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

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fethullah Gulen Deplores Recent Attacks on Christians in Pakistan

September 27, 2013 – I am deeply saddened to learn about the bombing of a Christian church in Peshawar, Pakistan, which cost the lives 85 civilians and injured many others. I condemn this attack unequivocally and on this sad occasion reiterate my condemnation of all forms of terrorism regardless of perpetrators or their stated purposes.

Any form of attack, suppression or persecution of minorities is an act that contradicts the tradition of our Prophet upon whom be peace and blessings. Whether it is the senseless killings of innocent Christians in a Pakistan Church, the attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt or the suppression of minority rights anywhere, Muslims should come out first in condemning these actions.

Every human being is created equal by God. Basic human rights, such as the right to life, to live in peace and to be treated with dignity, are sacred rights given by God. No suffering of Muslims can be used to justify inflicting suffering elsewhere on innocent civilians. In true Islamic thought ends never justify means.

I extend my heartfelt prayers to the injured, the families of the deceased and all of the people of Pakistan.

Read more of Fethullah Gulen’s statement.

Friday, September 27, 2013

VIDEO-Preventing Violence and Achieving World Peace, The Contributions of the Gulen Movement

"Preventing Violence and Achieving World Peace: The Contributions of the Gulen Movement" presents the essays of eight scholars who consider the diverse ways in which the Gulen Movement or hizmet (service to others) - inspired by contemporary Turkish social philosopher Fetullah Gulen - has worked to answer this question. Drawing from various intellectual and theological sources, particularly Sufism, these essays indicate multiple instances of positive interfaith and/or multicultural dialogue. In addition, they consider how the writings of Gulen and the works of the Gulen Movement, through an extensive program of education and communication, have contributed significantly to efforts that oppose violence and shape universal peace.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fethullah Gulen Condemns Terrorist Attack in Nairobi, Kenya


September 25, 2013 – I am heartbroken by the senseless terrorist attack in Kenya and the loss of lives and horrific injuries to so many innocent people. In the eyes of God, every life is sacred and every person has dignity. The taking of a single human life is an attack on all humankind.

I deplore these revolting acts of terrorism, which serve no purpose but to bring about destruction, sorrow and grief. I reiterate my condemnation of all forms of terror regardless of its perpetrators and their stated purposes. The criminals must be brought to justice even though that will do little to mitigate the cruelty inflicted on victims and their families.

I extend my heartfelt prayers to the injured, the families of the deceased and all of the people of Kenya. I ask God the Merciful to guide us all expediently into a world of mutual respect and peace.

Read more of Fethullah Gulen’s statement.

VIDEO-Seeking Wisdom Beyond Our Comfort Zone How assumptions about "the other" limit growth Eileen Gale Kugler

Each day we make judgments in our business and personal lives about the value of others. We don't make these decisions in a pristine vacuum, but rather based on our own experiences and influences. Our complex individual culture—an interconnected web of factors ranging from our religion, race and ethnicity to where we grew up, our family structure and our gender role—is the prism through which we view the capabilities of others. These assumptions, whether conscious or unconscious, limit our own growth, as well the growth of other people. To break through these biases, we each need to be conscious of them and reflect on the origins of our attitudes about "the other." When we move beyond our own prism and seek wisdom from everyone we come in contact with, no matter their background or status, we grow —and so do our organizations and society at large.

Eileen Gale Kugler is a global speaker and consultant on the unique benefits that diversity brings to schools, communities and worksites —and strategies to strengthen them. She is author of the award-winning Debunking the Middle Class Myth: Why Diverse Schools are Good for All Kids and executive editor of the new Innovative Voices in Education: Engaging Diverse Communities. Eileen's articles and commentaries appear in wide-ranging publications, including USA Today and the Washington Post, Educational Leadership, and Education Week. Eileen's work is informed by her continuing on-the-ground involvement, including an active volunteer life. Her family's volunteer commitment at a South African school, including creating a 23,000-book library, was featured in The Washington Post and Voice of America TV.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

VIDEO-Conceptualizing A New US Pakistan Relationship" Ambassador Touqir Hussain

Amainmbassador Touqir Hussain is a former senior diplomat from Pakistan, having served as Ambassador to Brazil, Spain and Japan (1998 - 2003). Ambassador Hussain held senior positions in the Pakistani Foreign Office, including that of Additional Foreign Secretary heading the bureaus of the Middle East and of the Americas and Europe.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Governor O'Malley's Remarks During Governor's 2013 Ramadan Iftar

Below is the text of Maryland's Governor O'Malley on the occasion of the Governor's 2013 Ramadan Iftar. Emre Celik, Rumi Forum's President was present. The Governor acknowledged Rumi Forum during his speech.

Asalaam Alaikum! This is our 7th year celebrating Iftar at Government House. It is great to see the Muslim community of Maryland celebrate here each year, and to witness the blossoming of this community. With us tonight is our trail-blazing Secretary of Juvenile Services, Sam Abed—the first Muslim of Arab descent appointed to a cabinet-level position,…in any state. Also with us is Judge Hassan El-Amin, thank you for being here. And Imam El Amin, Imam Hendi, and Imam Amin, thank you for coming back tonight to lead us. 

We also have Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik and Bahraini Ambassador Houda Nonoo with us,… as well as representatives from the Embassy of Jordan, the Embassy of Pakistan, the Embassy of Turkey and the General Delegation of the PLO. The National US Arab Chamber of Commerce is represented, as well as the Rumi Forum. 

Earlier this year we had the chance to travel to Amman, to Bethlehem, and to Ramallah, to strengthen our ties with the Middle East. Collaboration is the new competition. And we know that in order to succeed in the global economy, we have to build and strengthen our relationships with our neighbors around the globe. 

In Maryland, our diversity is our greatest strength. We see that in the group assembled here today. Some of you are among the 40 Muslim Marylanders who are serving on boards and commissions—leaders in education, in medicine, in law, in business, and in their communities. Your work illustrates the better choices we can make when we come together as One Maryland. Because, as the Arab proverb says, “Unity is power.” 

We must recognize the unity that is, and strive for ways to act that are consistent with that unity. There’s a tremendous amount of unity even in this diverse State. And in the center of that unity is love, it is understanding, it is acceptance, it’s recognition of our common humanity. And that is the place toward which all of our actions must be pointed. 

With the help of Muslim Marylanders, our State has recovered more than 99 percent of the jobs lost in the national recession. That means jobs for moms and dads of every religion, expanding opportunity and strengthening our middle class. 

Ramadan is a time of fasting, but also very much about self-reflection. An entire month to get to know oneself better. To reflect on the good that one can bring to the world. As Marylanders, as Muslims and Catholics, we are united by our belief in children growing healthy, growing educated, growing strong. We believe in grandparents growing old with dignity and love. We believe in growing trees, and a Bay that grows healthier every year. We believe in growing prosperity for every generation. 

Thank you all for being here, and for helping our State grow strong. Ramadan Kareem. 

VIDEO-The Importance of the Rumi Forum Jack Goldstone, George Mason University


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cemevi project causes no concern of assimilation for Alevis or Sunnis

6 September 2013 /İLYAS KOÇ, ANKARA

Head of the Alevi CEM Foundation İzzettin Doğan said on Friday that the first joint mosque and cemevi (Alevi place of worship) project will not lead to any assimilation of Alevis or Sunnis. 

Organizing a press conference before the start of the construction of the project on Sunday in Ankara together with the head of the Hacı Bektaş Veli Culture, Education, Health and Research Foundation Kemal Kaya and the Alevi and Sunni businessmen who are sponsoring the project, Doğan called the project revolutionary.

According to Doğan, this project will set an example for other countries that suffer from sectarian divides in the region.  He argued that certain groups in the Middle East want an Alevi-Sunni divide to be imported to Turkey. “We aim to develop the consciousness that Alevis and Sunnis are the subjects of the same God,” Doğan further added.

Stating that they reached an agreement that it will be a good idea to build a mosque and a cemevi with Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, Doğan said that neither of them had a concern about the conversion of Alevis to Sunni Islam or the other way around. He added that they believe such a project will help eradicate prejudices among the two communities.

Stating that there are over 100,000 mosques in Turkey, Doğan said that he has been thinking that the function of the mosques should adapt to the conditions of a new era. For Doğan, the joint project which will also include a soup kitchen will help Alevis and Sunnis understand each other better.

The project will be financed by volunteer businessmen from both sides. Doğan believes that such joint financing will bring peace to the Turkish community and he has already experienced examples of this himself.

In response to the opposition of some Alevi organizations to the project, Doğan said that the aim of those associations is to oppose whatever the CEM Foundation says and keep the Alevi community fragmented.

“As a result of freedom of thought, they are free to oppose the project. We respect their thoughts, but we do not agree with them,” Doğan stated as he added that their opposition still begs a reasonable explanation.

Doğan also stated to reporters that a similar project will be realized in İstanbul and the land for the project has already been bought.

The complex will include a conference hall, a reading hall for children from disadvantaged families and lounges in addition to a soup kitchen. It will be located in the Tuzluçayır neighborhood of Mamak. The Mamak Municipality will also support the construction of the complex.

The construction of the project will start on Sept. 8 on a 12,000-square-meter area in Ankara which includes a 5,000-square-meter park.

Doğan said that they expect the attendance of senior members of the government at the groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fethullah Gulen: "Neither Now, Nor in the Future Should Our Friends Have Any Ambition for Government"

This is a part of an interview with Fethullah Gulen by Mehmet Gundem of Milliyet Daily in January 2005.

Have you written a will?

I had written a will a long time ago. In this, I requested to be buried wrapped in my robe, and with my turban (the traditional garment of a Muslim scholar). The money in my wallet now will suffice to pay for my shroud and funeral expenses. I don't want the copyright money to be used for matters of burial; I am not sure whether it will be correct. I don't want it to be paid for by my pension, which would mean the state is paying for it, either; this is why I keep this money for my funeral. I bought some of my books with my pension; I regard them as being bought by the state; some of my books were presented to me by some publishing houses, for I am a scholar. They did this because of my position. Therefore, just as I keep the presents sent by people in my collections and present them back to the nation again, I have willed my books and personal belongings to be donated to the establishment in which they are found.

There used to be some friends who paid for the tea they drank or the food they ate. I mentioned them in my will or if they're not alive, their families; I hope that they will be pleased by being given of what I have left behind. Before I came here, I wrote that if I died somewhere away (from Turkey), there would be no need to undergo extra expenses in taking my body back to Turkey, but I am not easy about this decision. I wish to be buried in Turkey next to my father or mother.

As for the movement; neither now, nor in the future should our friends have any ambition for government, they should not be engaged in politics, even if all the power and pomp of the world is laid at their feet; my friends who love me and heed my advice should not show a moment's hesitation to push all this away with the back of their hand. I had made similar statements at other times; even if others do not understand, let them seek good pleasure of God, let them strive sincerely in the path of glorifying the Name of God without a moment's lapse. Now I want to write a new will and clarify the details of such points.

You have been in the USA for six years [as of 2005]. How do Americans look on you?

I am not a well known person here. I haven't met anybody, other than a few people whom I had to accept for courtesy's sake.

Why don't you meet people?

When I came here in 1997, I met some people, for example those who worked in Turkey as diplomats, envoys, academicians, and priests. I came here due to my illness. Then when the storms (i.e., The June 1999 cassette conspiracy against Fethullah Gulen) broke out in Turkey, I thought it would be more appropriate to continue my treatment here. It was obvious that I would not be able to bear the events in Turkey with the health problems of my heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. I was in America , but I stayed away from America . There were rumors like the green belt claims, and they made an association with us and America 's projects. I did not meet anybody, for I did not want to prepare ground for improper claims, I did not accept any of the offers to give conferences at universities.

My place is in my country with its earth and stone, among my nation. Recently, the Turks here have started carrying out some activities here, and expressing themselves. In this way some people have gotten to know me through some of my books. These were people who accepted Islam for the sake of our friends and said, "Muhammad is the Messenger of God." I have met some people from the intellectuals and academicians who were curious about the movement.

How have the years in America affected you?

If we express it in the terminology of Islamic Jurisprudence, my staying here was choosing the better of two evils. I did not want to come here at all, but Dr. Sait insisted, and he stated that my health could not tolerate any neglect. Even if it was hard for me, I had to either be away from my country and my people, in a foreign state, or—as one of our statesmen said—I had to consent to face a new conspiracy everyday, where they made mountains out of molehills. After having consulted with my friends, I consented to bear homesickness in order not to witness the evil that was happening and to be offended by our own people. Although I knew the conspiracy (the montage tapes) beforehand, I saw some of it when it was broadcast. I did not read what the supporters of the conspirators wrote, in order not to hold a grudge against them.

How did you know about it beforehand?

A friend from the business world had come to visit me. His phone rang. Somebody called him and said "there are a sack-full of tapes, we are making a montage. The guys here said, 'don't let him know, you will lose your job' but anyway, I wanted to call." He also said things like "I hope you will not forget this favor of mine and you won't let me down." In a way, it was blackmail.

What is it that you miss most?

I miss everything from Turkey . Traveling, having a tea-break at the cafés on the way, everything (even) the way our people dress. It may be good, it may be flawed- but I miss our architecture. The sky-scrapers here may seem majestic, but our ground-scrapers seem more attractive to me.

You miss Turkey so much, but you don't return, why?

After a certain age, your body just can't handle it. As an Arab poet expressed, I keep away but prefer being there with my heart and conscience; nothing prevents me from feeling close. Let me tell it through a simile. In Sufism, there is a certain station above that of lovers. Those who reach that station even do not want to unite with the beloved (return to God). Namely, they say let me burn inside, let me always moan with the pain of separation, but I don't want union. I feel that such a pleasurable longing, a delightful pain of separation is deeper, more faithful, and more heartfelt.

Does this mean that you will not return?

There is no legal obstacle to my return. I have never given up thinking about returning to Turkey. I have had this inquired about from people in some important positions in Turkey. They said, "There's nothing wrong, he can come." But from the way they said "he can come," I sensed that I might give them a headache if I return.

You mean some people from the state?

Yes, someone asked the question "What does his return mean to you" to a person who had retired from an important position. He smiled but said "it would be better if he didn't." It is probably thought that my return may trigger some things. Like some people will provoke others to fill the streets, and cause unrest. I do not want to open a door that will lead to the present stability in Turkey being disturbed.

There are also those who worry that you will return like Khomeini.

Even if I return, I will return like myself, the son of Ramiz Gülen who served as an imam at a Mosque in Edirne for three years. It may sound funny to you, but I wonder whether they would let me serve as an imam at that mosque again, whether I could stay there in a corner as I used to. . . or if they even do not let me be the head of a Qur'an course in the Kestane Pazari, I wonder whether they would let me stay in a wooden cabin as I used to. Another thought that passes through my mind is, with all sincerity, that there is a guest house in my village which was built in a field belonging to my grandfather; I say let me go and stay there, and die like a villager in the village where I was born and grew up.

You say you wish to go to the village in which you were born, and to die there. Will you just go to the village and keep quiet?

I did not have expectations, but I had concerns in the world. I will just keep chanting the same concerns; whatever the conditions are, I will encourage those who value my words to eagerly go to corners of the world to pursue educational activities. Even when I am being put in the grave, if I can, I will say "go establish schools, don't give up striving to make Turkish a world language.

I will tell our businessmen to go all around the world as (fresh) shoots, and be trees, to constitute lobbies, and to support Turkey. I will keep on saying that it is impossible for Turkey to be detached from the world and to stand on its own. Even if they make a special law and seal my mouth, then I will write it with my hands or feet; again I will say the same things. I have already said all these openly in my sermons in mosques, as an employee of the state. Not to my "disciples," as they say. Not like other hodjas, I may have said "Develop Turkey, let the voice of the Turkish people be heard everywhere."

In my opinion, (genuine) nationalism can only be carried out in this way, not by paying lip service to the issue. The cause of Turkey is a great one. I will keep on saying the whole nation should back it, like it did the War of Independence. I don't know any laws that will silence me in this, nor not allow me to speak so. I will keep on saying these as a debt of faith to my nation.

VIDEO-Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement Jack Goldstone, George Mason University


Sunday, September 8, 2013

VIDEO-Syrian Refugees in Turkey and Kimse Yok Mu Aid Organization" Metin Çetiner

Mmainetin Çetiner is Vice Chairman of the Kimse Yok Mu (KYM) Association. Born in 1962 in Ankara, he graduated from the Boğaziçi University Department of Turkish Language and Literature.

After serving as a Turkish teacher, assistant headmaster and headmaster, he continued on to serve as the director in various schools in Romania and the US. When he returned to Turkey five years ago, he started to work with KYM. He is currently Vice Chairman responsible for Protocol and International Relations.

Kimse Yok Mu was founded after the 1999 Istanbul earthquake as a TV program. In 2002 it became a relief organization extending aid to distressed areas globally. It was awarded an extraordinary service medal by the Turkish National Assembly. KYM is currently active in 97 countries while maintaining 41 branches in Turkey. KYM also helps Syrian refugees living in Turkey. So far 16 million USD was spent on providing refugees education, healthcare, food and clothing.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Rumi Forum's Study Trips to Turkey and Azerbaijan

Rumi Forum organized 4 study trip delegations during the month of May and June 2013

One group was the first ever group of Rumi Forum Phd Fellows to travel and do research in regards to their areas of interest. Cities traveled included Istanbul, Ankara, Gaziantep and Urfa. The Phd students came from Georgetown University, Catholic University of America, American University, John Hopkins University and George Mason University

The second group traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan to partake in the Annual US-Azerbaijan Convention and to attend various meeting at institutions including the Parliament and universities. The delegation consisted of think tank and university scholars

The third group was in Istanbul to attend a Media Forum and meet with various media, journalists and academics. Cities included Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Gaziantep

The fourth groups consisted of a mixed group of scholars, policy people, NGOs and Government. Cities included Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Gaziantep

Apart from the above institutions the 3 delegations in Turkey visited Government and Opposition MPs, think tanks, universities, US Embassy, Religious leaders, Minority community leaders and activists, Kurdish and Turkish business people, schools, Newspapers, Law experts, Civil society groups including Youth groups among others.

see photos below