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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Helen Ebaugh, Ph D - The Gülen Movement: A Sociological Analysis of a Civic Movement Rooted in Moderate Islam

The Gülen Movement: A Sociological Analysis of a Civic Movement Rooted in Moderate Islam

This is one of the first academic books about Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish scholar and preacher, and the civic movement he inspired in Turkey and ultimately throughout the world. The movement is rooted in moderate Islam and is committed to educating youth, fostering interfaith and intercultural dialog, assisting the needy in society and contributing to global peace. Based on interview data and visits to Gülen-inspired institutions, the book describes the movement from a sociological perspective, especially through the lens of social movement theory. It is the first book, grounded in empirical methodology, to describe the movement to a Western audience. It will be of special interest to social scientists interested in religious movements, religious scholars seeking information on Islamic movements and the general public eager to discover a moderate Islam that promotes humanitarian projects.

Helen Rose Ebaugh, professor, University of Houston, received her Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University in 1975 with specialties in organizational sociology and the sociology of religion. In addition to five research monographs and two edited books, she has published numerous articles in scholarly journals, including The American Sociological Review, Social Forces, The Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Sociological Analysis and The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. She served as president of the national Association for the Sociology of Religion, helped organize and served as the first chair of the American Sociological Association’s Section on the Sociology of Religion and is past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Ebaugh received two consecutive research grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts to study religion and the new immigrants in the United States. With a major grant from the Lilly Endowment, she studied inter-faith coalitions and their provision of social services. She routinely teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the sociology of religion and the study of world religions.,,,!/rumiforum

Thursday, May 24, 2012

FAQ - Frequently-Asked Questions about Rumi Forum and its Honorary President Fethullah Gülen

Q: What is the Rumi Forum?

A: The Rumi Forum was founded upon the principles of encouraging and fostering dialogue between people of diverse backgrounds by way of projects of engagement through intercultural and interfaith dialogue. Since its inception the forum has grown to be a Washington DC icon in regards to social harmony projects with the intention of peace building and increasing community cohesion through luncheons, conferences & seminars, intercultural trips, television broadcasts, Iftar DInners, the Annual Rumi Peace and Dialogue Awards amongst numerous other intellectual, cultural, civic and social programming. Its names comes from the 13th century poet and sufi thinker Mevlana Celalleddin Rumi - whose poetry is read more than any other contemporary poet - encourages all humanity to “Come come whoever you are, come!” The inspiration for founding such dialogue centers is Fethullah Gulen. It has chapters in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Q: Is Rumi Forum (RF) an Islamic organization?
A: No, RF is open to people of all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. In fact, among the people who attend our activities, 8 out of 10 are not Muslim. In Washington DC our audiences and participants include experts from various Think tanks, Government agencies, Universities and Research Institutes, NGOs, Embassies, Media outlets and news agencies amongst others.

Q: Where does RF get its funding?
A: RF is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization. The majority of RF’s funding comes from individual donors including business leaders and moms and dads. Certain programs are successful due to the number of volunteers we enlist - they spend their time and resources to make the forum a success. We do not receive state or federal funding.

Q: How is the RF involved with the Gülen movement?
A: Some of the founders and donors of RF are participants of the so-called Gülen, or Hizmet movement. RF was inspired by the movement’s philosophy and goals. We both are focused on bringing together communities in order to promote social hamrony, cooperation, partnership and community service through intercultural dialog, projects of engagement and conversation.

The Gülen/Hizmet Movement

Q: What is the Gülen/Hizmet movement?
A: The Gülen/Hizmet movement is a values-driven social movement and philosophy that advances intercultural and interfaith dialog, education and community service as tools to build a better and more harmonious society.

The movement was inspired by the philosophy and teachings of Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish scholar, author and advocate. However, participants more often refer to it as the Hizmet Movement -- hizmet means “service” or, in a broader sense, serving your community – because the movement is about serving something bigger than one person or oneself.

Q: What are the movement’s values?
A: They are core values shared by the vast majority of Americans and millions of others around the world: education, human rights, freedom of expression, spirituality democracy, social justice, dialogue and community service. And importantly, the Gülen/Hizmet movement advocates taking tangible individual action to support these values.

Q: Is the Gülen/Hizmet movement a political movement?
A: No, it does not have a political agenda and reflects diverse political views.

Q: Is the Gülen/Hizmet movement a religious (Islamic) movement?
A: No. Although it originated in a community of Muslims, it has grown into a broad movement that embraces diverse religious affiliations and is built on intercultural and interfaith dialog. Indeed, the movement has been criticized by radical Islamists as “not Muslim enough.” For example, when the Taliban took control in Afghanistan, they closed down some schools that had been founded by people who were inspired by Gülen; fortunately, the new government has allowed them to reopen.

Q: Is the Gülen/Hizmet movement a Turkish movement?
A: No, although it began in Turkey, it has become a truly international movement because it speaks to core values held by Americans and others around the world.

Q: Where is the Gülen/Hizmet movement based?
A: The Gülen/Hizmet movement is not centralized; there is no legal entity or office. Fethullah Gülen’s teachings inspired the movement but he has no legal/institutional authority.

Q: Who is Fethullah Gülen?
A: A Turkish teacher, advocate and author who is considered by many to be one of the world’s most influential religious thinkers. In 2008, Gülen ranked #1 in the poll of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines, intended to identify “the thinkers who are shaping the tenor of our time.” For example, Gülen had a personal audience with the late Pope John Paul II in 1996 in recognition of his contributions to interfaith understanding, was praised by former U.S. president Bill Clinton for his contribution to mutual understanding, and received New York-based East-West Institute’s peace award in 2011. Most recently Patriarch Bartholemew, Head of the Orthodox World praised Gulen in an April 12, 2012 interview in the Chicago Tribune,

Q: Is Fethullah Gülen an Islamist or a secularist?
A: Fethullah Gülen is often misunderstood or mischaracterized because he doesn’t fit neatly into the common stereotypes. Some facts that illustrate his perspective:
● He has consistently opposed violence and turning religion into a political ideology.
● He has publicly called Osama Bin Laden a “monster.”
● He has condemned all suicide bombings unconditionally and Saddam Hussein’s missile attacks on Israel during the first Gulf War.
● He criticized the 2010 Gaza flotilla organizers’ failure to seek accord with Israel before attempting to deliver aid.
● He has actively advanced the empowerment of ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey, including the anticipated reopening of the Halki Greek Orthodox seminary on Istanbul’s Heybeliada Island and the Turkish government’s return of property to religious minorities.
● He supported allowing Kurdish citizens of Turkey to be educated in their native tongue.
● He has publicly promoted democracy as the best form
of governance and supported Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

Q: What is Fethullah Gülen’s view on America?
A: Gülen praises American democracy and has praised America’s strong democratic position and legal system. After 9/11, Gülen placed an advertisement in The Washington Post condemning the attack. He said, “We condemn in the strongest of terms the latest terrorist attack on the United States of America, and feel the pain of the American people at the bottom of our hearts.”

Q: Some say that Fethullah Gülen has tried to stop publications that perceive him in a negative light. Is this true?
A: Gülen has never tried to stop the publication of media coverage of him or the movement. In fact, Gülen talks about the crucial nature of freedom in some of his books, and lists free thinking and freedom of expression as one of the aspects and characteristics of a virtuous generation. Dozens of publications that stridently attack Gülen’s teachings have been in circulation for several years and have continued being reprinted even after their authors have been found guilty by Turkish courts of libel and slander. (see Jim Harrington’s response regarding this: )

Q: What about claims by some that Fethullah Gülen has a “hidden agenda” to go back to Turkey and seize control of the government?
A: The supposed “evidence” of that that claim is a videotape of Gülen’s sermons that actually consists of pieces of several sermons deliberately taken out of context and spliced together in order to be misleading. As human rights attorney James C. Harrington noted in an April 2012 article, a Turkish trial court has ruled that the videotape was fabricated. (

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

OPEN DEMOCRACY Anatolian Muslim hood: humanising capitalism?

Anatolian Muslimhood: humanising capitalism?

The influential network of the Islamic Turkish thinker Fethullah Gülen is a challenging fusion of faith and modernity, finds Max Farrar in Istanbul.
About the author
Max Farrar is a sociologist  at Leeds Metropolitan University.
A week in Istanbul can hardly fail to be an enriching experience for the intellectually curious visitor - even more when this great city, and Turkey generally, is at the heart of so many of the world's shaping concerns of faith and politics. This was certainly the case for me, when I stayed in Istanbul as a guest of the London-based Dialogue Society  which supports the ideas and aims of the influential Islamic thinker Fethullah Gülen. 
These days of intense and enjoyable discussion - against the backdrop of escalating legal and political dispute in Turkey - took place in a conference room, in mosques, and over meals in people's houses. The participants were around forty in all; almost all the visitors were academics. The Turkish hosts were the majority; the guests came northern Europe and the United States, and included people from a variety of Christian denominations as well as atheists. The atmosphere was informal.
Our common interest lay in examining the ideas and practices that flow from Fethullah Gülen's  thirty years of searching for truth through incremental renewals of the Islamic faith (see M Hakan Yavuz & John L Esposito, eds., Turkish Islam and the Secular State  , Syracuse University Press, 2003).
The western media coverage of Gülen and his movement (such as it is) has concentrated on two questions: whether they really are as good as they seem, and whether this is the "moderate" bulwark against the Islamists that "the west" so desperately seeks. The first is an important issue because the Kemalite Turks who have ruled the country since the republic's foundation on 29 October 1923 are certain that the movement's real aim is sinister: to overturn Kemal Atatürk's  secular constitution and impose a form of Islamic fundamentalism (see Erik J Zürcher, A History of Modern Turkey  , IB Tauris, 2004).
Is there a hidden agenda? The Dialogue Society has been working with my university  in northern England for almost two years now with the explicit, agreed aim of subjecting the Gülen movement to academic scrutiny. The latest gathering was designed both to further the intellectual debate initiated at an international conference in 2007 and to bring the media and business arms of the network into full view.  
The wealth and the spirit
The movement appears to be very rich, leading to questions about the source  of its money (with the implication that if the money is "bad", then the movement must be too). The answer seems to be: voluntary donations, largely from rich businessmen. The Gülen network's organisations - mainly schools  , based in over 100 countries - are publicly registered and subject to legal scrutiny. Their members are also highly motivated, as reflected in the fact that Fethullah Gülen was (in July 2008) voted the world's most significant intellectual in the respected intellectually monthly journal Prospect  .
If there were any secret and "bad" funding it is near-certain that the Kemalites would have unearthed it by now. After all, the state agencies' intelligence-gathering is a central feature in the alleged "Ergenekon" plot  against the Gülen-influenced government which is now in its trial stage (see Bill Park, "Ergenekon: Turkey's ‘deep state' in the light", 7 August 2008). But, if the Gülen movement really is what it claims to be - a tolerant, pro-democracy, socially conservative, European Union-oriented movement which promotes modern, secular education and favours advanced business methods - the Kemalites must be very worried about it. It has, after all, displaced them from their position at the centre of Turkish cultural life by democratic means.  But if they are what they claim to be, they are no threat to secularists who respect moderate forms of religious practice.
At the event, we listened to the stories of men from humble backgrounds who had after years of work and investment recently become rich; they now supported the movement's drive for an ethical capitalism. They seemed to personify the argument of the Nobel prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk  (in his memoir Istanbul: Memories of a City  ) that the elite's cosiness with the Turkish Kemalite military is based on the shared fear that people rooted in or close to the great unwashed mass of urban and rural (and Muslim) working people are on the verge of gaining power.
The Gülen people seemed at peace with themselves. There was no sign of what Pamuk describes as the "spiritual void" in the elite among whom he grew up - whose privileged children n public talk of mathematics and football, but "grapple with the most basic questions of trembling confusion and painful solitude".
A tradition in focus
In my view, the movement  is what it says it is. The encounter with it raises in my mind three issues, more interesting than the questions posed in much of the western media.
The first is the way the movement responds in practice to those who criticise Islam's patriarchal bias. The women we met from the Gülen movement were as impressively intelligent, as fully engaged in public life and as confident and outgoing as their equivalents in the west (see "Sex and Power in Turkey: Feminism, Islam and the Maturing of Turkish Democracy  ", European Stability Initiative, 2007). Women compose about three-quarters of the workforce at the  Zaman media group, whose publications - such as the impressive Today's Zaman  - are close to the movement.
The Qur'anic verses which insist on women's equal human status with men really do seem to operate in the movement. The women (choose to) obey the injunction to dress modestly; at the same time, the verse "(there) is no compulsion in religion" seems to operate as strongly on this question as it does in the movement's relations with people of other faiths. But, as the Muslim feminist Kecia Ali  points out, the Qur'an does not propose full social equality, however ‘complementary' men's and women's roles are seen to be (see Sexual Ethics And Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence  , Oneworld, 2006).
The second issue is the way the movement places itself in the context of Islam as a whole, not least given its strong commitment  to changing Islamic practice, The movement resists the idea that it is reformist. "Renewal" is as far as Fethullah Gülen himself will go, because he insists that he is absolutely rooted in the Qur'an and thehadith.
These roots in tradition are the only thing they have in common with the salafi current of rigorous ("fundamentalist") Islamism that has widespread influence in Saudi Arabia. It is precisely in sharing and being part of this tradition, and having a recognised scholar of Islam at its head, that gives the movement such potential to rally influence Muslims worldwide (see Ehsan Masood, "A modern Ottoman  ", Prospect, July 2008).
To the outsider, it looks like major developments are taking place. The movement deliberately builds schools, rather than mosques; its educational model may be elitist, but it offers bursaries for the poor, and girls and boys are equally welcome. In justification, they reiterate that the Prophet Mohammed insisted that all people must develop and use their powers of reasoning (see Patricia Crone, "What do we really know about Mohammed?", 31 August 2006).  
In public discourse, the Gülen movement accuses the Kemalites of "fundamentalist secularism" - since the Kemalites use secularism as a stick to beat down the supporters of Gulen. But the movement strongly supports a western-style secular state, on two grounds: this is the model that truly separates the state from religion (rather than subordinating religion to the state, as in modern Turkey under the Kemalists); and it guarantees freedom to worship in any way that people choose (thus making "no compulsion..." a reality).
In deciding which political system should be favoured, the movement's method is an artful fusion. The Qur'anic past is again invoked to establish the movement's theological credentials (it invokes the prophet's introduction of inclusive decision-making in Medina as its model), but this sits alongside a passionate advocacy of democracy (a radical break here with the salafi denunciation of "man-made laws").  
Fethullah Gülen  is in the centre of Islamic belief that the Qur'an is the revealed word of God, and thus cannot be modified. But the prophet's own practice, he goes on, initiated the processes of interpretation that have been continuously developed for the past 1,400 years. These processes are influenced by the conditions of their time, and their geographical location. The implication could be drawn that this - Turkish and modern - movement is developing an Anatolian Muslimhood which might influence other formations of Muslimness.
The constraints of character
The third issue the encounter led me to reflect on is the rather quaint notion of "character" (especially in light of recent discussion on this topic in the British context about the search  for public policies that can enforce "pro-social behaviour"). It is instructive in this respect to note the character of the people I met in the Gülen movement (students, journalists, business-people, academics and volunteers) did appear to embody the movement's values of sincerity, openness, respect, empathy and concern for the other. Their warmth and care shows every sign that this is indeed a movement producing thinking, compassionate human beings.
These kind people are, though, just as committed to neo-liberal capitalism as the western leaders - politicians, financiers, central-bank governors - who are currently engaged in frantic efforts to consolidate it in face of systemic crisis. Fethullah Gülen may have created a fascinating variant on Max Weber's message about the Protestant ethic's symbiosis with the spirit of capitalism, yet he emphasises none of Weber's darker messages about modernity (see "Islamic Calvinists: Change and Conservatism in Central Anatolia  ", European Stability Initiative, 2005). In the end, therefore, what I think we were witnessing in Istanbul was the emergence of yet another effort by spiritual people to humanise a monster. It is probably the best organised and most coherent effort yet; but, as with all the world's religions, this movement seems unable fully to confront the massive injustices and inequalities that capitalism engenders.


GOODNESS & MERCY -Cynthia Butler on Fethullah Gulen and Rumi Forum

Goodness and Mercy

Are Following you all the days of your life.

Which is why the Gulen Movement and the Rumi Forum are in America. It's the other side of Islam- the side that built civilizations before Europe existed as we know it. There is an Islam which is kind, merciful, peaceful and nothing like the screaming Islam of 'terrorists' neocons wanted us to associate with the word 'Muslim' There are Muslims who are deeply devoted to peace, peace-making, inter-religious dialogue and building bridges of hope, prosperity and Love between all peoples. Gulen is a guy who has been accused of being too much muslim for the Secularist Turks who revere Attaturks Secular reform. They fear he has engineered a secret coup from a wooden bunker in the Poconos. Gulen apparently advocates a model for higher educational advancement, building schools of higher learning all across the world. He appears to be a new prophet (small "p" because they believe Mohammed was the last legitimate prophet and there are no more) of a new Islamic Enlightenment which is friendly to democracy and capitalism. In fact beating capitalism at its own game.

The Rumi Forum in Washington, DC is a think tank of religious reconciliation and inter-religious dialogue and cultural exchange. It is an Embassy of Enlightenment and Hospitality, inviting Congresspeople, dignitaries, Ambassadors, Scholars, Authors and Religious figures who have one goal: mutual understanding, loving co-existence and peace-building through dialogue. The Rumi Forum has honored Priests, Diplomats and Congresspeople, heads of NGOs and Foundations and Professors. It is a brilliant organization founded on something so exceptionally simple it evades modern life: Loving Kindness.

Leslie Stahl recently did a 60 minutes episode on the Gulen Movement [here] and the President of the Rumi Forum ( filled in the gaps of her interview [here]on their website regarding what it is all about. It is a remarkable movement that embraces all faiths and people and is the clearest expression of God and holiness outside a church I have ever seen. click: RUMI FORUM

In the last two days they have had two speakers, both Jewish, who were welcomed graciously to discuss their ideas, theology, books and missions. One was a Professor of Conflict Resolution at George Mason's School for Conflict Resolution and the other, the son of an Iraqi Kurdistan Jewish immigrant who was a Professor in Aramaic (the language of Jesus he reminded us) at UCLA. He has recently written a book called "My Father's Paradise" about his journey discovering his father's early childhood in the mountains of Kurdistan. This son, a former journalist, spoke about how the Muslims and Jews in Kurdistan before a mass exodus of Jews from that region in the 1940s were so close as to be considered family or brothers, living in harmony and peaceful mutually protective co-existence. Harmony is a good word, and the name of the Charter schools the movement has set up. Harmony is something musical that comes from a spiritual realm that resonates a balance, a beauty and a reverberating joy. If Rumi was the poet of Love, Gulen is the poet of Harmony-
and his presence in America is a tribute and honor to us. We have an angel among us, one who prefers the quiet of a Pennsylvania mountain stream perhaps to TV interviews or a spotlight.

While his presence may be hidden the fruits of his harmony are not- and you can glimpse some of them at the Rumi Forum in downtown Washington, DC and several other states now. The President of the Forum in America is a jovial Australian of Turkish background (ever meet a Turk with an Australian accent?) who opens his heart and his kitchen to everyone he meets. Lectures often come with lunch because breaking bread together in every tradition builds bonds of friendship and family. Truly, this is a piece of God in a sometimes dark place.

God is Great, God is Merciful and God Loves Us All. On that, we can all agree.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

TIME MAGAZINE A Visit with Turkey's Controversial Religious Movement (ie Fethullah Gulen Movement)

By Piotr Zalewski / Diyarbakir Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Children attend a class at Fatih College in Istanbul April 16, 2008. The 640-pupil school is run by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim preacher who advocates moderate Islam rooted in modern life.

It is Monday evening in Diyarbakir, a city in Turkey's southeast, and a weekly meeting of several local members of the so-called Gulen movement has begun with a book reading. One of the eight men present — this is an all-boys affair — picks up a paperback by Fethullah Gulen, the charismatic Islamic preacher after whom the movement is named, and reads out a few paragraphs. The subject is one of the central tenets of Gulen's philosophy: hizmet, service to others. Once the reading ends, a few of the other members — smiling beneath cropped mustaches — begin to extemporize on the difficulties and rewards of teaching and the challenges of shaping young minds.

Many Turks view the Gulen Movement with suspicion. The group has drawn comparisons among the conspiracy-minded to the freemasons; it has been accused of being a shadow government and more than once of trying to engineer an Islamist takeover of Turkey; and in recent years, some of its opponents have found themselves snared in legal proceedings. There's little reason to expect such issues to come up during an informal gathering of local Gulenists in a place like Diyarbakir. The movement not only forswears any role in politics, but is also said to discourage discussion of political issues among its followers. (A student who stayed at one of the movement's dormitories in Istanbul told me that he, an international relations major, was asked not to read or discuss books on politics in his room.) Still, the next item on the Diyarbakir meeting's agenda comes as something of a surprise.

It involves the day before, Sunday May 13: "What did you do for Mother's Day?"

The question comes from Bilgi Ozdemir, a public school teacher who is presiding over the gathering. A tour de table follows. One of the men reports that he and a group of friends cooked dinner for a group of women. All the time they are the ones cooking, he says, but on Mother's Day "we told them to sit still and let us prepare the food." Another man took a group of moms to a picnic outside Diyarbakir. Yet another organized a sightseeing tour of the city, including visits to a mosque and a reading hall — the local equivalent of a Boys and Girls Club — run by fellow Gulen supporters.

As the meeting progresses, it's hard to avoid the impression that the men, all of whom have regular jobs, have much time for anything other than hizmet. For the months of May and June alone, Ozdemir's circle, one of many similar Gulen groups in Diyarbakir, has scheduled at least a dozen events. Fundraisers, trips, charity functions: one for Nurses Day; another for Disability Week; and still more for the International Day against Drug Abuse. They might as well belong to the Rotary Club. Except that hizmet can be a little all-enveloping.

Nearly half a century after Fethullah Gulen began delivering impassioned sermons in Izmir, a city on Turkey's Aegean coast, the religious movement he helped inspire counts as many as six million followers. (There is no formal membership structure, Gulenists say, making exact numbers impossible to compute.) The largest religious movement in Turkey, Gulen sympathizers are known to run hundreds of schools, several media outlets, including Zaman, the paper with the highest circulation in Turkey, as well as a bank, a number of foundations, and a major charity.

If anything, the tiny, informal gathering in Diyarbakir reveals a side of the Gulen movement that is key to its power — its management at the grass-roots level. Opening an Excel file on his laptop, Ozdemir the teacher asks each of the eight men present to report how much money they have raised for the construction of four new reading halls in the city. Each of the members, Ozdemir tells me, represents a group of lower-level followers who have been asked to pitch in, along with friends, neighbors and family. Celal, a physiotherapist seated to my left, has managed to raise 4,000 lira, or about $2,200. Others report having raised 1,400, 1,500 or 250 lira. Ozdemir carefully records all the sums. For transparency's sake, he tells me, we prefer bank transfers. "If donations are made in cash, we will provide receipts."

Apart from nominal contributions for special projects, it is local businessmen sympathetic to the movement's cause who often foot the Gulenists' bills. "When I was in high school, some people inspired by hizmet helped me financially," says Aladdin Korkutata, who heads DIGIAD, a local business association. "Now that I've reached my target I am happy to help others."

Leading lights within the movement usually insist that that Gulen-affiliated institutions are administered autonomously, with little supervision from above. Meetings in Diyarbakir, however, show that at least here, at the local level, the movement runs a very tight ship. Most local Gulenists have no difficulty producing data about the movement's educational activities. In the southeast as a whole, Gulen followers run 57 elementary schools, Ali Pehlivan, a principal at one of the schools, tells me. In Diyarbakir province alone, another Gulenist says, the movement's 27 reading halls cater to roughly 4,500 children. FEM, a network of Gulen dershanes, or cramming schools, operates 14 local branches, attracting about 11,000 students per year. The total number of FEM branches in Turkey is "roughly" 615.

At one of dershanes, Bulent Ince, the headmaster, explains that 2,000 lira, the price of tuition, buys local high schoolers much more than a 10-month prep course for Turkey's feared university entrance exam. Students, he says, are also assigned so-called teacher-guides, who look after them in and outside of class, and even after they enter college.

The teacher-guides, says Ince, serve as role models. "None of them smoke or drink," he says. Many become the teens' confidants, calling on them regularly, offering advice, teaching them "love for their parents, love for their country, love for others," and "Islamic values." "Sometimes, our kids will share things with their teacher-guides that they will not share with their parents," says Ince. Students can phone their guides late at night to talk about their problems. "It's 24 hour hizmet."

When students enter college — FEM students score better on the entrance exams than most others — they remain under the watchful eye of Gulen followers. If a student goes off to study in another city, says Ince, a teacher will accompany him there and try to place him in a dorm or a house where "people don't smoke and drink, and where they pray." Otherwise, he says, "we will introduce him to our friends, who will keep in touch with him." After graduation, he explains, "we will help him find job, or make him a teacher and send him abroad." As he puts it, "If you're in hizmet, you're never alone."



Pakistan University awards PhD degree to Fethullah Gulen

PU awards PhD degree to Turkish scholar

By: Our Staff Reporter | May 18, 2012 | 

PU awards  PhD degree to  Turkish scholar
LAHORE - Punjab University has awarded an honourary PhD degree to mainstream Turkish scholar, thinker, writer, and poet Muhammad Fethullah Gulen in a ceremony organised at Undergraduate Study Centre on Thursday.
Speaking on the occasion, PU VC Dr Mujahid Kamran said it was pleasurable to award an honorary degree to Muhammad Fethullah Gulen who was world’s renowned scholar. He said PU was breaking with the tradition of awarding honorary degrees to political leadership. He said last honorary degree was awarded to the-then Turkish president in 1986 and now 26 years later we were awarding it to a Turkish scholar.
He said it indicated that our hearts throb with Turkish nation and Turkish people were general leaders of the Muslim world, intellectually and politically. He said in scientific research publications in Islamic world, Turkish stood number one. He said the contribution of Mr Gulen towards the cause of education was deep, significant and worldwide.
The VC said Mr Gulen had a message for the Muslims also particularly relevant to today’s Pakistan. He said message was that we were human being first and anything afterwards. He said that according to his message, we must deal with each other as human being with respect and passion and we must learn to resolve our differences peacefully and with tolerance. He urged the rulers to allocate at least four percent of GDP towards education and 1 per cent to research and development.
Provincial Minister Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor congratulated the PU for conferment of PhD degree on Turkish scholar. He said we had the required potential to progress and Turkey was supporting us in various projects. He said Mr Gulen had inspired young generation towards positive activities.
Zaeem Qadri said without balanced educational system, we could not eliminate social problems.
President Journalists and Writers Foundation Mustafa Yesili thanked Punjab government and Punjab University for precious gift of honorary PhD degree. The message from Mr Gulen was read as he could not come to Pakistan because of illness.
Later on his behalf, President Journalists and Writers Foundation Mustafa Yesili received Phd Degree. A presentation on the services of Mr Gulen was also screened on the occasion. On behalf of chief minister, Minister for Planning and Development Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, Advisor to CM on Higher Education Zaeem Qadri, PU VC Dr Mujahid Kamran, President Journalists and Writers Foundation Mustafa Yesili, Registrar Prof Dr Khan Raas Masood, Maria I Maldonado, a large number of faculty members, columnists, analysts and people from various walks of life participated on the occasion.



BELGIUM - Uni versity of Leuven establishes Fethullah Gülen Chair

Read more:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Freedom award recipient Bartholomew praises Gulen's peace efforts

Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew poses to cameras with Dutch Queen Beatrix after receiving one of a Roosevelt Institute's Four Freedoms Award on May 12, 2012. (Photo: Cihan)

Speaking to Turkish media after the awards ceremony, Bartholomew said he thinks the award he received is a message of peace for Turkey and the world. “All of the recipients are working for peace and friendship. All of them contribute to peace: I as a man of religion and the other as a politician. The Indian lady is fighting poverty. I am honored to contribute to these beautiful efforts. I am thankful to the Roosevelt Institute,” he said.
The patriarch also said he attended a meeting of the Journalists and Writers' Association (GYV), of which Gülen is the honorary chairman, in İstanbul last week and stated that Gülen also contributes much to world peace. “We have been working with these friends [from the GYV] for long years. We are very close to each other as we share the same ideals: peace and unity. We appreciate their service for education. Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi contributed and is still contributing a lot to interreligious dialogue. I met with him in Turkey and the US. We will continue to work together for world peace and our country's well-being. This is our common goal,” he said.
Stating that Gülen has been carrying out successful peace efforts, Bartholomew said he expects Gülen to return to Turkey soon. “We really love him. We hope he comes back soon,” he added.
Gülen is a Turkish Islamic scholar well known for his teachings promoting mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures. Now residing in the US, Gülen has pioneered educational activities in a number of countries, along with efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the world.
He has also written nearly 50 books in Turkish, some of which have been translated into several languages. He was most recently honored with the EastWest Institute's (EWI) 2011 EWI Peace Building Award for his contribution to world peace.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Response to CBS's 60 Minutes on Fethullah Gulen and Gulen (Hizmet) Movement - CBS News

Response to CBS's 60 Minutes

Fethullah Gulen is the Honorary President of the Rumi Forum and on Sunday night, May 12, 60 Minutes aired a report on the Gülen movement, which included many positive aspects but also raised allegations and speculation without including responses to those claims.

The segment clearly stated Mr. Gülen’s commitment to education, interfaith dialogue, tolerance and peace. This shows an effort to tell a balanced story, and we commend the producers for that. However, in the interest of factual accuracy, we also believe it is important to share with you some critical information that 60 Minutes omitted, but is relevant to the story.

Regarding allegations of Mr. Gülen’s political aspirations: First and foremost, Mr. Gülen has always advocated for the separation of religion and politics. On many occasions, he has said that if religion is politicized then both religion and politics suffer, but religion suffers more. Many social scientists have stated that the movement Mr. Gülen inspired is spiritual and social in nature; not political. For instance, see the works of Elizabeth Ozdalga, Nilufer Gole, Greg Barton, Paul Weller, Graham Fuller, Muhammed Cetin, Helen R. Ebaugh and John Esposito among others.

According to Dr. James Harrington, professor of law at the University of Texas who studied Gülen’s legal journey, the charges against him involving police infiltration and an Islamic hidden agenda were “painstakingly discredited in a 48-page opinion” by a three judge trial court, which acquitted him. An appellate panel upheld the verdict and subsequently, a plenary appeals court did the same. (Harrington, James Wrestling with Free Speech, Religious Freedom and Democracy in Turkey The Political Trials and Times of Fethullah Gülen, University Press 2011.)

Regarding “state department cables”: The communications referenced in the story were not official statements from the U.S. State Department. These were intercepted communications from and between government employees in the Turkish consulate and embassy offices. These employees were not making official statements but were making comments colored by their own opinion, ideology and local contacts. In contrast, many high ranking officers, elected officials and dignitaries in the United States and throughout the world, have made public statements commending Mr. Gülen for his commitment to intercultural and interfaith dialogue. For examples of such praise, please visit the web site of the Gülen Institute (

Regarding the incarceration of critics: Mr. Gülen has consistently supported freedom of the press and, in a written statement, categorically denied any involvement in the jailing of journalists. Indeed, tens of books defaming Gülen have been in circulation for decades in Turkey, and some of them have been reprinted many times. Their authors continue to speak their minds, write their columns and publish books. One of the most defamatory books against Gülen recently saw its 22nd reprint. Recently, in her book entitled “Is the (Gulen) Community Under Every Stone?,” independent journalist Nazli Ilicak unequivocally refuted such claims against Gulen. See also Harrington’s response to The New York Times:

Regarding the assertion that “followers” regard Mr. Gulen as a “living prophet”: This statement is, first of all, factually wrong and ignorant of the Islamic tradition. In Islam, Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) is the last prophet and nobody can assume the title of prophethood after him. Irresponsible and disrespectful use of such a term is grounds for apostasy. The book that popularized this claim, which is circulated in certain fringe blogs, is the worst kind of conspiracy text, going so far as to suggest that Mr. Gülen is being used by the CIA, the FBI and the Vatican to establish an Islamic state in Turkey (Merdan Yanardag, Kusatilan Turkey – Turkey Surrounded, 22nd print, Destek Yayinlari, Istanbul, 2011).

Regarding Mr. Gülen’s role in the movement: The Gülen movement is an open, amorphous and inclusive transnational social movement. According to noted social scientist Helen R. Ebaugh, “Unlike sects or cults that tend to isolate their members from societal involvement while emphasizing strict discipline, authoritarian leadership and the rites of membership, the movement has no formal leadership or hierarchy. It has no procedures, ceremonies or initiation rites for becoming a member. Likewise, the movement has not been regarded as heretical or extreme by the public, the media or the courts, either in Turkey or abroad.” (Ebaugh, Helen R. The Gülen Movement, Springer 2010). Mr. Gulen’s role in the movement is primarily inspirational and motivational through his work and life example.

Unfortunately, not all of the content that 60 Minutes gathered for this piece was included in the televised broadcast, which impacted the editorial balance of the piece. I know that the Turkish American interviewed for the piece was asked questions for a very long period. Only 30 seconds were used.

Additional interviews, including expanded portions of one interview, and a discussion with Mr. Abdulhamid Bilici, director of Cihan News Agency are available in the “Web Extras” section of the show’s website (also on our blog) Additionally, 60 Minutes Overtime, a web-only feature, offered more insight from the perspective of the producer and correspondent Lesley Stahl.

A major component of the story was a highly successful charter school system. For questions regarding this school system please refer to their web site at

The Rumi Forum remains unwavering in its commitment to gather people of diverse backgrounds together in the spirit of social harmony, mutual trust, partnership and community service. Cooperating with the news media on stories like this is essential in order to advance this mission and to eliminate or reduce false stereotypes, prejudices and unjustified fears.

We have posted additional information on our website, to serve as a resource for people seeking more information. I’d like to thank you for your ongoing support for the Rumi Forum and the positive goals we share. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to continuing our work together to achieve a more harmonious world.

Kindest Regards,

Emre Celik
Rumi Forum

Today's Zaman: Halal Secularism - IHSAN YILMAZ

Halal secularism

MADISON -- I am in the US to chair a panel and also present a paper at the Third International Conference on Islam at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This year’s theme is Islam and democracy.

My paper reflects my recent studies on Islam-secularism-democracy issues that I have also touched upon in this column from time to time. I have been trying to analyze if and to what extent an Islamic secularism or “halal secularism,” as it were, is possible. The issue does not, of course, concern Turkey, and given the fact that the Middle Eastern Islamic nations are hopefully entering a phase of democracy, it is crucial to understand how Islam will accommodate different ethnicities and, more importantly, religions.

Older versions of Islamic “multiculturalist, multireligious” political schemes cannot obviously be applied in a similar fashion in the 21st century where religious minorities will not be content with the status of dhimmi or politico-legal arrangement of a legally pluralist millet system. They will not settle for less than being equal citizens. It is crystal clear that a new ijtihad (independent decision making with regard to Islamic law) is needed on this issue. Then, the vital question is how Muslim democrats will conceptualize new Islamic political theories that will enable very citizen -- regardless of faith -- to be equal citizens, without making any ethnic or religious group superior to or privileged over the others. With regards to ethnicity and race, Islam does not have a problem. Nevertheless, as I said, a new ijtihad is needed on how to accommodate different faiths and religions constitutionally equal in the public sphere and also in legislative activity. I argue in my paper that Fethullah Gülen’s new ijtihad on state-religion issues could be beneficial to study. The Turkish case may be unique in several aspects, so it may not be a model for the Muslim world. However, it is obvious that ijtihads that are normative politico-philosophical formulations could easily be transplanted and applied in different localities and contexts.

I try to show that in Gülen’s thinking one can find a convergence of Habermasian and Shatibian ideas with regards to human rights, primarily freedom of conscience and religion. John Rawls argued that “reasonable comprehensive doctrines, religious or non-religious, may be introduced in public political discussion at any time, provided that in due course proper political reasons -- and not reasons given solely by comprehensive doctrines -- are presented that are sufficient to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines are said to support.” In response, Habermas puts that this epistemic burden -- that each time religious communities and movements have to “find an equivalent in a universally accessible language for every religious statement they pronounce” as part of the duty of civility -- results in a sort of self-censorship. Instead, Habermas argues that this strict demand can only be laid at the door of politicians, who within state institutions are subject to the obligation to remain neutral in the face of competing worldviews. Thus, religious citizens and actors can express and justify their convictions in a religious language if they cannot find secular “translations” for them. It is the legislators’ duty to translate these demands into a secular language.

Gülen’s conception of Islam-friendly democracy is key to understanding his approach to sacred and secular relations. Gülen does not see a contradiction between Islam and democracy. With regards to state-society-religion issues, he has argued, unlike the Islamists, that passive Anglo-Saxon secularism -- which guarantees human rights and freedoms, including freedom of religion -- could provide a wider framework for Muslims to practice their religion comfortably and for other religious minorities to also benefit from human rights. In his view, the faithful can comfortably live in secular environments if secularism is religion-friendly and understood as the state not being founded on religion, and hence not interfering with religion or religious life, as well as remaining equidistant to all religions in a neutral manner. It can be argued that Gülen’s approach to sacred-secular relations is similar to the First Amendment of the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” since he has highlighted that Islam does not need a state to survive and that civil society or a civilian realm in liberal-democratic settings is sufficient for its individual and social practice.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fethullah Gulen and the 60 minutes 'web extras' - CBS News

If you saw CBS's 60 Minutes report on Fethullah Gulen and missed the 'web extras' then be sure to watch them here, below. These definitely provide necessary info that didn't make the main piece.

Read Rumi Forum's official response here

*More links to media articles on Gulen - New York Times, The Economist, Foreign Policy, PBS, Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, Prospect Magazine, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Reuters... 

The Challenge of the Empty Chair: Fethullah Gulen

Schools vs Mosques

Forging an Islamic democracy

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hurriyet Daily News: The protocols of the learned elders of Fethullah Gulen by Mustafa Akyol

Despite the 2 years that has past since this article was written, today it still clearly reflects the prejudice and misunderstandings by a few of Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen (Hizmet) Movement.

The protocols of the learned elders of Fethullah Gülen

HDN | 3/16/2010 12:00:00 AM | Mustafa AKYOL
According to Turkey's ultra-secularists, the country is being stalked by a cunning enemy that never sleeps, always schemes and works behind every institution.
If you have the chance to talk to a staunchly secular Turk these days and want to hear something mind-boggling, just ask him a simple question: “What the hell is this Gülen movement?”
It is very likely that you will then listen to a chilling conspiracy theory about how this evil cadre of “Islamists” is taking over Turkey step by step. You will learn how they have “infiltrated” every state institution, from the police to the judiciary, and now are defusing the power of the military, the last bastion of secularism. You might even hear that the 69-year-old Mr. Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in the United States since 1999, is similar to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the sense that he will soon come back to bless an “Islamic revolution” prepared by his disciples.

The Imam in America
But if you want to get your facts right, don’t stop there. Ask the same Turkish ultra-secularist about the role of the U.S. in this evil scheme. It is very likely that he will tell you that Gülen is “supported by the CIA.” He will explain you how America wants to create “moderate Islamic regimes” in the Middle East, along with an independent Kurdistan – and, of course, a Greater Israel – and how Gülen perfectly fits into all these plots. Your friend will even quote a recent bestseller titled “Amerika’daki İmam” (The Imam in America) by Ergün Poyraz, a staunch Kemalist, to “prove” all this.
To me, however, all this rather sounds a bit like The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the notorious anti-Semitic forgery. In both The Protocols and the conspiracy theories about Gülen, the theme is similar: There is a cunning enemy that is secretly, yet steadily achieving its plan for total domination. The enemy never sleeps, always schemes and works “everywhere... behind every institution."
I, as you can imagine, have a different explanation for the Gülen movement.
First, I believe that its extent and influence is exaggerated. I actually know this from personal experience: Despite the fact that I have stated many times that I am not a follower of Gülen, or anybody else, I routinely get aggressive comments, and even hate mail, from Kemalists who take it for granted that I am yet another “Gülen lackey.”
In fact, Turkey’s ultra-secularists have lately come to believe that anybody who is conservative, pro-Islamic or even just critical of the military must be a “Gülenist.” Recently, even a more refined Kemalist commentator defined the anti-militarist daily Taraf as a “pro-Gülen newspaper.” One could rather define it as the Turkish paper with the highest number of atheists and agnostics among its editors and writers.
The truth is that with a few million followers, and lots of schools, media outlets and business networks, the Gülen movement is certainly powerful, but not all-dominant in any part of society. Within the Islamic camp, they are just one of the many different communities. For the secularists, all of these people can be the same – they all pray too often and their wives wear the hated headscarf. But there are actually various groups of Naqshbandis, Qadiris, “Süleymancıs,” “Erbakancıs” or “Nurcus.” The Gülenists are just one of the several offshoots of the latter tradition.
But what do they aim for Turkey? While the secularist answer is, “to dominate, stupid,” I think they rather want to have a hospitable environment in which they can survive and grow.
To see why, you should look at the group’s origins. Islamic thinker Said Nursi (1878-1960), who laid the foundations for Gülen’s thinking, was a very apolitical figure who believed Islam can best be served in this age by an intellectual and spiritual struggle against atheism and moral decadence. Even this most moderate form of Islam was unacceptable for Kemalism, so, in the latter’s heyday (1925-50), Nursi was repeatedly imprisoned for his books. He and his followers, whose stated goal was “to save people’s afterlife” by preaching “the truths of faith,” only took a deep breath in 1950, when the center-right Democrat Party came to power.

A secret agenda?
Since then, both the followers of Nursi, and of Gülen, who further modernized Nursi’s thoughts and created a global movement out of them, have supported center-right governments. They, meanwhile, distanced themselves from the Islamist parties founded by Necmettin Erbakan, whom they saw as a radical troublemaker. The reason was that the Nursi-Gülen tradition doesn’t envision an “Islamic state.” It rather seeks a liberal-democratic state that will be tolerant to its missionary work, which it carries out through publications, charity and education.
The recent alliance between members of this tradition and the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government should be understood within this context. Members of the Gülen movement supports the AKP because they know that the alternative (a military coup, or a military-orchestrated restoration government) will crack down on them severely, as happened in the late 1990s. This is a survival strategy, in other words, rather than a plot to dominate.
Finally, if the group really has a “secret agenda” to turn Turkey into a “Shariah state,” then it is in deep trouble. For it now has schools in more than 100 countries, most of them non-Muslim and any radical thing it does in Turkey would ruin its reputation and faith mission throughout the whole world.
So, perhaps, the Gülen movement has to dominate the whole world first in order to take over Turkey!
But, well, your secularist Turkish friends might say, isn’t that what all “learned elders” conspire for?