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

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. (