim citizens can sit at the table where counterterrorism measures are planned and share their ideas. Our youth should be taught ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means. Incorporation of democratic values into school curricula early on is crucial for inculcating a culture of democracy in young minds.

In the aftermath of such tragedies, historically strong reactions have surfaced. Anti-Muslim and anti-religious sentiment as well as governments’ security-driven treatment of their Muslim citizens would be counter-productive. The Muslim citizens of Europe want to live in peace and tranquility. Despite the negative climate, they should strive to engage more with their local and national governments to help work toward more inclusive policies that better integrate their community into the larger society.

It is also important for us Muslims to critically review our understanding and practice of Islam, in the light of the conditions and requirements of our age and the clarifications provided by our collective historic experiences. This does not mean a rupture from the cumulative Islamic tradition but rather, an intelligent questioning so we can confirm the true teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition that our Muslim predecessors attempted to reveal.

We must proactively marginalize de-contextualized reading of our religious sources that have been employed in the service of perverted ideologies. Muslim thinkers and intellectuals should encourage a holistic approach and reconsider jurisprudential verdicts of the Middle Ages that were issued under perpetual conflict where religious affiliation often coincided with political affiliation. Having core beliefs should be distinguished from dogmatism. It is possible, indeed absolutely necessary, to revive the spirit of freedom of thought that gave birth to a renaissance of Islam while staying true to the ethos of the religion. Only in such an atmosphere can Muslims effectively combat incivility and violent extremism.

In the aftermath of the recent events I witness, with chagrin, the revival of the thesis of the clash of civilizations. I do not know whether those who first put out such a hypothesis did so out of vision or desire. What is certain is that today, the revival of this rhetoric simply serves the recruitment efforts of the terrorist networks. I want to state clearly that what we are witnessing is not a clash of civilizations but rather the clash of our common civilization as humanity with barbarity.

Our responsibility as Muslim citizens is to be part of the solution despite our grievances. If we want to defend the life and civil liberties of Muslims around the world, and the peace and tranquility of every human regardless of their faith, we must act now to tackle the violent extremism problem in all its dimensions: political, economic, social and religious. By setting virtuous examples through our lives, by discrediting and marginalizing the extremist interpretations of religious sources, by staying vigilant toward their impact on our youth, and by incorporating democratic values early in education, we can counter violence and terrorism as well as totalitarian ideologies that lead to them.


This article appeared in Le Monde on December 17, 2015.

Original article can be accessed here: http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2015/12/17/musulmans-procedons-a-un-examen-critique-de-notre-comprehension-de-la-foi_4834205_3232.html

 

Friday, September 18, 2015

MEDIA: Muftah.org - Turkey’s Witch-Hunt Against the Gulen Movement Should Stop

A new piece on Muftah.org outlines the oppression upon the Hizmet (Gulen) Movement in Turkey by Erdogan and the current Government.

Other op-eds and articles on Hizmet and Fethullah Gulen here

We’re told they are “vampires” and “traitors”, “pawns of foreign powers” and “cancerous cells” and a “blood-sucking virus” to be “annihilated,” “cleansed,” “vaporized,” and “separated into its molecules.”


 

Hizmet’s approach to “de-radicalization by default”  is a valuable asset in fighting and defeating violent extremist ideologies, reflected in the practices of ISIS and Al-Qaeda..




Is this the violent invective spewed at dissidents from the pages of Pravda at the height of the 1930s Soviet purges or from some official mouthpiece of the North Korean regime promising to crush the enemies of the people? No. These are phrases taken in 2014 and 2015 straight from the front pages of Turkish newspapers, like SabahAksamTakvim, and Star, that are known to be unconditional supporters of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The “virus to be annihilated” is Hizmet, an Islamically-inspired, Turkish transnational civic movement.Hizmet, also known as the Gülen movement (after its founder Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim cleric), was until recently an ally of Erdogan in his fight against the Kemalist establishment that had ruled Turkey since 1923.

The relationship between AKP and Hizmet fell apart in late 2013 after allegations of corruption were made against the Erdogan government by an allegedly “parallel structure” within the state and supposed shadow fifth column controlled by the Gülen Movement. The prosecutors and police officers in charge of these corruption investigations were subsequently removed from their posts and all charges against the suspects, includingsome members of Erdogan’s inner circle, were dismissed. This was only the beginning of the government’s wholesale campaign to discredit and purge Hizmet.
Hizmet itself is a network of businesses, media entities, charities, and educational establishments based on the religious teachings of Fethullah Gülen and emphasizing the compatibility between Islam, science, reason and progress. Erdogan’s government hasalready targeted some of the most visible of Hizmet’s institutions.
In December 2014, Hidayet Karaca, general manager of Samanyolu Broadcasting, aHizmet-affiliated media group, was arrested. As of this writing, he remains in pre-trial detention. The government has also disrupted the work of Kimse Yok Mu? (Is Anyone There?), Turkey’s largest relief organization, known for undertaking extensive humanitarian work in Africa, seized the management control of the Bank Asiya, andraided businesses belonging to the Koza İpek Holding company, all of which are closely affiliated with the Gülen movement.
gulen2
Parents of students in Gülen-inspired Samanyolu schools in Ankara protest recent government raids. (Photo Credit: Ali Ünal / Today’s Zaman)

Western Silence

Recently, Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK)
 ruled that the Samanyolu Haber TV station, which is also associated with the movement, violated a broadcast principle during one of its news program, paving the way for the channel’s closure.
Just last month, agents of Turkey’s Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Bureau (KOM) raided at least eight Gülen-linked private schools. Perhaps most ludicrous of all, pro-government media have claimed (without a shred of evidence) that investigations have exposed the movement’s “armed leg,” which is known as Otuken, and that movement members committed massacres of Christian missionaries in 2006 and 2007.
These are but a few examples of the state’s relentless campaign of defamation and discrimination targeting Hizmet.
Yet Turkey’s Western friends, the United States and European Union, have never explicitly condemned the vitriolic anti-Gülen campaign. By contrast, the international community, particularly the EU, has been very detailed and direct in its (well-deserved) criticism of Turkey on a number of issues relating to human rights and basic freedoms, especially with respect to the Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslim minorities, the LGBT community, and women. In their 2014 progress reports on Turkish accession to the EU, both the European Commission and the European Parliament criticized the politicized nature of the Turkish judiciary and dwindling freedom of the press. The European Parliament even adopted a resolution calling out the lack of freedom of expression in Turkey, following the arrest of journalists who had exposed the corruption allegations against the Erdogan government.
So far, the EU has, however, been reluctant to denounce the persecution of Hizmet in its own right, rather than as an extension of broader problems with the Turkish justice system and protection of basic rights in Turkey.
Such reluctance may be partly explained by perceptions that the AKP-Gülen conflict is a power struggle between “dueling” Islamist movements in which the EU has no business intervening. This perception is reinforced by Hizmet’s controversial role in spearheading the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer investigations in 2007 and 2010, respectively, which focused on alleged plans for a military coup against the AKP government. Most of the accused were members of the Turkish military, but some were civilian Kemalists. During trials related to these investigations, allegedly fabricated evidence was used against the defendants.
Last December, one member of the European Parliament, in condemning both Erdogan’s slide toward authoritarianism and the Hizmet witch-hunt, declared that the “members of the Fethullah Gülen movement and the AKP have created monsters together in a coalition that long turned against everything in their combined path.” Illustrating the view that the two groups are often seen as equally-matched competitors in an ongoing Turkish power struggle, she added, “Now they turn against each other, leading to even more violations of the rule of law.”
There is some merit to these claims. Indeed, through its media outlets, Hizmet was quite cavalier toward the fundamental presumption of innocence, and summarily condemned the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer suspects even before their cases went to trial. The movement’s failure to condemn the arrest of journalists, such as Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, on bogus charges also remains an utter disgrace.
Still, injustice committed by the Gülen movement does not justify government repression toward the group. There are signs some soul-searching may be happening about past mistakes within the movement’s ranks. More importantly, what is happening between the government and the movement looks more like a regime crackdown on an independent civic group, than a struggle between two centers of power in Turkey. This is especially true when viewed within the context of Erdogan’s ever intensifying authoritarianism.
Another explanation for the international community’s silence may be Western discomfort with Islamically-based or -inspired movements in general. But while Hizmet is certainly an Islamic movement, it is not an explicitly Islamist one. In fact, even when AKP and Gulen were allies, the difference in it outlook occasionally broke through, most prominently in 2011, when Hizmet condemned the AKP-supported Gaza flotilla that tragically ended in the murder of activists on the Mavi Marmara cargo ship by Israeli security forces. At the time, some dismissed Hizmet’s deferential stance toward Israel as a tactical ploy to please the United States (where Gülen himself lives). In reality, however, the episode illustrates the long-standing and deep philosophical differences between the movement and the AKP.
Hizmet’s growing anti-Islamist bent has also led it to take a hostile view toward Iran. This hostility has, at times, expressed itself in aggressively anti-Shia sectarian language, which is strongly at odds with the movement’s professed interest in interfaith dialogue and tolerance.
The differences between Hizmet and the AKP did not, however, prevent the movement from working with the AKP when their interests in confronting the Kemalist state overlapped. It also did not stop the movement from moving closer to the opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP), after its fall out with the AKP. While the CHP’s Kemalist ideology could not, in principle, be further from Hizmet’s core Islamic values and beliefs, the alliance reflects the Gülen movement’s overall strategy – namely, to work with any political force willing to advance its interests and exploit opportunities to wield political power behind the scenes.
In emphasizing its rejection of political Islam, the movement may indeed risk criticism for opening itself up to exploitation and appropriation by Western neoconservatives who are opposed to Erdogan and the AKP. Yet the conflict between the movement and Erdogan has less do to with Islamism than with Erdogan’s expanding authoritarianism. In fact, after cleansing Gülenists (followers of the Gülen movement) from the state apparatus, the AKP brought in many members of the old, Kemalist regime. In fact, many of Erdogan’s closest lieutenants are not Islamists at all. One of them, Egemen Bagis, a former EU affairs minister and a suspect in the anti-corruption probe, was even caught mocking the Qur’an.
A Strategic Call to Conscience?
Whatever Hizmet’s faults, there are at least four good reasons why the West should reconsider its position of non-interference and urge Erdogan to stop persecuting the group.
First, as Erdogan pursues his obsessive anti-Gülen “jihad,” real terrorists are reaping the benefits. While intelligence and security officers are tasked with dealing with Hizmet as the “most serious threat” to the country’s national security, both ISIS and Al-Qaeda have mostly been operating freely in Turkey.
Second, government targeting of Hizmet-affiliated and other critical media seems to be part of Erdogan’s strategy to ensure his ultimate goal: introducing a fully presidential system to Turkey, with Erdogan as the executive in chief. Erodgan hopes that early parliamentary elections set for this autumn will deliver the AKP with the necessary majority to pass the relevant constitutional amendment and accomplish the switch. Opposition media and a more critical electorate may be an obstacle to these plans. But, the chances of success are high. If Erdogan’s presidential ambitions are realized, this would inflict a fatal blow to Turkey’s symbolic position as a democratic and pluralistic model for the Muslim world.
Third, Hizmet’s approach to “de-radicalization by default”  is a valuable asset in fighting and defeating violent extremist ideologies, reflected in the practices of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. This approach emphasizes theological refutations of violent extremism and provides a counter-narrative rooted in Islamic teachings. For his part, Erdogan is doing the fight against extremism no favors by simultaneously cracking down on Hizmet, warming up to Saudi Arabia, and supporting Salafist militant groups in Syria, in what one prominent journalist Cengiz Aktar calls the “Salafization of Turkey.”  Ironically, to effectively tackle the extremist threat, Turkey may be compelled to take a cue from Pakistan, which, after supporting and breeding the Taliban in Afghanistan (much like Turkey now does with Salafist groups in Syria), has turned to Hizmet to counter the noxious effects of its own policies.
Fourth, Hizmet’s global reach endows its approach toward rooting out violent extremism with an international dimension. It is a useful antidote to the Saudi-funded expansion of an intolerant Salafist-Wahhabi ideology, which has and continues to cause great damage to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But, in order to be an effective player in this endeavor, the movement must convince skeptics that it does not seek to achieve political and religious hegemony and genuinely values pluralism.
For these reasons, and before it destroys the fabric of Turkish society, the witch-hunt against the Gülen movement in Turkey should stop, and attention should be focused, instead, on the country’s real problems, from the resumption of the Kurdish peace process to the fight against the violent extremism of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

The views set out in this article are solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union or the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.