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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

VIDEO - The Economic Potential of Kyrgyzstan" Ambassador Muktar Djumaliev

Muktar Djumaliev became ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to the United States in December 2010.

Born on June 22, 1972, Djumaliev earned an undergraduate economics degree from the National University of the Kyrgyz Republic in 1994, and three years later, he earned his law degree.

Djumaliev began his career in the Department of External Economic Relations of the State Committee on Economy. In 1996 he served as an advisor to the minister of finance. The following year he was put in charge of the Department of External Economic Relations, but then he was transferred to the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic, where he worked as deputy director on Investments and Coordination of Technical Assistance.

In 1998, he was appointed first secretary of the Kyrgyzstan's mission to the United Nations office in Geneva.

In 2001-2002 he studied international law and economics at the World Trade Institute at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

In 2003, Djumaliev served as an expert in President Askar Akayev's Economic Policy Department and he worked as first deputy to the minister of foreign trade and industry.

In 2004, Djumaliev took over as Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva. That same year he became ambassador to Switzerland. He then served as his nation's permanent representative to the United Nations.

Before taking over as ambassador to the U.S., Djumaliev served as first deputy chief to President Roza Otunbayeva from June to December 2010. In addition to serving as ambassador to the U.S., in May 2011, he presented his credentials as the Kyrgyz ambassador to Canada.


Friday, August 30, 2013

"Is the Gülen Movement a continuation of any other previous movement?" by Doğu Ergil

Those who are within the Gülen Movement do not consider themselves the continuation or the extension of any other movement. At a certain time and under the perfect circumstances in Turkish History, the teachings of Fethullah Gülen coincided with what a broad sector of Turkish society was searching for in their hearts. This is what allowed for the birth of such a movement.

The movement, in the words of Fethullah Gülen himself, has produced a link between tradition and modernity. It has produced its own traditions, improved on the commonly held concept of Turkish society and moral life, and marked its own positions from which to view the world. Additionally, it has developed its own organizational model, and has shouldered a universal mission to disseminate its views throughout Turkey and the rest of the world.

Never before has such a social movement, which is able to spread the same message abroad that it teaches within its borders, arisen in Turkey. “There has been no heritage offered to us of this level, be it ideological, political, socio-cultural, or Islamic.”

Then, how does the movement produce the internal cohesion, which is a source of dynamism and strength? Stated differently, how does the movement maintained and how does it generate the motivation necessary to maintain internal solidarity? The questions can be answered in two ways:

1. The values that Gülen represents and the interpretations are in harmony with the time in which he delivers them to a society that is searching for the exact message of solidarity and spirituality that he is delivering.

2. Gülen stands out as a strong and trusted leader. He, unlike others who quickly disappoint after the most brief encounter, does not contradict what he preaches with what he does; he is not after any material or political interest; he does not demand any position; his actions alone convince others of his integrity. He engenders loyalty among his followers, and he serves as both a civic leader and spiritual guide.

The movement is distinguished from the other Islamic movements. There are religious movements today involving many political and sociological researches in the East and the West, but they were born as a continuation of experiences in the past. They claim that they are the inheritors of a past socio-political movement. The fact that these movements anchor their future in the past throws them into an unrealistic thought-space: The tomorrow that they offer is a yesterday that they cannot bring back. Thus, they are attempting to construct an artificial “today.” This often leads to fanaticism or violence, at times as far as justifying suicide bombings of innocents.

On the other hand, the Gülen Movement appears to have succeeded, in part, by correctly reading the change necessary in Turkey. The members of the movement are those who found meaning in the teachings of Gülen at a juncture when a traditional society was transforming itself into a modern one. Gülen encourages people to embrace the change and not to limit themselves to small worlds, but to become part of the larger one. They, in turn, have come to see the whole world, not only their own country, as the terrain of their mental and spiritual land. The fact that they go to every corner of the world as students, teachers, technicians, and businessmen is an indication that they have been united with this teaching and became citizens of the globe.

Above all else, Gülen is a religious leader and his followers are religious people. It is immensely satisfying to them that they have been carrying out the requirements of their religion through the inspiration that they draw from Gülen. They see their success as an indication that God is pleased with their work. While some certain men of religion interpret their religious texts and principles in a way, which constrains abilities of the believers and limits their freedoms, Gülen interprets the same texts in a way that advocates individual initiative, self-improvement, and entrepreneurship. This provides the movement with a great dynamism and influence.

Another common characteristic of the followers of Gülen is that the majority has great upward mobility. They are among the modernizing population and they are seeking a foothold in this new space. For this reason, the Gülen Movement does not harbor any animosity towards other groups, which may be slipping from their current position.

If there is any oppositional stance within the group, it is against those who do not sufficiently understand the movement, or against the practices that perpetuate moral degeneration. However, even in these instances, they prefer to express these disagreements with a cultural nomenclature (enlightenment and communication of the message}, rather than with a political terminology.

The movement places great emphasis on both education and knowledge of world affairs in order to achieve this upward mobility. This motivates them to learn different languages and to live and work all around the globe. This sort of effort is a cure for both fundamentalism and obscurantism. This desire for cooperation and communication is further emphasized by the efforts for intercultural and interreligious dialog in the areas where they operate.

The movement takes extra care to share the common language of peace that it has developed with other religious and cultural groups. Followers view themselves as belonging to a social movement, a nation, a religion, and the great family of humanity. To neglect any one of these would make them lesser individuals. Because of this way of thinking, they do not see themselves as an isolated group. They have one foot in the circle of the nation and religion and the other in every corner of the world.

When the members of the Gülen Movement describe where they stand, it becomes easier to understand why they have no quarrel with the universal values of the West, as they have none with the values of their own country. This keeps them at a place away from political disputes and polarization. They simply do not have any time to worry about petty political matters. They are too busy working, teaching, talking, and learning under many different administrations within all sorts of cultures, all around the world.

Their concern is not with the behavior of political systems, but with people. How do they define this ideal that they are striving for? Is it simply religious, obedient, and otherworldly? After all, this is the classical definition of what it means to be a pious person. This is not the sole type of person that the members of the movement aspire to become. Through the inspiration and exhortation of Gülen, they seek to think, learn, work, produce and transcend themselves in order to be of the world and make sure to share with the needy the value produced in the process. Their lower limit is their families and the relatively modest situation from which they came, but they have no upper limit.

It can be observed that these views give the movement a great flexibility and compatibility. As followers become successful, their trust in Gülen’s leadership and their loyalty increases. They no longer wait on the concrete directives of Gülen to act. Instead, they consult among themselves with the direction or inspiration they get from him. They make decisions on their own and move forward. Because the sense of solidarity and sacrifice among the members is so strong, the time between making the decision and executing it is minimal.

The Gülen Movement has been labeled “right wing” and has been criticized by the “radical right-wing.” When asked about the reason for this criticism on both sides, the members of the movement emphasize that they are impartial: They are on neither side of the social and political polarization; they are not a party to any fight. They express themselves in the cultural field. What they desire is a society where differences are reconciled, ethical values are observed and good quality people lead. With their modest means and through solidarity with each other, they are trying to contribute to the production of people of ethical and sympathetic excellence. Many religious circles do not understand this social aspiration, and often criticize them as not being religious enough, as if being religious consists only of worship. All the principles, values, and advices are for the happiness of human beings, in this world and the next. Without the believer there can be no belief and the faith of the ignorant would not be in accordance with the will of God. For this reason they have no relations with any religious or political movement or organization.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

VIDEO - Towards an Islamic Enlightenment The Gulen Movement M. Hakan Yavuz

M. Hakan Yavuz offers an insightful and wide-ranging study of the Gulen Movement, one of the most imaginative developments in contemporary Islam. Founded in Turkey by the Muslim thinker Fethullah Gulen, the Gulen Movement aims to disseminate a ''moderate'' interpretation of Islam through faith-based education.

Its activities have fundamentally altered religious and political discourse in Turkey in recent decades, and its schools and other institutions have been established throughout Central Asia and the Balkans, as well as western Europe and North America. Consequently, its goals and modus operandi have come under increasing scrutiny around the world.

Yavuz introduces readers to the movement, its leader, its philosophies, and its practical applications. After recounting Gulen's personal history, he analyzes Gulen's theological outlook, the structure of the movement, its educational premise and promise, its financial structure, and its contributions (particularly to debates in the Turkish public sphere), its scientific outlook, and its role in interfaith dialogue. Towards an Islamic Enlightenment shows the many facets of the movement, arguing that it is marked by an identity paradox: despite its tremendous contribution to the introduction of a moderate, peaceful, and modern Islamic outlook-so different from the Iranian or Saudi forms of radical and political Islam-the Gulen Movement is at once liberal and communitarian, provoking both hope and fear in its works and influence.

M. Hakan Yavuz is a professor of political science at the University of Utah.Yavuz received his earlier education in Ankara, Turkey, graduated with B.A. from Siyasal Bilgiler Fakultesi, Ankara.  He received his M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and spent a semester at the Hebrew University, Israel (1990) and received his Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998 in political science. He has held MacArthur and Rockefeller fellowships.  He has taught at Waseda University in Tokyo, Central European University in Hungary, Sarajevo University in Bosnia, Manas University in Kirghizstan, and the Baku State University in Azerbaijan.

Yavuz published a number of books: Toward an Islamic Enlightenment: The Gülen Movement (Oxford University Press, 2013); with Isa Blumi, War and Nationalism: The Balkan Wars, 1912-1913 and Their Sociopolitical Implications (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013 in press); with Peter Sluglett, War and Diplomacy: The 1877-78 Russo-Ottoman War (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2011); Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey (Cambridge University Press, 2009); Islamic Political Identity in Turkey (Oxford University Press, 2003/2005); with John Esposito,  Turkish Islam and the Secular State (Syracuse University Press, 2003); The Emergence of a New Turkey: Democracy and the AK Parti (The University of Utah Press, 2006).

Yavuz also carried out an extensive fieldwork in the Middle East,in Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan, and in the Balkans to examine the relationship between Islam and nationalism and the preservation and dissemination of Islamic knowledge under socialism.  He is an author of more than 40 articles on Islam, Islamic modernity, nationalism, Kurdish and Armenian questions, and modern Turkish politics.  He published in Comparative Politics, Middle East Critique, SAIS Review, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Central Asian Survey, Journal of Islamic Studies, and Journal of Palestine Studies. He is an editorial member of Middle East Critique and  Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs.


Monday, August 26, 2013

NEW BOOK: Dialogue Theories

Dialogue Theories gives an accessible introduction to the ideas of ten thinkers who have made insightful contributions to thought on dialogue, from quantum physicist David Bohm, to social theorist Jürgen Habermas, to Islamic scholar and peace advocate Fethullah Gülen.

This book aims to advance theoretical and practical engagement with dialogue by introducing the work of ten individuals who have made important and insightful contributions to thought in this area. The thinkers selected come from diverse fields, from religious studies and interfaith dialogue, through philosophy and social theory, to communication studies, public opinion analysis and even quantum physics.

A great deal of hope seems to be pinned on ‘dialogue’ in the contemporary world. The word is regularly raised in the context of a range of pressing issues, from the need for intercultural understanding in a globalised world, to the economic and ecological crises crying out for creative, collaborative responses, to the political process of policy and law-making at both national and international levels. Dialogue would thus seem to merit serious reflection and experimentation. The thinkers considered in this volume are among those who have afforded it this kind of attention.

This introduction to their work is intended to inform and inspire anyone with an interest in the meaning, value and potential of dialogue, particularly those engaged with dialogue in a professional, academic, voluntary or personal capacity. No background knowledge is assumed. It is hoped that in these pages readers will discover inspiring new thinkers to engage with, and perhaps new facets to more familiar thinkers. The book also includes discussion of a wide range of practical dialogue organisations and projects which may provide further food for thought and ideas for practice.

Rumi Forum President attends VIP Iftars

Emre Celik, President of the Rumi Forum attended VIP Iftars organized during Ramadan 2013. Including State Department Iftar hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, Maryland Governor's Iftar hosted by Governor O'Malley and DC Mayor's Iftar with Mayor Vincent Gray.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

THE CHAUTAUQUAN DAILY: Saritoprak shares knowledge of Turkish traditions and Gülen movement

Zeki Saritoprak, the Nursi Chair of Islamic Studies at John Carroll University, speaks about his homeland of Turkey during an Interfaith Lecture in the Hall of Philosophy at the Chautauqua Institution.


Zeki Saritoprak is the Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University. At 2 p.m. Friday in the Hall of Philosophy, he delivered an Interfaith Lecture on the Gülen movement and on Turkish culture and religion. Saritoprak is a contributing author of Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gülen Movement, edited by Hakan Yavuz and John L. Esposito.

Before discussing Gülen and his Hizmet movement, Saritoprak gave a brief outline of Turkish history, from the start of the Ottoman Empire to the founding of the Republic of Turkey. He spoke on how Islam appeared in Turkey and on the religiosity of modern Turkish people.

Gülen became a prominent Turkish preacher and imam in the 1980s, Saritoprak said. People would come from hundreds of miles away to hear him speak. Gülen’s Hizmet movement is the largest civic movement in the world today, Saritoprak said.

Gülen has been successful in encouraging Turkish Muslims to establish and attend secular schools.

“Muslims have to establish … not religious schools, but just regular, secular high schools,” Saritoprak said, “because [Gülen believes] mathematics is talking about God, physics is talking about God, chemistry is talking about God.”

Among Gülen’s critics are Turks who feel he is not enough of a nationalist, Saritoprak said. Because of Gülen’s emphasis on interfaith dialogue and his connections with leaders of other religious traditions, some Muslims have accused him of secretly being a rabbi or a cardinal.

The Hizmet movement has opened its own schools to promote peace, nonviolence and tolerance, with at least 1,000 schools in Turkey and in more than 40 other countries, Saritoprak said.

“In the generation that [is being] educated in these schools … I think we have a good promise of our future,” he said.

He noted that the Hizmet movement has also opened hospitals and has been involved in relief efforts; for example, those in Haiti and New Orleans. The movement’s newspaper is one of the most widely read in Turkey, Saritoprak said.

Gülen has held meetings with figures such as the chief rabbis of Israel and Pope John Paul II, and he is generally respected among the Jewish and Christian communities for bringing Muslims into dialogue with those of other faiths, Saritoprak said.

“I think the most visible part — and sometimes criticized part — of this movement is interfaith dialogue,” Saritoprak said.

VIP Iftars with numerous DC organizations

Rumi Forum organize dialogue and dinner nights on the occasion of Ramadan 2013. Numerous organization participated amongst them:

National Press Club

The Brookings Institution

RAND Corporation

Department of Justice

Embassy of Azerbaijan

Embassy of Kyrgyzstan

Embassy of South Africa

American University

DC Attorney's Office

State Department

Washington Hebrew Congregation

Baptist Pastors


Department of Education

Congressional Research Service

The forum also organized a joint iftar dinner with TAA bring together VIP guests and various speakers including Representative Keith Ellison (MN) and Peter Kovach, a retired member of the Senior Foreign Service.

The forum also organized an iftar dinner that brought together students from the forum's Turkish classes and previous participants from the forum's Turkey Study Trips.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rumi Forum organizes Home Iftars

Rumi forum organized numerous home iftar dinners during Ramadan 2013. People from government, media, thinktanks, Ambassadors, universities and NGOs were invited to partake in an important tradition and also to engage with people of various backgrounds. The most unique meal was hosted by Georgetown academics (of Non-Muslim background) in their home.