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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The HINDU - Anatolian Tigers drive Turkey's silent revolution - (Gulen Movement)

This piece from The Hindu highlights the positive contributions of business persons associated with the Gulen Movement

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Anatolian Tigers drive Turkey's silent revolution

..Nursi's advocacy of embracing Western science and technology as well as engagement with “competing paradigms”, has had a deep impact on his followers in Central Anatolia. In the tradition of Nursi, Fethullah Gulen has given a clear contemporary direction to the Anatolian middle class. The Gulen movement's message of inclusivity, inter-faith engagement, entrepreneurship, education and outreach has had a decisive influence in directing the entrepreneurial impulses of the Anatolian Tigers.
As they grew, benefiting initially from the early phase of globalisation initiated in the eighties under the stewardship of Turgut Ozal, a former Prime Minister and President, the Anatolian Tigers have become part of a new ecosystem that is steadily overwhelming Turkey's established order.
The Anatolian businessmen have ploughed their considerable resources to the cause of the Gulen movement, which, in step with its focus on education, has opened quality schools imparting modern education in more than 140 countries. The Gulen movement's well acknowledged educational contributions abroad, in turn, have helped soften the ground for the entry of Anatolian businesses in many of these countries. “There is no direct link but our association with the Gulen movement quite often helps to do business in new areas such as Africa, Central Asia and the Balkans,” says Fatih Kutlutas, another Anatolian Tiger. The top floors of many of the buildings affiliated with the Gulen movement usually have a few “guest rooms”, which travellers can usually access.
Organisations such as ISGED — a business-development establishment — and the 20,000-member TUSKON are also helping Turkish small and medium enterprises to break into markets abroad. Addressing a TUSKON gathering recently, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “These businessmen [affiliated to TUSKON] conquer hearts in five continents by conducting successful projects and contributing to education in these countries.”...

More media articles including in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Policy Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, New York Times, NPR, PBS and many other here

Friday, April 27, 2012

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS: The hype about the (Fethullah) Gulen Movement - Mustafa Akyol

Hurriyet Daily News'  Mustafa Akyol raises important points about Rumi Forum's Honorary President Fethullah Gulen

More info on Gulen is here and here, also read response to New York Times article that was published on April 25, 2012 here,  also you can find more articles including in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Policy Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, New York Times, NPR, PBS and many other here

The hype about the Gülen Movement

Mustafa Akyol

One of the hot topics in present-day 
Turkey is the so-called “Gülen Movement,” a widespread religious network named after its spiritual leader, a Sufi-minded cleric named Fethullah Gülen. 

The movement is known for opening modern schools and media outlets, as well as pursuing interfaith dialogue, but lately it has been accused of “taking over the state.” Recently, there was even a long New York Times story about the matter, which quoted a Turkish journalist who believed that Gülen followers “have proliferated within the police and the judiciary, working behind the scenes to become one of Turkey’s most powerful political forces.”

So, as another Turkish journalist, let me also tell you what I think.

First, a reminder: Turkey is a paranoia-rich county. Most people here believe that some hidden power – the CIA, Mossad, “Jews,” freemasons, foreign states, the deep state, or just something – is under every stone. Therefore, if you hear any Turk saying, “Oh my God, there is this scary cabal that is pulling all the strings,” I would suggest taking that with a grain of salt.

Besides, some conspiracy theories about the Gülen Movement are already overtly crazy. Just go into any bookstore, and you will see ultra-nationalist bestsellers that blame Gülen for being “a secret Cardinal” (for he is too pro-Christian) or “a CIA puppet” (for he is not categorically anti-American). 

Unless proven otherwise, therefore, I take the Gülenists-take-over-the-state theory only as convincing as the above.

However, it is also obvious that the movement has become growingly politicized in the past decade despite their earlier apolitical and non-partisan stance. One only needs to read daily Zaman and Today’s Zaman, or watch their TV counterpart, STV, to see a passion for supporting the investigations and cases against the alleged juntas in the military. 

I think this strongly “anti-coup” stance of the movement is the basis of the speculations that they are “taking Turkey over.” My personal version of Occam’s Razor, however, gives me a simpler explanation: Gülen followers are very eager to prevent a military comeback, for they know that they would be its first victim.

You just need to know the history of the movement to see that. They follow in the footsteps of Said Nursi, who was jailed for decades under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk for simply writing books of “religious propaganda,” and whose tomb was torn to pieces by the military junta of 1960. The latest junta, that of “the postmodern coup,” targeted not just Gülen himself – because of it, he moved to the United States – but also all the institutions of the movement. 

Therefore, it can well be reasoned that the movement does not want to “take over the state,” but to save it from being taken over by their enemies. 

What if this is a transitional stage, though? What if the movement actually wants to establish an “Islamic state,” as all Islamists ultimately want? 

I would say no, for two reasons. First, just read Nursi and Gülen, and you will see a clear refusal of Islamism. Their hope is not an “Islamic state,” but an Islam-friendly democratic state, under which their faith-focused “hizmet” (missionary work) can flourish with civil means.

Second, the Gülen Movement is a global one now. It is dedicated to show the world the virtues of Islam, which they think are overshadowed by radical Islamists and jihadists. Their global message is all about tolerance, dialogue and moderation. They would be utterly unwise to tarnish that well-deserved reputation for the sake of the petite politics of a midsize country called Turkey.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Response to New York Times: Setting the facts straight on the (Fethullah) Gulen movement by James C. Harrington

Harrington's piece clarifies crucial misinformation about Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement, it is also valuable to read the five below articles to place everything into context:

Setting the facts straight on the Gülen movement

by James C. Harrington *

James C. Harrington (Photo: Today's Zaman)

25 April 2012 / JAMES C. HARRINGTON,

Much of what Dan Bilefsky and Şebnem Arsu’s recent article in the International Herald Tribune (“Shadow Force Grows in Turkey,” published on April 18) describes about Fethullah Gülen and Turkey’s recent history is accurate, but the authors cast a shadow of innuendo and loose conclusions, apparently more driven by personal predispositions than reality.

The attack on the Gülen movement is disingenuous, especially the oft-repeated but never proven claim that Gülen supporters have infiltrated the national police for some perfidious purpose. Surely, there are Gülen followers in the police, just as there are Catholics in American police forces. But attributing an unfounded agenda is unworthy without evidence. It is equally unworthy to create a fact by innuendo by reporting an American embassy cable that whether the national police is controlled by Gülen followers ‘‘is impossible to confirm, but we have found no one who disputes it.’’ How can the lack of confirmation become a fact? I recently published a book on the eight-year political trial of Gülen, 2000-2008. One of the charges against him involved the police infiltration allegation, and many others, some of which your article re-plays (such as the Islamist “hidden agenda”). The three-judge trial court painstakingly discredited each charge in a 48-page opinion, and acquitted him. An appellate panel upheld the verdict, as did the plenary appeals court. This was a courageous decision by the trial judges, who are appointed by an arm of the state because the message to convict Gülen was clear.

In fact, the judges ruled that the taped sermon of Gülen to which the article refers was fabricated, not “manipulated,” as the article puts it. It was a splice job. The court opinions in English and Turkish are posted on the website associated with my book: They were easily available to the article’s authors.

Why the article ignores the gist of this trial is a mystery. Maybe because it runs contrary to its thesis. The article also ignores that Gülen folks strongly supported the recent constitutional amendments of Sept. 12, 2010, which generally are what we would consider a civil liberties Bill of Rights. Seventy-four percent of the people voted in the referendum and approved the amendments by a 58 percent margin.

It’s impossible to see how the current Ergenekon and Sledgehammer conspiracy trials, overreaching at times to be sure, can be attributed in part to the Gülen movement since the prosecutors and judges in those cases were appointed by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), a self-selecting and self-perpetuating institution, which historically has functioned as a “border watchdog” against “non-approved” political change. The fact this institutional organ is prosecuting military officers is a significant development, something that could not have happened a few years ago -- and in sync with the European Union’s mandate that Turkey establish civilian control over the military, if it wants to enter the EU. The Gülen folks may support the prosecutions, as do most Turks; but they hardly control it.

Another critical fact the article omits is that Zaman newspaper, which associates itself with Gülen supporters, has been very sharply critical of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his handling of free speech and free press issues and other human rights matters. Zaman columnists have repeatedly decried jailing journalists, even if they were involved in Egenekon.

Nor does the article mention the Gülen movement has strongly supported EU membership from the beginning, which means assuring civil liberty, changing the legal system to European standards and separation of the secular state from religion. Hardly what one would expect from a group with a supposed Islamist agenda.

I’m no apologist for the movement; but, in my view, it has been good overall for democracy in Turkey and has done good things in other parts of the world. And, for a journalist, what’s fair should be fairly reported.

*Harrington is a human rights lawyer in Austin, where he also teaches at the University of Texas Law School. He is the author of “Wrestling with Free Speech, Religious Freedom, and Democracy in Turkey: The Political Trials and Times of Fethullah Gülen” (University Press, 2011). The court opinions in English and Turkish are posted on the website associated with the book:


More info on Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet (Gulen) Movement:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

WASHINGTON TIMES Interview: M. Akyol on Fethullah Gulen

Luke Montgomery interviews Mustafa Akyol about his new book "Islam without extremes - A Muslim Case for Liberty" . It seems many Western media outlets seem stuck, like a broken record, on Fethullah Gulen's so-called involvement in journalists' arrest. Mustafa Akyol is a seasoned and experienced analyst and commentator on Turkish issues. More info on Mustafa Akyol can be found here

Luke Montgomery:
 Last year, Turkish journalist Ahmet Şık wrote a book entitled You Touch, You Burn (Dokunan Yanar) targeting the Gülen movement. Before the book was even published, he was arrested and thrown in jail. What happened to moderate and tolerant Islam in this case? 
Mustafa Akyol: First, I have opposed the arrest of Ahmet Şık and similar journalists from the very beginning. I’m so glad that they are free now after being imprisoned for a year. This incident shows that the Turkish legal system is still very authoritarian and illiberal when it comes to freedom of speech. 
But, I would not go as far as to say that this illiberal episode in the Turkish legal system is a product of Islam. I don’t think it has any direct connection with the Turkish understanding of Islam. It was not the Islamic law or any Islamic interpretation which led to the arrest of those journalists. It was Turkey's illiberal anti-terrorism laws which define a terrorist organization very vaguely. 
These journalists were accused of being in an organization with some radical generals who wanted to conduct a coup. Now, I think that accusation was overblown, but at the end of the day that was the reason they were arrested. Yes, they had criticized the Gülen movement, but I don't think that was the reason they were arrested.
There are other journalists, very secular journalists who have denounced Fethullah Gülen and his movement, defined him as a CIA agent or a secret Christian, all sorts of things, but they have never been imprisoned. (highlights by RF blog)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Patriarch Bartholomew praises Gülen's dialogue efforts

With faith and hope, Turkey builds a new identity

April 11, 2012|John Kass


...But economic and democratic liberalization have gone hand in hand with dialogue, and Bartholomew has been working to build it with an Islamic Turkish theologian who now lives in Pennsylvania, is relatively unknown in America and yet has vast influence here.

His name is Muhammed Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen preaches interfaith acceptance and peace. His followers number in the millions, in Turkey and across the world.

Bartholomew refers to his friend by the affectionate nickname of "Hoja Effendi."

"He builds bridges, and religion should build bridges," said the patriarch. "This is why we need the dialogues. Not to have religious fanatics who divide people. The idea is to bring people of faith together for the benefit of humankind."...

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