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

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

BOOK: Strategic Defamation of Fethullah Gülen: English vs. Turkish by Dogan Koc



Fethullah Gülen is a moderate Turkish Muslim scholar who is known mostly for his education and dialogue activities. The Hizmet Movement, inspired by Gülen, has established hundreds of education and dialogue institutions throughout the world. Several books and hundreds of articles and news reports have been written about Gülen himself and the movement. In recent years, a defamation campaign has been launched against Gülen and the Hizmet Movement. Although these defamation articles may seem random, this book will show that the articles are written strategically in a campaign manner. In Strategic Defamation of Fethullah Gülen, close to 500 defamation articles, books, and other forms of writings are analyzed according to their languages. Koç concludes that these defamations are not random and that they appear according to their respective audiences.

SOURCE: http://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Defamation-Fethullah-G%C3%BClen-English/dp/0761859306

Monday, December 10, 2012

Evangelical Christian Pastor on Gulen: "gained a profound respect for his ability to balance strong conviction with a desire to promote peace among all people"

Speech to the Maryland Turkish American Inhabitants + Rumi Forum
“Peace through Education and Dialogue”
Thursday, November 29, 2012, Pikesville Hilton Hotel, Baltimore
Joel O. Rainey, Ph.D.




It is truly a pleasure to be standing in front of you tonight, and to share some recent experiences that our group of pastors had in the Republic of Turkey with our new friends.  And tonight, I think it is very important that I be clear how much I mean that.

An interfaith dinner is a strange place to find an Evangelical Christian.  For anyone in the room who follows professional football, it’s a little like finding a Steelers fan at M&T Bank Stadium wearing purple, but I am brave enough to stand in this room and admit that I am, and, I have. So I am very accustomed to being in places you wouldn’t expect me to be.

But I do stand here as an evangelical Christian, who leads a network of more than 60 evangelical churches, and typically, we just aren’t the sort to be found at events like this.  And I think my presence speaks well of our Turkish friends, and their high capacity for developing unlikely relationships. They have modeled for me what it means for two people of very different faiths to walk together, and I am very grateful to them for their example, and for their friendship.

It was through our new friends that I first heard the name
Fethullah Gulen.  The trip I and our pastors took two months ago was largely for the purpose of seeing with our own eyes how Mr. Gulen’s influence is shaping not only Turkey, but the wider Muslim world for the better, and so my curiosity was raised even more about this man.  Who is he?  And why would he want those who follow his example to reach out to people like me?   

I spent a good deal of time reading
Gulen’s writings, and I was particularly interested in his theology.  After all, I am a pastor and those tend to be the circles in which I walk.  And what I discovered is that from the perspective of belief, Fethullah Gulen is very much an “old school” Sunni Muslim preacher.  Many of his writings aggressively defend the Koran as the written Word of God.  I discovered a man who is serious about his own faith, and who believes deeply and profoundly in the following words from the Koran; “Say he is Allah, the one and only.  Allah, the eternal, absolute.  He begets not, nor is He begotten.” [Surah 112]  And initially, I found it strange that a man who believes such things would want to reach out to me.  I serve a network of churches that believes God not only had a Son, but that the ultimate way in which He has demonstrated His love for the world—including everyone in this room--is by giving that Son to die and bear the wrath of God as our substitute so that we can be redeemed.  But as I continued to research Mr. Gulen, I discovered a man who is anxious to reach out to people of other faiths, regardless of significant differences, and I have gained a profound respect for his ability to balance strong conviction with a desire to promote peace among all people.

I love this quote from his book Toward a Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance, “With the blessings and beneficence of God, we are going to do our best to help this breeze of tolerance and dialogue to continue blowing.” Among those who have answered Gulen’s call to this vision are those who host us tonight, and they are people who I am honored to call friends.  

These friends recently hosted a group of our pastors for a nine day visit to Turkey, and because of their hospitality, we were able to witness first-hand the good that is being done by our friends in this part of the world.  We saw things transpiring in that part of the world that I honestly have never read about in the Baltimore Sun, or seen on CNN.  I understand that it takes bad news to sell papers and increase Nielsen ratings, but the good things we witnessed there stand in great contrast to how most Americans perceive the so-called “Muslim world.”  

Among the great things we saw were Gulen-inspired institutions of higher learning.  In Konya, home of the 13th century philosopher Rumi, we visited Mevlana University, where students from all over the world come to study education, law, medicine, engineering and business.   In Sanliurfa, less than 30 miles from the violence that has recently occurred across the Syrian border, our pastors and I spent the day in a place where Turkish, Arabs, Kurdish, Jews and Christians have lived in peace for 1000 years.  One young pharmacist who lives there and is part of this movement told me “I want to take what we have done in this city, and spread peace across the border and throughout this part of the world.  I want my city to be the starting gate for peace!”  I love his heart, and I’m hopeful for a world where that heart is shared by all of us.

It was Istanbul where our pastors were introduced to an organization called Kimse Yok Mu, a non-profit disaster relief organization that since its inception in 2002 has brought help and relief to more than 60 countries.  We were also introduced to the good people at the Journalists and Writers Foundation, an organization that provides six very distinct platforms for dialogue and the promotion of peace among adherents to the world’s religions.

One of the most impressive things we learned about was their food.  I’m more than just an evangelical Christian, I’m also a Baptist, and we Baptists place a high value on food!  And theirs was amazing!  I have never tasted better lamb, and ever since returning to the states I’ve been on a seemingly hopeless search for mirash, which is a form of ice cream that has left me completely dissatisfied with what my local grocery store offers.  And of course, there is the baklava, which makes me believe our Turkish friends have stumbled onto the recipe for the manna that God provided Moses and his followers in the Egyptian wilderness.  It was exquisite!

Of course, the real benefit of a meal is the opportunity to get to know those with whom you are dining.  My primary role in my work is to be  a mobilizer of churches for intercultural work here in the Baltimore-Washington region, and around the world.  This means that I’ve had the opportunity to be in the company of people from almost every nation and tribe.  But I can tell you that when it comes to hospitality and graciousness, my Turkish friends cannot be matched!  By hosting us in their home country, they have given us an incredible gift, and an experience that I think has changed all of us for the better.  As I reflect on what we have learned from each other thus far, there are some lessons that my friends taught me on this trip that I want to share with you tonight.

The first lesson is this; the movement we witnessed in Turkey, while appearing on the surface to be a “young man’s movement,” embodies the power of cross-generational effort.  Many young people have responded to Fethullah Gulen’s call to service, but while in Turkey we also observed older generations responding to that young passion for world-change with financial support, and other resources necessary to accomplish their goals.  It was not uncommon for us to see this kind of cooperation carried out by three or four generations of Turkish people, all of whom were committed to these goals of peace and prosperity for their nation.

Second, these are people who speak quickly, boldly, and loudly to the violent elements of their faith, and in doing so, they teach all of us to speak against the violent tendencies within our own spheres of influence.  Our group landed in Istanbul less than a week after the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, and our friends were quick to condemn the violence.  And as we have discussed this and other issues, I have discovered that our friends genuinely abhor violence committed in the name of their faith.  It is their strong opposition to these elements that has challenged this Christian to examine my own responses to violence that is sometimes committed in the name of Jesus.

When most of what we see of Islam in the media consists of images like masked men shooting a young girl for no more than simply wanting an education, the temptation is to see such violence as inherent in Islam itself.  But when we look at a picture like that and simply conclude “That is Islam,” we are too quickly forgetting that extremists of every sort and kind often appeal to their faith of origin as a source of authority.  I am a native southerner, and have examples of such violence in my own family tree: individuals who also intimidated minorities and the weak, and did so while hiding behind a white mask, and with a burning cross in the background.  As a follower of Jesus, I’m thankful that no one pointed at that picture and said “There is Christianity!”  And I’m grateful to be in agreement with Muslim friends who believe with me that neither of our religions should be defined by the cowards among us who would commit such atrocity, nor should we tolerate those within our own ranks who seek to do harm to others created in God’s own image and likeness.

Third, the dialogue they advocate is the very kind of “public square” discourse that makes for a healthy society.  As Americans, we rightly resist what Evangelical social critic Os Guiness calls a “sacred square,” wherein our social standards and body of law are based on one specific religion.  In a pluralistic and democratic society, the sacred square is impossible to maintain peacefully.  But while we are wise to resist “theocracy” as more progressive pundits have called it, neither can we have what Guiness calls a “naked square.”  Somehow, many of us in the U.S. have developed the idea that religious conviction isn’t just personal, but private, and therefore should not be an appropriate subject of national discussion.  The problem with that assumption is that faith touches the deepest and most meaningful part of who we are as human beings.  From a personal perspective, my relationship with Jesus Christ isn’t limited to what I do on Sunday.  It defines the totality of who I am, so if I can’t talk to you about my faith, you can’t really get to know me. Similarly, if a person sincere in any faith isn’t allowed to share that faith because of perceived cultural taboo, we never get to truly know and understand each other.  

While abroad, I experienced people who are quick to speak of their faith in God, who are willing to hear about our faith, and wrestle with us through the implications of our differences in a way that is respectful of each other.  This is the kind of atmosphere that illustrates well what Christian social observers call a “civil public square,” and in an ironic way, I was delighted to find its full expression in a nation whose predominant religious affiliation is Islam.  If done with respect for the image of God stamped on all of us, talking about our differences, and even urging each other to consider the truth of our respective faiths out of concern for each other can build a strong, healthy relationship of the sort we need so badly in our own country. After our visit, I’m convinced that our Turkish friends are highly qualified by their own experience to teach us how to have precisely this kind of conversation.  

Our group learned much while abroad with our new friends, and we look forward to learning even more as we continue to walk together.  We look forward to engaging with them in matters of common interest, and to building the sort of genuine friendship that demonstrates our common humanity in powerful ways.  If invited by these precious people to visit their country with them, I urge you to accept the invitation.  Clear your calendar and go!   And when you do, be prepared for the world to open to you in ways you may not have thought possible.  I’d like to thank my friends at MARTI for allowing me to share our experiences, and thanks to all of you for being here tonight.  



SOURCE: 
http://joelrainey.blogspot.com/2012/11/truth-in-dialogue-model-for-evangelical.html

Friday, December 7, 2012

NEW BOOK: Preventing Violence and Achieving World Peace: The Contributions of the Gulen Movement (Washington College Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture)

Preventing Violence and Achieving World Peace: The Contributions of the Gulen Movement (Washington College Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture)



Book Description

December 2012 Washington College Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture (Book 4)
How can we address the seemingly endless conflicts in the world, particularly those arising from misunderstandings of Islam by both Muslims and non-Muslims? "Preventing Violence and Achieving World Peace: The Contributions of the Gulen Movement" presents the essays of eight scholars who consider the diverse ways in which the Gulen Movement or hizmet (service to others) - inspired by contemporary Turkish social philosopher Fetullah Gulen - has worked to answer this question. Drawing from various intellectual and theological sources, particularly Sufism, these essays indicate multiple instances of positive interfaith and/or multicultural dialogue. In addition, they consider how the writings of Gulen and the works of the Gulen Movement, through an extensive program of education and communication, have contributed significantly to efforts that oppose violence and shape universal peace.

Editorial Reviews

Review

At a time of utter urgency in Muslim/non-Muslim relations, this book on the Guelen Movement appears as a beacon of hope, offering multifaceted insight into Guelen's thought and practice - touching upon themes of philosophy, education, interfaith mysticism, universalism, and the cosmos. It offers significant support to the Charter for Compassion movement, another grassroots effort, also grounded in the need for self-improvement, humility, education toward tolerance and away from violence, and, above all, in the compatible notion of hizmet - outward action of kindness and service toward the other. Taking these insights to heart may help to awaken humanity to embrace 'our diversity as a species. and - insha'Allah - to achieve 'fullness of peace' in our time. (Helen McConnell, CAN (Compassionate Action Network) International Fellow; Co-Founder of the Compassionate Washington, D.C. Campaign)

About the Author

Ori Z. Soltes teaches theology and art history at Georgetown University. He received his BA from Haverford College, his MA from Princeton University, and his PhD from Union University. He is the author of over 215 books, articles, and essays including Mysticism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Searching for Oneness and Embracing the World: The Relationship between Fetullah Guelen, Jelaladdin Rumi and Others. Margaret A. Johnson, a sociologist and business owner, is Senior Research Associate for the Institute for Islamic and Turkish Studies in Fairfax, Virginia. She received her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. Her current research is on peace building and Islam in the United States. She is President and CEO of Transfirex Translation Services. Recently ranked 5th in the D.C. Metro Area by the Washington Business Journal, Transfirex, Inc. is in its eleventh year of providing scientific, technical, and educational translations in over 40 languages.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Lang Pub Inc (December 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433120208
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433120206
  • Shipping Information: View shipping rates and policies

SOURCE:
 http://www.amazon.com/dp/1433120208

Friday, November 23, 2012

ARTICLE: An untold African story

This article appeared on Fethullah Gulen's official web site and numerous other ezines. It was written by Rumi Forum's President, Emre Celik


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I had the privilege of traveling to Africa recently. It was somewhat a whirlwind tour of 4 countries - South Africa, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Kenya and Ethiopia. It was full of many surprises. I hope to share some of my thoughts and feelings over the course some words in this article.

The purpose of this journey was to discover and note the Hizmet activities (commonly referred to as the Gülen Movement in academic circles). For the uninitiated, Hizmet is a loosely connected group of individuals and NGOs inspired by the ideas and ideals of Fethullah Gülen - a Turkish Muslim scholar and thinker. The movement's activities span some 140 or so countries occupying an important place in the field of education, intercultural dialogue, health and relief activities. The main emphasis is a selfless approach to serving all others while personally gaining God's pleasure.

During my visit to Horizon International School in Johannesburg, which is privately funded, I met one of the teachers. He was a local young man who happened to also be a graduate of the same school to which he was now a teacher. His warm smile gleamed over his humble demeanor. He took me on a tour of the school. Many doors and windows were reinforced - unfortunately robbery was one of the common crimes in the area. Only the week before some new televisions were stolen. Like his peers this teacher was dedicated to his teaching, being a role model for each of his students - as were his teachers who only were teaching him a few years previously - now those same teachers were his colleagues. He had a great deal of respect for this school. It had taken him out of the slums of Soweto. Even more miraculous was his own personal family story.

He was kind enough to invite us to his home - now out of the slums. His mother was a pastor of a local 500 member Protestant church. What stood out in this household was the story of his missing siblings. He had fours brother. The two older were now in prison for murders, having received 40 year prison sentences. The two younger, (a sad irony) had been killed in gang fighting. He was the success story in the family. His mother, protective of her son, was the proudest mother in the neighbourhood. And pleased to have her son associated with and teaching at this Hizmet school.

The essence of these schools is typified in the above story. Taking individuals and their associated families and being a catalyst for them to shine - to remove the despair of the communities they belong to and the gruesome social conditions they may find themselves in. The school communities that are formed do not only play a positive role in the lives of its students, but as part of the wider school family touch the lives of students’ families, their relatives and friends and the neighbourhoods from which they come. Such Hizmet schools - and it’s becomes quite fitting and appropriate that the movement calls itself hizmet meaning ‘service’ - become beacons of hope as graduates play a role in giving something back through service. This can come in the form of volunteering time, financial support - or those that are so moved by the teaching vocation, come back to teach at the school.

The ripple effect these schools have is tremendous. They provide a safe haven, a kind of ‘peace island’ - a term coined by Gülen - for all those associated with the school. Those not directly associated with the school take comfort in knowing the school is a role model for other educational institutions. And just as important they show-case that no matter how adverse the conditions are that stories like the one above are possible and with time probable and expected. Given the conditions, the teachers of these hizmet schools have outdone themselves,. They should be proud of their achievements but yet resilient to the excesses of immodesty. Such success breeds success and in an area that can be barrain of ‘good news’ this school stands out and needs to be applauded.

And the moral to the story? These schools are doing fantastics things in many remote places under very difficult circumstances servicing students and families that are also in great need. And this and other stories need to be both understood and told.

Kudos to them!

Emre Çelik is an Australian based in Washington DC and President of the Rumi Forum.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fethullah Gulen's interview in Frankfurter Allgemeine by Rainer Hermann

Fethullah Gulen and Rumi Forum's President, Emre Celik were interviewed by Rainer Hermann, for Frankfurter Allgemeine, a German Newspaper


Do good and let it unfold


















The Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen has been living in the United States for 13 years now. An extensive network of supporters has developed there, serving in projects under his name. There is no sign on the road to indicate the exit and the dirt track which leads you through a foggy broadleaf forest, coloured in all the shades of autumn, to an estate with eight houses. Thirteen years ago, the most influential preacher of Turkish Islam Fethullah Gulen retreated to this secluded place. Back then, the still powerful military had driven him out of Turkey. Stricken with illnesses, he decided to undergo surgery in American hospitals. Since then, he has rarely left the estate despite being issued a visa and a residence permit by the United States. The voice of the 74-year-old Gulen sounds more powerful than ever, even from afar. It was his voice which has transformed the Muslims of Anatolia into a dynamic middle-class during the past decades. Gulen is the voice of these “black Turks”. Many movements have challenged Kemalism, the ideology of the “white Turks”. The urban, educated and secular upper-class of Istanbul – and later also of Ankara – have for decades ruled over Turkey. They looked down with contempt upon the uneducated, rural, poor and religious people of Anatolia. Inspired by Gulen’s teachings, many of these Turks sought education and became wealthy, yet remained religiously devout. As Gulen effectively challenged the Kemalist elite, he was declared as an enemy of the state. If Gulen was to return to Turkey, it would open old wounds. This is why Gulen, who shies away from conflicts, has decided to stay in Saylorsburg. The 5-and-a-half hectare estate does partially resemble Gulen’s native region of Turkey. He was born in 1938 in Erzurum, in the remote eastern part of Anatolia. Saylorsburg is a place dominated by nature, where deer roam the forest and from time to time brown bears are seen. Soon, the snow will pile up, just as it will in Erzurum. When Turkish entrepreneurs bought the estate for $175,000 in 1993, under the name “Golden Generation foundation”, only a few log cabins were there. The foundation built eight stone houses, created the park, and invited Gulen to settle down here in 1999. Down at the lake, the visitors’ children are playing football. At noon, everyone gathers in the clearing at the köşk – a type of garden pavilion in which Ottomans used to dine while in the countryside. Traditional Turkish cuisine is on the menu: lentil soup, vegetables pickled in olive oil, köfte meat balls with rice, tea in small curved glasses. Gulen cannot walk even this distance these days. After several bypass operations, his knees trouble him now. He leaves the estate only for medical exams and treatment at the hospital nearby. Gulen takes a life away from people, but his message is reaching millions. A lift goes up to the first floor of the house which resembles a simply yet elegantly decorated Ottoman house which does not need more than a minimum of furniture. This is the floor on which Hocaefendi -- as he is reverently called by his followers -- lives and works. At his side always is his personal doctor, as well as a few other people in whom he trusts and confides. He very rarely gives interviews. This morning, a normal one, he taught a dozen young theologians who are his personal students. Twice a week, his sermons are recorded and uploaded onto the internet (www.herkul.org), from which TV stations will rebroadcast. Our interview has been scheduled to take place after the Islamic midday prayer. That is when Gulen receives guests. He specifically asks them about what is going on in the world outside and always has follow-up questions. After this he will read again, write and pray. He is said to get by on very little sleep. Every day is minutely structured. He instructs his followers to use their time well and practises as he preaches, without rushing. His followers say that he combines humility with charisma. On the wall behind him, a clock ticks softly. It is never switched to daylight savings hours. “The [real] time is always the same,” says Gulen. Beautiful calligraphic writing decorates the walls, complementing Gulen’s words. He does not speak a sober modern Turkish. The Ottomans would have understood him perfectly. It is a challenge for many Turkish people to understand him. In long sentences, he intertwines chapters from the Quran with sayings by the Prophet, the experiences of the mystics with the requirements of the modern world, and unites the world of faith with the reality of life. He explains the relevance of education and success in business, the compatibility of Islam with the modern age and democracy, as well as the incompatibility of Islam and violence. His followers are supposed to create employment and prosperity with their own hands, and should not forget to distribute it among those who are in need. Religious people wanting to live their faith far away from the vibrant cities were always drawn to the State of Pennsylvania. The early immigrants that settled on the fertile grounds of Pennsylvania must have been religious people. If you set out west from Philadelphia towards Saylorsburg, then you will drive through Quakertown and Emmaus. Road signs indicate exits to Hamburg as well as Lebanon and also to New Tripoli. The road to Saylorsburg also leads you through Bethlehem and Nazareth. Manhattan is only a few hours drive away from Saylorsburg. And yet there are worlds between them. Alp Aslandogan is looking down from the sixth floor onto the urban canyon out of stone in the 5th Ave. In 1991, he came to New York from Turkey to do his PhD in IT and today he teaches at a university. In his spare time, he works many hours on a voluntary basis for “hizmet” [service] – which is how Gulen’s followers describe their movement. The movement, which in Germany is known as the Gulen movement, is also growing in the United States. Entrepeneurs close to Gulen have founded more than a thousand educational institutions in 130 countries, including Germany and the United States. Aslandogan founded the “Milky Way Foundation” in 1993 to help tutor children of Turkish immigrants on the weekends, so that they could succeed in school. In 1999, the foundation became a private school. “We neither wanted to emulate the dominant culture, nor isolate ourselves from it to preserve our roots,” says Aslandogan. “We wanted to help parents to understand the American culture, and the children to preserve their parents’ values, but also be productive citizens of this country.” Over two decades, activities such as these in New York turned into an extensive network of diverse social activities. The Turkish Cultural Center in Manhattan and the Peace Islands Institute are two examples. The cultural centre, for instance, organises English and Turkish language courses, prepares children for exams, helps adults to register themselves as voters and assists those who are self-employed to find success. After a large forest fire in Israel, it helped reforest the area, and built a new school in Haiti after the earthquake. After the terror attacks on September 11th, the Pacific Islands Institute was founded as a platform for dialogue. Under its framework, American politicians and foreign ambassadors have met, rabbis and Buddhist monks talk to each other, and Muslim families invite non-Muslim families home. The cultural centre and the Pacific Islands Institute are two of the 218 social organizations which are associated with Gulen in the United States, which have united in May 2010 under the umbrella organization, the Turkic American Alliance. Its main offices are in Washington DC, between Capitol Hill and the CNN studios. Just as in its New York offices, the personality cult around Atatürk has vanished, and there is no relief on the wall depicting the forever-smiling founder of the republic. What importance the umbrella organization has already gained can be seen by the fact that at a recent gala evening, seven senators and 53 members of the Congress were present. Fevzi Bilgin, a 38-year-old political analyst and former professor at the University of Pittsburgh, compiles studies about relevant issues in Turkey and the Middle East and assesses the American political sphere in his work. He is the head of “Rethink”, the only private Turkish think tank in the United States. Emre Çelik, an Australian IT specialist of Turkish descent living in the United States, is another strong supporter of Gulen. He started two decades ago in Sydney, trying to give Turkish youngsters a jump-start in subjects such as math, physics and chemistry in garages. Today, he is in charge of the Rumi Forum, named after a Turkish saint, which is located a stone’s throw away from the White House. On its board sit Jews as well as secular Americans. Prominent politicians or diplomats often speak at luncheons held at the forum, broadcasted by four TV channels. Çelik considers himself to be a “mainstream Muslim” and this is the type of Islam he wants to foster in the pluralistic society of America. Initially in Australia, he was fascinated by Said Nursi (1876-1960), a spiritual mentor for Gulen. Nursi introduced to Islam raising scientific questions and doubt, taught his students to see the good in Western civilisation and adopt it, and called them to overcome the three basic evils of poverty, division and ignorance. “What Nursi formulated in theories, is carried out by Gulen in practice”, says Çelik. He considers the concept of pleasing God to be the decisive contribution of Gulen. By this, Gulen motivates people to act in this world, in order to gain rewards for the hereafter. The movement is being attacked from two sides, says Gulen. Gulen describes those who equate the activities of “hizmet” with Islamism as ignorant. When it comes to other Turkish critics, he can only shake his head. They accuse him of being “a traitor to Islam, being a slave of the United States and Israel as well as carrying out propaganda for Christianity and Judaism”. A public prosecutor in Turkey once called him even a secret cardinal in the service of the Pope. The biggest accusation against the Movement is that it wants to carry out a revolution in Turkey, through cultivating a secret Islamist elite. It is also claimed that the movement is not transparent and works as a secret society. These kind of critics of the movement assert a hierarchical structure which does not exist. They attribute this claimed hierarchy to an asserted Islamic sufi lineage. During recent decades, periods where Turkey was ruled by generals, such a structure could be dangerous. “My life and my work are open to everyone”, asserts Fethullah Gulen. “Nothing is kept secret.” The activities of “hizmet” are carried out in public with people from the entire spectrum of life, from all countries and religions. They have been observed and even under the control of public authorities. “I would like to know what is not transparent.” Education and building schools are issues particularly close to his heart. He says it is through education that a human being contributes in the most constructive manner to his or her family, society and humanity. "I am convinced that we as God’s creatures will only achieve our full individual maturity through worldly and spiritual education." He has been promoting this idea his entire life, as well as through the construction of schools, which are built by companies that claim to be inspired by him. His name appears neither as a founding nor board member on any of the institutions ascribed to him. The continuous reference to entrepreneurs does not mean that everything is related to money, but he advises his followers to be successful. A major Turkish business association is ascribed to Gulen. The economic boom in Anatolia is linked to his name. "I have always called for a sincere entrepreneurial spirit," says Gulen. He advises entrepreneurs to carefully assess risks, and encourages them to invest and expand abroad. “I always remind them of their social and societal responsibilities.” And he reminds them to adhere to ethical principles: to avoid involvement in fraud, speculative or black-market trading, stand for trust and reliability, not to display greed and squander God’s riches while enjoying them, to show respect for the rights of employees, not to forget that the society they live in should also benefit from their benefits and to live aware of the fact that ultimately everything is given by God. Tevfik Emre Aksoy is one of those businessmen who seeks God’s pleasure following Gulen’s advice. He made his fortune as a building contractor in Brooklyn, New York City. Self-employed and successful people like him donate a considerable share of their income to the "hizmet" movement and finance many projects. He is a board member of the Amity School in Brooklyn along with four other businessmen. Tuition fees only partially cover the costs of running the school. The rest comes from supporters like Aksoy. Yet despite his generous donations, he does not interfere in the day by day operations of the school, whose principal is Cengiz Karabekmez. Founded in 1999, 300 students attend the school. One hundred live in the adjacent student hostel. They come from 17 countries, and represent five different religious faiths. The majority are of Turkish descent. The school advertises that for many years all students have been accepted to college. The best go on to Harvard, Columbia and Yale. “Last year’s 25 graduates got scholarships in the amount of 4 million dollars”, Karabekmez says proudly. The focus, as with all other “Gulen schools”, is on teaching sciences. “We do not compel religion upon our students”, stresses Karabekmez. “We are not a religious school.“ The course on “personality development” teaches universal values such as respect, altruism and work ethics. Most of the 36 teachers are American citizens. “Language barriers?” Andrea laughs. "Sure, many parents speak only a little bit of English", says a teacher. “But the school community ensures that everyone speaks English very well, starting from year one.” The English teacher, Adamir, knows Germany and the United States well, but he does not know Gulen. His parents fled the war in the Balkans, and along with their children, went first to Germany, and then settled down in New York 12 years ago. He had never heard the name of the “hizmet” movement. He opted for the Amity School because he has more opportunity to express himself as a teacher than at other schools. Worship of God is not compelled. “God loves everyone”, Aksoy asserts. “God loves in particular good deeds.”


See also original references:

GERMAN: http://bit.ly/W6SMpe

TURKCE: http://bit.ly/ZGYGRA

ENGLISH: http://bit.ly/X6yz95

Friday, November 16, 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

FETHULLAH GULEN: Respect For Humankind



M. Fethullah Gulen

Loving and respecting humanity merely because they are human is an expression of respect for the Almighty Creator. The other side of the coin, loving and showing respect to only those who think the same as one thinks, is nothing but egotism and self-worship. More than this, it is irreverent and self-conceited behavior to hurt the feelings of others who may not think exactly as we think, but who still are on the same main road with us in their thoughts and visions.

We dream of a generation who will embrace and build the future upon interpreting problems not according to the sources or reasons from which they arise, but with respect to their ideals. If we are passengers who are on different paths and using different strategies, but all heading for the same destination, then why should we defame the others who are with us on this sacred journey that has such a lofty goal?

The circumstances that will shape humanity in the future, in particular current world affairs, are forcing us to act with utmost care and alertness; in fact, they are forcing us to do so to such an extent that any decision hastily taken for temporary measures will result in errors that have no compensation. The architects of the future are obliged to build their world on the foundations of what human love and respect stand for and what they appear to be.

With its many dimensions, the modern world has pushed humanity into many dark alleys. And we have come face to face with many problems, the nature of which we have no idea. We are trying to cope with these problems, but they are extremely slippery and inconsistent, and in due proportion the outcomes are full of contradictions. There are thousands of Khidrs who are committed to fetch the water of life from Mount Qaf for humanity, but none of them possess any sign of the elixir of immortality. Despite all the efforts of these people who are “apostles-to-be,” respect for the human soul has been severely challenged by real dangers.

We have struggled for many years in this way; nevertheless, we have not accomplished any synthesis that will constitute the pillars of tomorrow. This has indeed been impossible. Our feelings and thoughts have promised and brought about discrete things, and we were like musicians with a broken record and an incomplete composition, swaying from one door to another, looking for a producer. When every individual denies all the other truths because of the portion of truth which they hold in their hands, and when they compel others to stick to their respective portions, will it ever be possible to have ideas line up one after another, to attain new syntheses, or to discover remedies that save? Can this ever be possible while some are harassing others with accusations of unbelief and sinning, or even physically assaulting them? 

The present situation that we have reached today is very dramatic and thought-provoking. Those who walked side-by-side in the past are strangers to one another today. The truths and untruths have been shifted, in accordance with group preferences, from their foundational pillars to rest on slippery rails. Under such chaotic conditions, it is impossible to discern either the loftiness of the goal or the differences of the means to attain it.

Humanity today appears to have become fixated on a single flower alone, although they had set out to enjoy the spring. They have lost all their hopes for reaching the goal that is on this path; the means to do so are what they have been fighting for. Their efforts and actions are merely to engage in effort and action. Just like a guide who has forgotten the responsibility of serving the temple and their servanthood to God, who is absorbed by trying to entertain the visiting tourists, so too have those who devoted themselves to a clique or a party today become foreign and indifferent to the ideal and the goal.

The humanity of our time has been imprisoned by focusing on one flower on the way to the spring, and has been deceived by a drop while chasing the ocean. I feel that such slavery will be impossible to overcome until we have liberated humanity and given them a new outlook. We are burdened with the task of expressing the truth . . I wish that we had been able to have done so!

No matter how charming and enchanting the atmosphere that catches the eye or fills the heart is there is no permission for us to forget the truth to which we are committed. We cannot stay alien toward each other while we are in the same camp. We do not have a monopoly of the good and the beautiful; therefore we cannot be allowed to wage a war with the passengers who are heading to the same destination but on a different path.

We may have some criticisms about the path and system of someone who thinks differently from us; this is an expression of minds that operate in different ways. But, if we are striving to reach the same horizon, we must at least respect the way others think. This is a prerequisite of heading in the same direction, sharing the same belief, utilizing the same terminology, and finally and above all, of respecting the sacred meaning glorified by God Almighty.

Let us be respectful to humankind! Let us respect the exalted truths they possess. Let us love them because of their Almighty Creator. If we can raise a community upon this perspective, people will eventually recover and they will manage to compensate for whatever they have lost.

The Fountain  - Issue 53 / January - March 2006

SOURCE:  
http://www.fountainmagazine.com/Issue/detail/Respect-For-Humankind

Thursday, September 27, 2012

FINANCIAL TIMES Op-ed by Fethullah Gulen: Violence is not in the tradition of the Prophet


By M. Fethullah Gülen

Muslims pray each day: “O Lord! Keep us on the straight path.” It is a prayer to help us move away from the extremes and maintain balance in our lives. We must neither be hostage to our reactionary instincts, nor must we remain completely silent in the face of the systematic defamation of our values and beliefs. This balance has been upset by the violent response to the insults targeting the legacy of beloved Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). The violent response was wrong and strayed from the straight path.

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

Muslims should not be indifferent with respect to the attacks on the Prophet (PBUH). On the contrary, they must show the utmost sensitivity and caution. Those insulting Islam might be seeking to depict a negative image of Muslims, and hence justify discrimination, isolation, persecution or deportation. The deliberate instigation and creation of turmoil in the Muslim world is not new. Our sacred values were attacked in the past through cartoons, today it is done through a movie and cartoons in a French magazine, and tomorrow other means may be used. Muslims must not be beguiled or enticed but instead must speak out to prevent those who are more easily provoked from resorting to violence.

The question that we should ask ourselves as Muslims is whether we have introduced Islam and its Prophet properly to the world. Have we followed his example in such a way as to instil admiration? We must do so, not with words, but with our actions.When any negative comment is made about the Prophet, however slight it may be, a Muslim should feel deep sorrow. Yet expressing that sorrow is a different matter. Irresponsible actions by individuals damage the image of Islam and destroy the very tradition they are claiming to defend.

Since the rights of every Muslim, as well as God, the Koran and the Prophet are at stake in such a circumstance, one cannot act recklessly. One should scrutinise the possible ramifications of each and every action, and seek the wisdom of the collective judgment.

If suicide bombers are the first things that come to people’s minds, how could they have a positive opinion of Islam? How is killing innocent civilians indiscriminately different from the barbarity suffered by Muslims in history? What is the rationale behind attacking an American consulate in Libya, killing an ambassador and consulate officers, who have nothing to do with this wretched movie? If it is Muslims who are carrying out these attacks, it means that they are entirely unaware of what Islam is all about and are committing the biggest crime in the name of Islam.

A Muslim must always be straightforward and consistent in his actions and words. He should respect the sacred values of Christians, Jews, Buddhists and others as he expects his own religion and values to be respected. In reacting, a Muslim should not sway from the proper middle path. Many correct forms of response can be found by appealing to the collective conscience of society and to the international community.

Hate speech designed to incite violence is an abuse of the freedom of expression. It violates the rights, dignity and freedoms of others while pushing humanity towards conflict in an age of horrifying weapons. Instead of falling victim to the instigation of others, we should appeal to the relevant international institutions, such as the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation or the UN, to intervene, expose and condemn instances of hate speech. We can do whatever it takes within the law to prevent any disrespect to all revered religious figure, not only to the Prophet Mohammed.

The attacks on the Prophet we have repeatedly experienced are to be condemned, but the correct response is not violence. Instead, we must pursue a relentless campaign to promote respect for the sacred values of all religions.

The writer is a Muslim scholar in the Sunni tradition and honorary chairman of the Istanbul-based Journalists and Writers Foundation

Original article here:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6ac625c0-07c6-11e2-9df2-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz27jNH2YIH

See also:STATEMENT BY FETHULLAH GULEN on attack on US embassy in Libya
http://rumiforum.blogspot.com/2012/09/statement-from-fethullah-gulen.html#axzz28XEVfPZs

Suggested web sites - MEDIA, ARTICLES, CONFERENCES

Monday, September 17, 2012

STATEMENT FROM FETHULLAH GULEN CONDEMNING VIOLENCE FOLLOWING ATTACK ON U.S. CONSULATE IN LIBYA


SEE ALSO FINANCIAL TIMES OP-ED:
http://rumiforum.blogspot.com/2012/09/financial-times-opinion-by-fethullah.html#axzz28XEVfPZs

Suggested web sites - MEDIA, ARTICLES, CONFERENCES

"I have learned with sadness about the attack on the United States Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi which resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, consulate personnel and several others.
I strongly condemn this heinous attack which targeted public servants representing their country in Libya and thus were guests of Libyan government and people. On this sad occasion I reiterate my condemnation of all forms of terror regardless of its perpetrators and the purposes for which it is carried out.
“As we witness other violent protests in Cairo, Yemen and elsewhere, my message is that lasting change will only result from peaceful expressions of reaction and open dialogue. Consorting to violence and targeting human life for protest constitute a betrayal of the soul of the very Islamic tradition that many of these protestors seemingly claim to defend. What suits Muslims is to express their reactions in a peaceful and calm manner that befits the dignity of their faith.
“I send my sincere condolences to those who lost loved ones in the tragedy, to the United States Government, to American people and especially to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton under whom the ambassador and his staff have been serving. I share their pain in my heart and I pray for the fast recovery of those who were injured.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2012 Rumi Forum Ramadan Dinners - Part 2

Truman National Security Project Fellows @ Iftar Discussion hosted by Rumi Forum


Washington Hebrew Congregation with Rumi Forum for 2012 Ramadan Shared Iftar Dinner

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 Rumi Forum Ramadan Dinners - Part 1

Rumi Forum's Annual Intercultural Shared Iftar Dinner-2012


Rumi Forum and Turkic American Alliance(TAA) Jointly host Ramadan Iftar Dinner

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

TELEVISION: Rumi Forum broadcasting on 4 TV Stations
























Rumi Forum has added Montgomery TV to its list of channels that it broadcasts on:

DC TV:
Comcast 95, RCN 10, Verizon10
schedule here

Arlington TV:
Comcast 69, Verizon 38

Fairfax TV:
Cox 30, Verizon 30

Montgomery TV:
 Verizon 19, 21, Cox 19, 21, RCN 19, 21

Friday, July 6, 2012

Experiences with Hizmet and the Followers of Fethullah Gulen




Experiences with Hizmet and the Followers of Fethullah Gülen
Leo D. Lefebure
Georgetown University


Since the 1990s, I have been involved in a variety of dialogues with Muslims in the United States and around the world.  When I moved to Georgetown University in the summer of 2005, I became acquainted with the members of the Rumi Forum in Washington, DC, which is affiliated with the international Islamic movement known as Hizmet, a Turkish word that means “Service.”  Since the movement is inspired by the example and writings of Turkish Muslim leader Fethullah Gülen, outside observers often refer to this as “the Gülen movement.”  At the time I moved to Washington, DC, the director of the Rumi Forum was Ali Yurtsever, a dynamic, friendly leader with a seemingly insatiable interest in interreligious dialogue and friendship.

       When I arrived in Washington, I found that Georgetown University hosted a Muslim-Christian dialogue in which the majority of the Muslim participants were affiliated with the Rumi Forum.  We discussed a variety of topics of spiritual experience and interreligious relations, including the religious poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273), the policies of the Ottoman Empire regarding Jews and Christians, the theology of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (ca. 1877-1960), the writings of Gülen, and the biography of Ignatius of Loyola.  The conclusion of each dialogue consisted of the enjoyment of delicious Turkish food, courtesy of the Rumi Forum.  Eventually, the dialogue expanded to include Jewish participants as well.  Among the participants affiliated with the Rumi Forum were Ali Aslan, a journalist who covers Washington, DC, for Zaman Newspaper, and Jena Luedtke, who is the interreligious representative of the Rumi Forum.


         After a dialogue one evening, Ali Aslan asked me if I had ever been to Turkey, and I said that I had not.  He proceeded to notify Ali Yurtsever that I should be invited to join one of their intercultural tours of Turkey.  And so it happened that the following May I found myself in Turkey with Ali Yurtsever, Jena Luedtke, and a very interesting group of participants.  One of the greatest contributions of the Rumi Forum is to bring together people with common interests who otherwise would likely not know each other.  In our traveling group were a retired U.S. diplomat and his wife with long experience in the Middle East, the former dean of a law school, a Reform rabbi and his wife, the minister of Unity Church in Fairfax, Virginia, and a Franciscan sister who works in Muslim-Christian relations and who had written a short book about the visit of St. Francis of Assisi to Sultan Malik al-Kamil in 1219, during the fifth Crusade.  Francis, who saw himself as a man of peace, traveled through the Crusader army and sought an audience with the sultan, who apparently viewed him as similar to the Sufi holy men.  Their encounter stands as a hopeful sign of the possibilities for respectful, cordial dialogue even during periods of suspicion and conflict.       On our tour of Turkey, we visited the major sites of Istanbul, including the magnificent edifices of Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Suleimanniyya Mosque, as well as the traditional Topkapi Palace of the sultans and the nineteenth-century Dolmabace Palace along the Bosphorus.  We took a beautiful evening dinner cruise on the Bosphorus and later visited the headquarters of Zaman Newspaper and the Authors and Writers Forum in Istanbul.  In a number of cities we visited schools sponsored by Hizmet.  We visited sites of early Christians in Cappadocia, including a monastery carved into the side of a hill and a village carved underground, where Christians could hide from Roman persecutors and escape through underground tunnels.  In Ephesus we visited the place that is venerated as the place where Mary the mother of Jesus lived the last years of her life.  We witnessed the profound devotion that both Muslims and Christians have to her in praying at this site.  Mary is honored in the Qur’an as the virgin mother of the prophet Jesus; she is the only woman named by her own name in the Qur’an, and she is also the only woman to have a sura (chapter) of the Qur’an named after her.  Thus she has been held up as a bridge to the future for shaping Muslim-Christian relations.

       As we were riding on the bus toward Ephesus, Rabbi Larry Forman came up to me and said, “Leo, there was a creed of Ephesus, wasn’t there?”  I answered, “Yes, there was a council that issued a declaration there.”  He continued, “I think we should write our own statement from Ephesus, and you are the one to draft it.”  As I bounced up and down on the bus, I pulled out a piece of paper and drafted a preliminary statement based upon our experiences in Turkey.  We circulated it and invited suggestions to improve it.  Later, on our last full day, we had lunch in a gorgeous room along the Bosphorus at the Dolmabace Palace.  As we finished eating, the rabbi led the group in discussing what we wanted in the statement.  I took notes as one person after another reflected on our experience together.  Later I composed another draft, incorporating many additions from our companions.  We later circulated this through e-mails and finally delivered it to the Rumi Forum as an expression of our delight with the trip and our sharing of their concerns.       We also visited Fatih University in the western suburbs of Istanbul, an English-language university supported by Hizmet.  Six months later, when I returned to Istanbul for a conference on Said Nursi sponsored by the Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture, the dean of Fatih University invited me to come there and to deliver a lecture on “How Universities Can Contribute to Inter-Civilizational Dialogue.”  After offering some general comments, I shared many of our experiences at Georgetown University.

In Washington, DC, the Rumi Forum is active in a wide variety of initiatives.  For example, the Forum co-sponsored a conference at the Catholic University of America on Islam in America, at which I delivered a paper on “Muslim-Christian Relations in the United States.”  The Rumi Forum hosts an annual interreligious awards banquet.  Some of these celebrations have been held in an office building of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill, and at the end of one evening, the Rumi Forum presented whirling dervishes from Turkey dancing as an expression of prayerful meditation.  Later that week, the dervishes also danced in Hebrew Union Congregation, one of the most prominent synagogues in Washington, DC.  My Turkish friends believed that this was the first time in history that dervishes had danced in a synagogue.  The Rumi Forum also hosts a variety of iftar dinners during the holy month of Ramadan, inviting Christians and Jews to eat with them as they end their fast after sundown.  The Rumi Forum, together with others in the Muslim community in Washington, DC, in cooperation with local Jewish leaders, hosted an interreligious iftar dinner in an historic Synagogue, inviting Christian leaders to join with Muslims and Jews in a synagogue breaking the fast during Ramadan.  Muslim colleagues told me that they believed that this was the first time in history that an iftar dinner had been celebrated in a synagogue.  The Rumi Forum also organizes a wide range of more informal iftars, inviting many Christians to the homes of their members for small, family celebrations.
        
Georgetown University has a campus of the School of Foreign Service in Doha, Qatar, where I taught during the 2007-08 academic year.  I had many turbulent experiences in the classroom, especially with animated Muslim students vehemently disagreeing with one another.  In one class Sunni students stridently attacked a Shia student; on another day more conservative Muslim students forcefully, even angrily criticized a more progressive Muslim student.  During this year, two members of Hizmet were teaching at Qatar University, one in the field of political science and the other in chemical engineering.  As I got to know them, we shared our experiences in the classroom, and I was greatly relieved to learn that the political scientist, himself a Muslim professor, had similar troubles with his students there.  One evening over dinner I commented that one of the best things that ever happened to the Papacy was that it lost the Papal States, freeing Popes to become respected international spiritual leaders on a global stage.  The political scientist perked up and commented that his Muslim students needed to hear that, and he then invited me to address his class of female students.  He stressed that I should speak only about the Catholic experience of the benefits of distinguishing religion and government without commenting directly on Islam.  He preferred that the students draw their own conclusions regarding the proper relation of government and Islamic authority.
       
During the spring break of 2008, I traveled from Doha to India, where I met members of Hizmet in both Kolkata and Delhi.  In Kolkata, Cetin Akkaye joined me and a Hindu colleague in traveling together to meet Swami Prabhananda at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission along the Ganges, the site where Vivekananda lived and died and was cremated.  Swami Prabhananada was most gracious and spent almost an hour with us (I was later told this was far more time than is usual).  Cetin was interested in inviting Swami Prabhananda to participate in an interreligious conference in Hyderabad.  Cetin and his colleague, Sinan, attended a lecture that I delivered at the Ramakrishna Mission in downtown Kolkata as part of a UNESCO-approved course on “The Unity of Humanity,” an interdisciplinary study of intercultural and interreligious relations.  After I had concluded, the Hindu host, Dr. Chakrabarti, invited Sinan to speak about the Hizmet movement as well.  From Kolkata, I flew to Delhi, where I met other members of Hizmet, Bulent Cantimur and Ali Akiz, who were very gracious in welcoming me and showing historic sites from the Islamic heritage of India, including the Taj Mahal, the Jami Mosque, the Red Fort, the Lodi Gardens, and Qutb Minar.  My hosts from Hizmet in Kolkata and Delhi were most gracious and welcoming, helping me immediately to feel at home among them.
        
In December 2009, I traveled to Melbourne, Australia, for the fifth Parliament of the World’s Religions.  Together with two Turkish-German Muslims and an Egyptian-American Muslim, I was graciously hosted by the Australian Intercultural Society, which is the affiliate of Hizmet in Australia.  My impression of the Turkish Australian Muslim community was that they were very dynamic and well integrated into Australian society.  On one night of the Parliament, the Australia Intercultural Society hosted the Islamic Communities Dinner, which the Governor of that state of Australia attended.
        
In my experiences, the members of Hizmet have been unfailingly gracious and cordial, respectful of Christianity and mindful of the many values shared by Muslims and Christians.  Their concern to build constructive relationships and to collaborate in building interreligious understanding is inspiring.
In Washington, DC, the Rumi Forum is active in a wide variety of initiatives.  For example, the Forum co-sponsored a conference at the Catholic University of America on Islam in America, at which I delivered a paper on “Muslim-Christian Relations in the United States.”  The Rumi Forum hosts an annual interreligious awards banquet.  Some of these celebrations have been held in an office building of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill, and at the end of one evening, the Rumi Forum presented whirling dervishes from Turkey dancing as an expression of prayerful meditation.  Later that week, the dervishes also danced in Hebrew Union Congregation, one of the most prominent synagogues in Washington, DC.  My Turkish friends believed that this was the first time in history that dervishes had danced in a synagogue.  The Rumi Forum also hosts a variety of iftar dinners during the holy month of Ramadan, inviting Christians and Jews to eat with them as they end their fast after sundown.  The Rumi Forum, together with others in the Muslim community in Washington, DC, in cooperation with local Jewish leaders, hosted an interreligious iftar dinner in an historic Synagogue, inviting Christian leaders to join with Muslims and Jews in a synagogue breaking the fast during Ramadan.  Muslim colleagues told me that they believed that this was the first time in history that an iftar dinner had been celebrated in a synagogue.  The Rumi Forum also organizes a wide range of more informal iftars, inviting many Christians to the homes of their members for small, family celebrations.   
   
Georgetown University has a campus of the School of Foreign Service in Doha, Qatar, where I taught during the 2007-08 academic year.  I had many turbulent experiences in the classroom, especially with animated Muslim students vehemently disagreeing with one another.  In one class Sunni students stridently attacked a Shia student; on another day more conservative Muslim students forcefully, even angrily criticized a more progressive Muslim student.  During this year, two members of Hizmet were teaching at Qatar University, one in the field of political science and the other in chemical engineering.  As I got to know them, we shared our experiences in the classroom, and I was greatly relieved to learn that the political scientist, himself a Muslim professor, had similar troubles with his students there.  One evening over dinner I commented that one of the best things that ever happened to the Papacy was that it lost the Papal States, freeing Popes to become respected international spiritual leaders on a global stage.  The political scientist perked up and commented that his Muslim students needed to hear that, and he then invited me to address his class of female students.  He stressed that I should speak only about the Catholic experience of the benefits of distinguishing religion and government without commenting directly on Islam.  He preferred that the students draw their own conclusions regarding the proper relation of government and Islamic authority.      During the spring break of 2008, I traveled from Doha to India, where I met members of Hizmet in both Kolkata and Delhi.  In Kolkata, Cetin Akkaye joined me and a Hindu colleague in traveling together to meet Swami Prabhananda at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission along the Ganges, the site where Vivekananda lived and died and was cremated.  Swami Prabhananada was most gracious and spent almost an hour with us (I was later told this was far more time than is usual).  Cetin was interested in inviting Swami Prabhananda to participate in an interreligious conference in Hyderabad.  Cetin and his colleague, Sinan, attended a lecture that I delivered at the Ramakrishna Mission in downtown Kolkata as part of a UNESCO-approved course on “The Unity of Humanity,” an interdisciplinary study of intercultural and interreligious relations.  After I had concluded, the Hindu host, Dr. Chakrabarti, invited Sinan to speak about the Hizmet movement as well.  From Kolkata, I flew to Delhi, where I met other members of Hizmet, Bulent Cantimur and Ali Akiz, who were very gracious in welcoming me and showing historic sites from the Islamic heritage of India, including the Taj Mahal, the Jami Mosque, the Red Fort, the Lodi Gardens, and Qutb Minar.  My hosts from Hizmet in Kolkata and Delhi were most gracious and welcoming, helping me immediately to feel at home among them.       In December 2009, I traveled to Melbourne, Australia, for the fifth Parliament of the World’s Religions.  Together with two Turkish-German Muslims and an Egyptian-American Muslim, I was graciously hosted by the Australian Intercultural Society, which is the affiliate of Hizmet in Australia.  My impression of the Turkish Australian Muslim community was that they were very dynamic and well integrated into Australian society.  On one night of the Parliament, the Australia Intercultural Society hosted the Islamic Communities Dinner, which the Governor of that state of Australia attended.

       In my experiences, the members of Hizmet have been unfailingly gracious and cordial, respectful of Christianity and mindful of the many values shared by Muslims and Christians.  Their concern to build constructive relationships and to collaborate in building interreligious understanding is inspiring.



SOURCEhttp://islamicstudiesassociation.blogspot.com/2012/07/experienceswith-hizmet-and-followers-of.html