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

Monday, November 10, 2014

MEDIA: Fethullah Gulen addresses UN Peace Summit

By Selcuk Gultasli at Today's Zaman

The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), the Swiss Dialogue Institute and the University of Geneva jointly organized a peace summit titled “Mobilizing Civil Society for Building Peace” at the UN Center in Geneva on October 24. 
Gulen inaugurated the conference, which was held in the building where 70 percent of the UN's activities are held, where more than 9,500 UN staff work and 176 out of 193 UN members are represented by ambassadors. Gulen was not there physically, but the hall was packed when his message was read aloud by German historian and journalist Jochen Thies.

The event attracted a great deal of attention, as evidenced by the participation of renowned individuals, including Hassan al-Benna's grandson Tariq Ramadan; Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, whose statue stands in the garden of the UN Center; and Gunnar Johan Stalsett, from the Norwegian Nobel Committee. A total of 800 renowned figures from 50 countries participated in this gathering.... (continued)


Friday, October 17, 2014

MEDIA: WhiteHouse hosts first-ever Eid al-Adha celebration

The Rumi Forum was honored to play a role in supporting the first Whitehouse Eid Reception. We are very pleased it was attended by numerous interfaith leaders from the wider Washington DC area as well as numerous people form various agencies. 

See also:  White House mentions the Rumi Forum

White House hosts first-ever Eid al-Adha celebration

Emre Çelik speaks at the White House during an interfaith gathering for the Eid al-Adha holiday.
October 15, 2014, Wednesday/ 18:29:59/ İHSAN DENLİ / DC
The White House hosted an event to celebrate Eid al-Adha on Tuesday for the first time ever with the sponsorship of the Rumi Forum, an international organization established by Turks living in Washington, D.C., to foster intercultural dialogue.
The White House traditionally hosts an iftar (fast-breaking) dinner every year for representatives of Muslim communities in the United States, but Tuesday's event was the first time that they have hosted a celebratory event for Eid al-Adha, upon the suggestion of Rumi Forum. The opening speech of the event was made by White House Public Relations Office Deputy Director Ashley Allison and Rumi Forum President Emre Çelik.
The forum, of which Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen is the honorary chairman, provided food for the event.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, Çelik said Rumi Forum came up with the idea to host a celebratory event for Eid al-Adha with the attendance of representatives from different religions. The event was attended by about 60 people from various interfaith organizations in Washington, including representatives from Christian and Jewish organizations in the US, as well as Muslims.

At the event, different faith groups' representatives delivered speeches emphasizing the importance of interfaith dialogue. The evening ended with a closing speech by Special Assistant to the US President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Roger.

According to its website, Rumi Forum was founded in 1999 “with the mission to foster intercultural dialogue, stimulate thinking and exchange of opinions on supporting and fostering democracy and peace and to provide a common platform for education and information exchange.”
The principal goal of the Rumi Forum is explained on its website as promoting peace in the world and contributing to the peaceful coexistence of adherents of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities and races.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gülen: Associating Hizmet with violent Kobani protests great slander

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has warned against the dire consequences of Turkey's...
Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. (Photo: Today's Zaman) Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has warned against adventurism as...
On the occasion of Eid Al Adha, it's appropriate to revisit Fethullah Gulen's article on religious festivals, particularly from a Muslim scholar's...
Below is an interview that Fethullah Gulen gave to the Italian journal OASIS in December 2010. ***Read more interviews with Fethullah...

Gülen: Associating Hizmet with violent Kobani protests great slander
Turkish Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gülen. (Photo: Cihan)
October 12 Today's Zaman
Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said the attempts to depict the Hizmet movement as being linked to the recent violent protests across Turkey, triggered by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, is a great slander, emphasizing that the movement has never been involved in any form of violence.
In a recent lecture titled “Miserables of Parallel [in reference to the term ‘parallel structure' that is used by government officials to refer to the movement] Paranoia and the Road Map of Hizmet Supporters,” Gülen stated: “It is known by everyone that the Hizmet movement [inspired by his teachings] has never said ‘yes' to any form of violence, anarchy or street demonstrations,” adding that associating the Hizmet movement, which is also known as the Gülen movement, with the recent violent protests across Turkey, in which more than 30 people have been killed, is a great slander.
Gülen made these comments in response to the statements of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who blamed the Hizmet movement for the protests. Speaking during an event in Rize province on Saturday, Erdoğan had accused Gülen and the Hizmet movement of fuelling the violent protests, stating, “Not only the PKK but also Pennsylvania [referring to Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania] are behind the Kobani incidents.”

Gülen also stated that such claims that attempt to depict the movement as being linked to the protests are part of paranoia and carry the intention to defame. He also said such claims consist of vulgar words that anyone with a common sense will find very funny.

The Hizmet movement has become the target of a large-scale defamation campaign being conducted by circles close to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government since a major corruption and bribery scandal -- which implicated many high-ranking state officials, including then-Prime Minister and now-President Erdoğan and four state ministers, and pro-government businessmen -- became public on Dec. 17 of last year.
Government officials have accused the Hizmet movement of participating in a plot and using the corruption investigation to damage the government.
People took to the streets last Tuesday following reports that ISIL was very near to capturing the town of Kobani, which is being defended by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian-based affiliate of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Fighting still continues in the Syrian town, which is situated very near the Turkish border.
More than 30 people have been killed during the protests, mainly in southeastern Turkey, while over 350 people -- including 139 members of security forces-- were injured. A total of 1,024 protestors have been detained in connection with the protests, which erupted in 35 provinces across Turkey.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gülen says Turkey's involvement in a war would bring mass destruction

Gülen says Turkey's involvement in a war would bring mass destruction
Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has warned against the dire consequences of Turkey's possible involvement in a war in Syria or Iraq, saying Turkish authorities should avoid any action that may cause the Turkish people to experience sorrows similar to those of World War I.
In a speech published on Oct. 4 on, a website that publishes his speeches, Gülen said those who are working to turn Turkey into an intelligence state -- in a clear reference to the government of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) -- should not be overcome by aspirations to make Turkey enter a war “here and there,” referring to Syria and Iraq, and make people experience a disaster similar to World War I.
“My wish from God is that they [government officials] do not enter a war here and there and make the people [of Turkey] experience a new World War I as did the Committee of Union and Progress [İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti, which is accused of dragging the Ottoman Empire into World War I] after they [the committee] were overcome by their aspirations and made the Devlet-i Aliye [the Ottoman Empire] victim of an adventure,” Gülen said.
Gülen's speech has come at a time when Parliament voted in a motion to grant unlimited powers to the government for one year to send troops abroad and allow foreign forces to use Turkish territory for possible military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The motion led to serious concerns that Turkey may be involved in the military campaign against ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
“They [the Committee of Union and Progress] finished [destroyed] an enormous [Ottoman] state [by making it enter World War I]. … They sacrificed that state. I hope they will not do the same for its remainder [the Republic of Turkey], its children, grandchildren and future generations. Otherwise, this [Turkish] nation will not recover,” Gülen noted.
The scholar also mentioned an ongoing campaign led by the AK Party government against the faith-based Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Gülen, and called on members of the movement to “keep walking on their path.” “The path you are walking is right. Do not deviate [from your path]. Keep walking that path. Because you are living to make others live,” he said. He also called on the Hizmet movement to reach out to all parts of the world and open schools, soup kitchens for the poor and hospitals.
The Hizmet movement promotes interfaith dialogue and the resolution of problems through peaceful means throughout the world. However, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party have recently been engaged in a bitter fight with the movement. This conflict intensified after Dec. 17, 2013. Erdoğan claims that a Dec. 17 corruption and bribery operation was orchestrated by the Hizmet movement with the intention of overthrowing his government; however, he has not provided any evidence to prove this claim and the movement denies the accusation.
“Your services [to humanity] are like a running river. You cannot separate a river from its mother: the sea. The river will absolutely unite with the sea. If they cut your path from the right, you will continue walking from the left side [of the path]. If they cut your path from the left, then you will continue walking on top. If they place a rock before you, you will dig a tunnel and continue to walk,” Gülen said, noting that the Hizmet movement continues its activities both in Turkey and abroad despite all challenges in front of it.
Gülen also said the Turkish government's recent decision to remove the “public interest organization” status of Kimse Yok Mu, the largest volunteer group based in Turkey that has ties to the Hizmet movement, has boosted people's willingness to send aid to those in need through the organization. “It was possible to send sacrificial animals [to those in need through Kimse Yok Mu] last year. I suppose the number of sacrificial animals sent this year [through Kimse Yok Mu] has doubled,” he noted.


Gülen warns against adventurism, using force against Kurds

Gülen warns against adventurism, using force against Kurds
Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has warned against adventurism as well as using force to respond to demonstrations that have turned violent since reports that the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has captured the strategic city of Kobani (or Ayn-al Arab) over the weekend.
The problems should be addressed without spilling blood or sparking hate, Gülen urged, warning against the use of force.
“The guns we often resort to in today's world perpetuate hate, strengthen and churn up vengeful feelings and animosity and inflame the fire further,” he said, recalling that the Kurdish problem has been exacerbated in the last 40 years because of the application of force to find a solution to the problem.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala used threatening language towards protesters in a statement to reporters late on Tuesday. Calling on all protesters to go home, Ala said: “The violence will be returned in double. [...] Otherwise, results that cannot be predicted might occur.”
Ala's threat of violence against demonstrators has been criticized on the grounds that the state can only use force when necessary and justified, and only in a measured response.
Islamic scholar Gülen said the Turkish government could have approached the matter from a different perspective by using education and the economic and social policies that the people in the region have been waiting for.
“Why have you not tried to win their hearts?” he asked, lamenting the lack of rights given to Kurds by the state.
Gülen also noted that the Quran's principles dictate that Muslims approach their problems with a peace-oriented attitude and soft-spoken language rather than through harsh words.
“If the resolution of a problem is possible with a peace, then you should not be adopting harsh behavior,” he said.
Gülen has been known for his advocacy of expansive Kurdish rights, including education in their mother tongue, and has criticized successive governments for using a heavy-handed approach, including military force, when suppressing Kurdish demands.
He has urged his followers to establish modern schools in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish regions in the southeast, despite the threat of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).  
Gülen also repeated his earlier warning about the dire consequences that may result from Turkey's unilateral involvement in a mission in Syria or Iraq that goes against the mission of the international community.
The Turkish authorities should avoid any action that might cause the Turkish people to experience sorrows similar to those of World War I, he had earlier said.  
Gülen emphasized that all of the Islamic Prophet's wars were defensive in nature, saying that Muslims cannot wage war unless they have been attacked directly or if there is a real possibility of imminent attack.
He reiterated that the Turkish government should not engage in adventurism that might lead to unknown conclusions.  
In a speech published on Oct. 4 on, a website that publishes his speeches, Gülen said those who are working to turn Turkey into an intelligence state -- in a clear reference to the government of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) -- should not be overcome by aspirations to make Turkey enter a war “here and there.”
Mr. Gulen was referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's insistence that the mission include the toppling of the Bashar al-Assad regime.  
“My wish from God is that they [government officials] do not enter a war here and there and make the people [of Turkey] experience a new World War I, as the Committee of Union and Progress [(CUP), which has been accused of dragging the Ottoman Empire into World War I] after they [the committee] were overcome by their aspirations and made the Devlet-i Aliye [the Ottoman Empire] the victim of an adventure,” Gülen said.  
Gülen's speech came at a time when Parliament had voted to grant the government unlimited powers to send troops abroad for one year and to allow foreign forces to use Turkish territory for possible military operations against ISIL. The motion led to serious concerns that Turkey may become involved in the military campaign against ISIL in Syria and Iraq.  
Gülen has clearly supported international actions against ISIL, which is also known as ISIS. In his recent message published in US newspapers, he said, “ISIS actions represent those of a terrorist group and they should be brought to justice and compelled to answer for their horrific crimes.” He also said that it is incumbent upon all of us to join hands to counter and defeat, through legitimate means, any extreme ideology or violent radicalism.  
Based on his message from yesterday, while he still very much supports international and Turkish action against the ISIL threat, he is against the idea of the Turkish government unilaterally focusing on toppling the Assad regime, as that would be against the international community's core mission and will put Turkish people in harm's way.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Religious Festivals by Fethullah Gulen

On the occasion of Eid Al Adha, it's appropriate to revisit Fethullah Gulen's article on religious festivals, particularly from a Muslim scholar's perspective

See also these popular blog posts:
Rumi Forum's Suggested Links - Media, Conferences, Writings
Washington Post editors at Rumi Forum
NEW YORK TIMES - Full interview with Fethullah Gulen by Brian Knowlton

Issue 7 / July - September 1994

Religious Festivals

M. Fethullah Gulen

Almost every nation has religious festivals to commemorate important events in their history or to celebrate special occasions.

There are two religious festivals in Islam. ‘Id al-Fitr, the festival of the breaking of the fast, comes at the end of the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. ‘Id al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, comes on the tenth of Dhu’I-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic year in which the pilgrimage is performed. Both festivals enjoy a very special place in the life of Muslims and leave indelible impressions on the culture of Muslim people.

Religious festivals for Muslims are times of heightened Islamic thoughts and feelings when memories of a long and honourable past are revived, recalled and ‘lived’ afresh with all its joys and sorrows.

Religious festivals are, for Muslims, occasions of paradoxical feelings - pangs of separation and hopes of re-union, regrets and expectations, and joys and sorrows. While on the one hand, they feel sadness over losses in either individual or national spheres, on the other, they feel, paradoxically, the exhilarating pleasure of an expected revival, like the revival of nature in spring after a severe winter.

Muslims enjoy the pleasure of re-union and of a universal brotherhood on festival days. They smile at each other lovingly, greet each other respectfully, and pay visits to each other. Members of divided families whom modern, industrialized life has forced to live apart from each other in different towns, come together and feel the intoxicating pleasure of once more eating together and spending a few days together.

For Muslims, religious festivals are occasions for spiritual revival through seeking God’s forgiveness and praising and glorifying Him. They are enraptured by special supplications, odes and eulogies for the Prophet. Especially in traditional circles where the traces of the past are still alive, people experience the meaning of the festival in a more vivid, colourful fashion, on cushions or sofas, or around stoves or fire-places in their humble houses or cottages, or under the trees among the flowers in their gardens, or in the spacious halls of their homes. They feel the meaning of the festival in each morsel they eat, in each sip they drink and in each word they speak about their traditional and religious values.

Religious festivals are of a much greater significance for children. They feel a different joy and pleasure in the warm, embracing climate of the festivals, which they have been preparing to welcome a few days before. Like nightingales singing on branches of trees, they cause us to experience the festivals more deeply through their plays, songs, smiles and cheers.

Religious festivals provide the most practical means for improving human relationships. People experience a deep inward pleasure, they meet and exchange good wishes in a blessed atmosphere of spiritual harmony. It is especially when the festival permeates hearts with prayer and supplications performed consciously that souls are elevated to the realm of eternity. They then feel the urge to get rid of the clutches of worldly attachments and live in the depths of their spiritual being. In the atmosphere overflowing with love and mercy, a new hope is injected with life.

Believing souls welcome the religious festivals with wonder, expectations and otherworldly pleasures. It is, indeed, difficult to understand fully what believing souls feel during the religious festivals in the depths of their hearts. To perceive the feelings that the festivals arouse in pure souls who lead their life in ecstasies of otherworldly pleasures, it is necessary to experience such pleasures in the same degree.

Having reached the day of the festival after fulfilling their prescribed duty and responsibility, these souls display such a dignity and serenity, such a grace and spiritual excellence that those who see them think that they have all received a perfect religious and spiritual education. Some of them are so sincere and so devoted to God that each seems to represent the outcome of a long glorious history and to be the embodiment of centuries-old universal values. One may experience through their conduct and manners that taste of the fruits of Paradise, the peaceful atmosphere on the slopes of firdaws-the highest abode in Paradise-and the delight of being near to God.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fethullah Gulen's interview with Italy's OASIS Journal

Below is an interview that Fethullah Gulen gave to the Italian journal OASIS in December 2010.

***Read more interviews with Fethullah Gulen including WSJ, NY Times, BBC and more here

Fethullah GülenInterview by Michele Brignone

Fethullah Gülen is one of the most influential intellectuals on the planet. A Muslim, born in Turkey, a polymath active in many areas, he was at the origin of an international movement affecting civil society, the economy, and especially education: “the greatest gift a generation can give to another.”
In 2008 the magazine Foreign Policy, on the basis of a survey, defined the Turkish thinker Fethullah Gülen the most influential intellectual in the planet. Gülen dislikes being defined a spiritual leader; yet, his experience has generated a worldwide Islamic movement particularly active in the sphere of education. As his master Said Nursi, Gülen thinks that the Koran should be read without altering its contents and always in the light of the Islamic tradition. A teacher, writer, thinker, imam, and a protagonist of the inter-religious dialogue, Gülen is active on many fronts. His purpose, he affirms in this interview, is one: “to make the name of God known in every corner of the earth.”

Could you speak about the experiences, encounters or circumstances that have marked your life? Recently, we visited the city of Urfa, where we saw the tomb of Said Nursi. What has been the impact of this thinker and reformist on your personal and intellectual development? 

I can confidently say that I have always been deeply touched by the self-sacrificing efforts and altruism of our friends in this movement of volunteers who selflessly strive for the good of humanity. These services (hizmet as they are called in Turkish) include educational activities that initially began in only a few places, with humble means, then developed with small steps here and there, and then gradually extended to all around Turkey and the world. These educators were well aware of the fact that they were going to face many difficulties. They received support from philanthropic wealthy people, foundations and associations, but they indeed experienced very serious destitution and hardships. If my opinion means anything, I would say that Bediüzzaman Said Nursi[1] is the greatest thinker of this age, a person of action who deeply suffered from the sorrows that inflicted Islam and the whole of humanity, and committed himself to his cause. He was a great scholar and a hero of high morality, honour, self-containment, and service to humanity. His thoughts and his way of living have deeply inspired and profoundly affected me, like everybody else who has come to learn about him. There have been some great personalities whom I consider as eminent and whom I have admired all my life. For example, I admire the great Sufi masters like Imam Rabbânî[2], Mawlâna Khâlid[3], al-Ghazâlî[4], ‘Abd al-Qâdir al-Jilânî[5] and Muhammad Bahâ’uddîn[6], and have tried hard to comprehend their visions. For me, following their footsteps has always been like walking behind God’s Messenger. From my point of view, Bediüzzaman is distinct because he was a person of this modern era, and I admire his perfect way of perceiving and interpreting this age.

When did you think of transforming your personal experience into an international movement? How would you define the nature and ideals of the Gülen Movement?

Even in this situation in which I am afflicted with serious illnesses, there are still some people who consider me a ‘leader of a religious community’ or ‘sheikh of an order.’ These kinds of words hurt me heavily. I have always recommended and urged people who respect my thoughts and have a positive impression about my person to do works that I consider good and benevolent. I have advised them, for example, to open coaching centres for university entry exams and open schools. Then I realised that, as I recommended the opening of schools, many people responded positively, sharing the same vision. I am only an ordinary Muslim and a citizen, and I have done whatever I have done for my people as a citizen. Today, the notion of this movement—or the ‘community’ as they call it—is comprised of civil people who share the same emotions, similar ideas and join their efforts, searching for best answers and practical outcomes to questions such as “how can we serve best our people? How can we contribute to the advancement of our country both in material and in moral terms? How can we light up minds and illuminate hearts?” As a result of this virtue, these faithful people extended their hands to Asia, Europe, America, and even to Africa, and have built hundreds of schools in the countries to which they have gone. They have established companies and firms that have sponsored the construction of many schools, as they have been done in Turkey. If there has been a role that I have played in this process, and if I am to be credited with serving humanity, it is only by way of the recommendations that I have made. We have no other target than attaining the consent and pleasure of God. I have no other purpose other than the Name of God to be acknowledged in every corner of the world, saving people's faiths and their lives in the hereafter and establishing peace and order for my country and for the whole of humanity. I was, and still am, firmly convinced that real peace and order can only be made possible by the hands of responsible individuals who are highly moral, deeply spiritual, and who determinedly refrain from any corrupt, abusive, improper or despoiling acts.

As you has already stated, among the activities carried out by the Gülen movement, education has a prominent role. Why this emphasis? What does education represent for you and how do you think education can affect the new generations?

The whole world, with the advancement of communication and transportation technology, has become a global village. All nations are now like each other's next door neighbour. Within the mosaic of nations and countries, those nations who have not been able to protect their own patterns and colours will eventually fade and melt away. In the same way, all peoples can maintain their existence by embracing their national identities even more strongly, but in complete reconciliation with the requirements of the modern age and, naturally, in full conformity with universal values. Ali (the fourth Caliph and son-in-law of the Prophet), who acquired a prominent place in Islam, said: “All Muslims are our brothers and sisters in faith and those who are not Muslims are our brothers and sisters in humanity.” “Being human” should be the common ground that unites us all. For this, human beings must be raised in a respectful spirit to moral values and their hearts should be filled with love for their “brothers and sisters” in faith or humanity. Only in this way will we be able to bequeath a world that is more auspicious and felicitous to present and future generations. Throughout the whole of history, preceding generations have assumed responsibility for, and achieved, the education of subsequent generations and performed this as a matter of duty. In this respect, good education has always been the greatest gift one generation can give to another. General education and teaching morals prevent human beings from deviating from being human owing to their carnal appetites and passions. Education, at the same time, discovers and develops the skills and abilities latent in human beings and helps to reveal the latent potentials inherent in their spirit. Education and dialogue are two complementary faces of a project for human civilisation. While one is concerned with raising generations who love peace and fraternity, and therefore raising individuals who are wholesome in intelligence and conscience, the other is, as an indispensable part of the first, concerned with establishing and protecting peace by installing in the newer generations a culture of acceptance of their own status and position and being open to and welcoming all differences.

Your religious commitment seems to challenge secularism – a tenet not only of modern Turkey, but also of the Western countries where the movement has spread. Do you think that the secular models, even in their forms as adopted in Europe and America, are still valid today, or do you think that the relation between politics and religion needs to be reconsidered?

First of all, it must be recalled that secularism is defined as ‘a system where religion does not interfere in worldly affairs, and where the state administration does not interfere in the religious exercises of people, allowing them to comfortably practice their faith in their lives.’ Individuals will decide with their own free will whether they will be a follower of a faith or not, and they cannot be forced in any way to believe in or perform the requirements of a religion. Islam is based on free will and predicates all its principles upon this foundation. Religious belief is sacred; nevertheless, this quality of being sacred requires the absolute condition that religion should not be made an instrument for any kind of worldly gains. Politicising religion and attributing holiness to our own personal opinions and administrative perceptions may eventually drive us to a position which abases and insults religion. The truth of religion needs to be represented in such a way that it is clearly understood as being beyond any political perspective or understanding. Therefore I think that those who politicise religion are actually causing a great deal of harm to religion. Under the light of the most appropriate exegeses of the Qur'an and the Sunna made in this age, it is impossible to consider Islam in conflict with democracy. As far as the legal, philosophical, and political dimensions of secularism are concerned, what we see today is that secularism is applied in various parts of the world within a political sphere, while in some other countries in its legal sense. Secularism, that is, the separation of state and religious affairs, denotes the neutrality of the state in religious affairs, or, as most politicians stress, protecting religion in its own place and status and not allowing it to be negatively interpreted. Political secularism can differ due to personal inclinations and perceptions. But, I think in Turkey, when commenting upon secularism, a sort of laicism which is very different from legal secularism or philosophical secularism is understood. As mentioned in the book by Ali Fuat Başgil[7], entitled Din ve Laiklik (‘Religion and Laicism’) laicism in Turkey was only “a little” similar to modern secularism and the first Turkish annotators initially interpreted laicism as ‘la-dini’, recognizing no space for religion at all in the system. However, a system is a system, which is to say a relative entity, a corporate body, whereas religion is for humans, real people.

A reassessment of the role of Islam in public life is being carried out in Turkey as well. Do you think that this development will succeed in modifying at its roots the political culture of your country and influencing its geopolitical position?

The geopolitical position of Turkey, both today and in the future, is related to Islam's place within society. In the first place, our coming to Anatolia was the consequence of this feeling and this idea. The geopolitical position we acquired later in history, including during the Ottoman period, was also because we were shaped by our devotion to Islam. Therefore, the question here is not whether the place of Islam in society can change Turkey’s geopolitics, it is in what direction that change will be. It has been stated many times before that Muslims in Turkey practice Islam as a religion and that political Islam is something wrong and unnecessary. Religion is between the individual and God, and is based upon sincerity, intimacy, earnestness, seeking God’s approval and consent in every deed and intention. Religion is for the individual to arrange and live his/her life on “the pure, emerald hills of the heart.” It is absolutely wrong to completely disregard this spiritual aspect of religion and to practice it in a ceremonial show, or to turn it into a pretentious display. To politicise Islam in a secular country like Turkey is a great treason against the essence of Islam, and religion must never be used as a political instrument.

Oasis has recently published an interview in which Msgr Padovese pointed out the precarious condition of the Christians of Turkey and the discrimination they undergo. The murder of the Italian Bishop, and the murders of Fr. Andrea Santoro and the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, as well as the murders of other members of religious minorities, seem tragic examples of this situation. In your opinion, what is the present situation of religious freedom in Turkey? 

The core of the issue of freedom of religion and faith is that everybody should be able to freely choose whichever faith they like, observe their religious duties without being subjected to any inhibition, receive the education that is necessary to practice what they believe, and teach their faith to others. Those who see religion only as a matter of personal conviction pertaining only to that person's conscience both distort religion with interpretations that are in conflict with divine statements, and limit its field of application and influence, thus hindering the benefits of religion granted by God to individuals, the family and society. In addition to a firm belief in principles of faith, faith in Islam also includes a full observance of Islamic disciplines and the rigorous practice of moral rules, and involves some other codes related to familial, social and legal life. Only real Muslims who rigorously observe and practice Islam have shown sincere respect for every faith, opinion and philosophy of life, and have always engaged in sincere dialogue and have been very tolerant of the followers of other beliefs. On the contrary, those who cannot understand Islam correctly have treated those people they call ‘others’—of course, if they have power—with violence, brutal force, fights, wars and with many other savage and cruel acts. From the very beginning, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, approached the followers of other religions with an extraordinary tolerance, motivating his followers also to act in this direction and called them to come to fulfil their duty of being the ‘ummatu-l-wasat’ (the middle-way community far from all kinds of extremism). Muslims have always attended to this call and, excluding the harsh and fanatic attitudes of some people who are afflicted with narrow minds and dark consciences, have always acted in sincere tolerance, have been respectful of the faiths and philosophies of other people, and have never oppressed individuals because of their opinions or religious beliefs. They would not be able to do this anyway, because, the Qur'an, with the verse, ‘There is no compulsion in Religion. The right way stands clearly distinguished from the false…’ (Koran 2:256), openly dictates to them how to behave. Muslims certainly believe that the outcome of adopting religion is an absolute felicity. But, abiding with the verse ‘there is no compulsion in the religion,’ forcing people to convert to Islam is not acceptable. On the contrary, Islam pledges to protect others from any kind of compulsion and guarantees everyone the ability to live their own religion comfortably. Islam's commitments in the name of the freedom of religion and personal conscience are very clear. I think it will be adequate just to give a glance at history. From the bright days of the Prophet, to the Umayyads, Abbasids and to Ottomans, all rulers—save certain exceptions—granted minorities the right to preserve and practice their beliefs, observing freely their religious ceremonies and holy days, educating their children as they liked, uniting under institutions such as foundations and unions in order to continue their existence, restore old buildings of worship, and build new sanctuaries, and did not require anything from them other than that they obeyed the laws and state order.

Islam and Islamic societies are now going through difficult times. How can the Gülen movement contribute to a new interpretation of Islam, provided that a new interpretation is needed?

If some people still attempt to call this togetherness a movement, we should then empathically state that this ‘so-called’ movement has no claim whatsoever to bring to Islam anything new or things peculiar to itself. Whenever we do something, we carry it out first by observing our religious duties and responsibilities, and always keep our religious obligations in mind. At this point, we can talk about a certain way of understanding faith and religion which has mostly influenced the people of our age since Bediüzzaman. This approach aims to bring together sections of society that are separated, scattered, and broken up, to reunite them, to reconcile all Muslims who have been alienated from each other and bring them together. This is the thing which affects people most, but it is also nothing else than a matter related to the Qur'an and Sunna. This is not a system of thought that arises from personal opinions or the reformist thinking of people who actually affirm their own way of believing and making judgments. Therefore, if this is thought to be a movement, the impulse behind it is the ability of people (who acquire the quality and capacity of interpreting correctly the present day and age) to interpret the Qur'an and Sunna according to the requirements of that age. Another impulse of this understanding is a new body of thought that is based upon satisfying and meeting the desires and needs of humankind regarding everything in our age. This is not much different from the Islamic understanding of other people. We do not perceive Islam in a different way than other Muslims. From certain perspectives, however, we may be a little beyond others; for example, by accepting everyone as they are in their social status and respecting them for it. Today, we have the utmost need to bring about new interpretations regarding the not-yet-fully revealed aspects of the Book and the practices of the Prophet according to the changing needs of time and without destroying their authenticity. While explicating the subjects belonging to Islam, oratory, style, rhetoric and address may change with time. The Qur'an is, in the first place, a Divine provision. And this provision can be benefitted from in various ways. The important thing here is to interpret the Qur’an in every respect and reflect deeply upon it while, considering the conditions of the day, we try to discover and disclose its various jewels and precious treasures as they are revealed according to changes in time. Different colours of this Divine Revelation have always been discovered throughout history by new interpretations. For example, ‘Umar Ibn Abd al-‘Azîz[8], al-Ghazâlî, Fakhr ad-Dîn al-Râzî[9], Imam Rabbânî, and Bediüzzaman all read it from a perspective that was different from that of their predecessors.

[1] Born in 1878 in what was the Ottoman province of Bitlis, in eastern Anatolia, he was an important scholar and Muslim reformer and the author of an important commentary of the Koran. His fame won him the nickname of Bediüzzaman (the wonder of the time). He died in Urfa (Edessa), in Anatolia, in 1960. His grave was demolished and the body removed so as to avoid its worship.
[2] Imâm-i Rabbânî Shaykh Ahmad al-Farûqî al-Sirhindî (1564-1624), of Indian origin, was a great mystic and Islamic reformer.
[3] Khâlid al-Baghdâdî, mystic of the Naqshbandiyya confraternity, died in Syria in 1826. He is the author of a number of Sufi treatises.
[4] Abû Hâmid al-Ghazâlî (1058-1111), mystic and theologian, was one of the greatest thinkers and reformers of the history of Islam. See ‘Oasis’ 11 (2010), 66-69.
[5] Abd al-Qâdir al-Jilânî (1077-1166) was one of the greatest Islamic mystics and founder of the Qâdiriyya brotherhood. He is buried in Baghdad.
[6] Muhammad Bahâ’ud-Dîn (1318-1389), the great Islamic mystic, was the founder of the Sufi confraternity Naqshbandiyya. He is buried in Bukhara, in Central Asia.
[7] Famous Turkish jurist born in 1893 and died in 1967.
[8] Lived between the VII and VIII century, eighth caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, famous for its religious piety.
[9] Born in Iran in 1149 and died in Herat in present-day Afghanistan in 1209, theologian, he is the author of a leading commentary of the Koran.

Rumi Forum's Emre Celik penned his most recent op-ed in the Huffington Post considering the anti-Hizmet and anti-Gulen stance that Recep Tayyip...
ABDULLAH BOZKURT SEE ALSO: Gulen in the Western media One of the main reasons why Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has been so disturbed by the...
Foreign Affairs magazine published an important article by Victor Gaetan on Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement. Below is an exerpt and link to...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

HUFFINGTON POST : Hate Speech is Undermining Turkey's Fragile Democracy By Emre Celik

Rumi Forum's Emre Celik penned his most recent op-ed in the Huffington Post considering the anti-Hizmet and anti-Gulen stance that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken. The video used in the article is of particularly interest - watch it below.

Many TV viewers could not believe their ears upon hearing the terms "blood sucking vampires, leeches, traitors, spies, worse than Shiites, and assassins" uttered by then Turkish prime minister Erdogan in his political rallies.

Immediately after a graft probe involving members of his cabinet became public, then prime minister Erdogan targeted the Gülen movement (a.k.a. Hizmet), one of the largest faith-based communities in Turkey, with offensive statements. Erdogan labeled the probes "a political coup" and accused prosecutors, police chiefs and judges involved in the probes as being sympathizers of Fethullah Gulen. In the subsequent months, the prime minister used every opportunity to defame and slander Gulen and his sympathizers with phrases like "Pennsylvania gang", referring to Gulen's state of residence. In a report published recently, D.C.-based Think Tank ReThink underlined that Erdogan's language clearly represents hate speech as defined by European Court of Human Rights.

A video with English translations illustrates the vulgar language and hate speech used by Erdogan, who has relentlessly worked to make Gulen's sympathizers a scape goat and ostracize part of the Turkish society as part of a campaign to cover up the corruption investigations involving his cabinet members and his government's violation of human rights and eradication of freedoms.

Erdogan has employed a multidimensional effort to intimidate, silence and otherwise persecute every institution or individual remotely associated with Gulen. The latest victim of this campaign is Asya Bank, which is targeted by politicized regulatory bodies in Turkey under pressure by Erdogan.

Hizmet is a recognized global civic society movement in as many as 160 countries. The movement benefits the less fortunate with educational and peace-building efforts. They address poverty, illiteracy and ignorance by investing in schools, hospitals, dialogue centers, relief work and numerous other NGOs. Participants and volunteers number in the millions across six continents.

Active since the early 1970's, the movement has more than four decades of experience dealing with difficult circumstances. Mr. Gulen's numerous media interviews attest to his firm belief in the rule of law, human rights, due process and the service to others, as well as his belief and love in God and country. A 60 Minutes report on CBS News reveals the passion with which Hizmet participants work and uphold the values of democracy, respect and education.

It's not hard to recall that Turkey was once a model democracy in the Middle East and was the example many commentators hailed during the Arab Spring. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

During my private conversations in Washington DC, many scholars and experts have come to realize the U-turn Erdogan made during his third term in office. More recently, Erdogan's refusal to provide full support for the campaign against ISIS terrorist organization puzzled Turkey's western allies.

Despite the sympathy they felt for the 49 hostages held by ISIS, Turkey's friends have hard time understanding Turkish leaders' failure to commit to stopping ISIS recruitment in Turkey and their funding mechanisms that rely on Turkish border transactions.

Like many, I too was naive. Like others, we saw the AKP's efforts to improve and increase interest in EU ascension, rule of law, constitutional reform, democratic values, respect and rights to all sectors of society, basic human rights as sincere.

Erdogan's U-Turn is understood in many D.C. circles as "power poisoning". Unfortunately, Turkish society is no stranger to authoritarian practices by their government or military-dominated post-coup administrations.

On the back of a seemingly economic high, at least until recently, Erdogan continues to win elections and grows his illiberal democracy. To this end, he may appear successful. But such derision and polarization in a country -- and history has shown this -- is not sustainable. They've gone from being 'justice and development' party to 'justice or development'.

President Obama smartly reprimanded Erdogan for polarizing the community and increasing anti-Semitism . While the world's major leaders came together at the NATO summit to discuss ISIS and terrorism, Erdogan was happy to bring to the fore to discuss Gulen and Hizmet.

Erdogan's demise will not come at the hand of foreign plots or alleged domestic coups - but by his very own hands. His polarizing rhetoric shows no signs of care for the country's social cohesion.

See related Huffington Post articles:
Fethullah Gulen's Message Condemning ISIS Appears in 5 U.S. Dailies Today
Fethullah Gulen: From Izmir to the Global Hizmet Movement


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MEDIA: Why Gülen is indignant about corruption


SEE ALSO: Gulen in the Western media

One of the main reasons why Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has been so disturbed by the massive graft scandal that was exposed during then-Prime Minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's regime is that he saw that his lifetime ideal of fostering greater connectivity among key areas of the country such as education, business and culture in order to contribute to the social, human and economic development of his nation had been severely undermined.

Born into a poor family in one of the less developed parts of Turkey, Gülen has long dreamt of seeing the impoverished eastern and southern regions of the country developed with trade, investment and improvement in educational and technological infrastructure. This has been dealt a huge blow because of endemic corruption, misuse of funds and patronage that has left millions in poverty; harmed the trust between citizens and the government; and in turn led to political instability, inefficient public services and even a surge in terrorism. The big dragnet set up by the crooks has drained the precious energy Turkey has in order to cope with immediate challenges. It has hampered the efforts of Gülen, who, through his numerous writings and speeches, inculcated the importance of modern education for the young generation and urged his followers to reach out and embrace all through intercultural and interfaith dialogue activities.

When Erdoğan deliberately relegated his understanding of democracy to merely winning the ballot box during elections, he made it clear that he wants neither political accountability for things that may go wrong during his rule nor the participation of civil society as a major stakeholder in the governance of the country. When he calls the Gülen-inspired social movement called Hizmet a "parallel structure," Erdoğan in effect complains about "institutional restraints” being placed on the government by a major civil society group that would otherwise be welcomed and encouraged in any normally functioning democracy.

Capitalizing on the new-found scapegoat right after the corruption exposé, Erdoğan broadened the definition of "enemy of the state" to include judges, police investigators, businesses, media, national political parties and even Turkey's foreign allies and partners.

That is why the corruption in the Erdoğan regime has now resulted in the flagrant human rights violations that we all are witnessing and experiencing in today's Turkey. The policies employed by Erdoğan and company in the government have effectively disrupted citizens' lives by provoking fears of a witch hunt among the population. The growing concern about media freedom in Turkey is just one of the indications of how corruption has shaken fundamental freedoms. If that cancer spreads to the judiciary as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's government tried to do with offerings such as a pay rise and government perks on the eve of critical judicial council elections, this will have a very serious impact on the judicial system, which may very well paralyze the whole Turkish democracy in the end.

In addition to the voluntary education drive that focuses on science and mathematics as well as moral values in order to lift people out of poverty, another tool Mr. Gülen has been advocating throughout his life is to institute open trade among nations as a way to not only develop economies, but also to increase interaction among them. Gülen believes that one can build to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue in a much freer and effective way if trade, investment and business linkages are strong. Inspired by Gülen's teachings, thousands of Turkish businesspeople came together and set up the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), the largest and one of the most influential trade advocacy groups in Turkey.

Since corruption destroys the level playing field by raising barriers for both national and foreign companies and undermines the development of a fair and competitive market economy, law-abiding businesspeople like TUSKON members will be at a disadvantage against pro-Erdoğan businesses, which enjoy advantages in terms of obtaining public procurement contracts and receiving preferential access to public services in exchange for the payment of kickbacks and bribery.

Adding insult to injury, TUSKON as well as members of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD), the wealthiest business club in Turkey, have been unfairly targeted with government audits and reviews of licenses and permits and subjected to heavy fines. On top of that, Gülen's interaction with leading TUSKON and TÜSİAD members as part of his ideal to use trade as an intercultural bridge has been publicly demonized by Erdoğan, who sticks to a long-running hateful discourse to divide the nation.

Therefore, Gülen believes both education and trade will contribute greatly to economic growth both in Turkey and in its partner countries, providing more equitable income distribution, improved government services and increased public trust in government. Considering that the corruption negatively affects education, it does have a domino impact on every aspect of citizens' lives, from access to the labor market to improved social and economic status.

Moreover, Gülen underlines that education is key for social cohesion in Turkish society, preventing people from falling into traps of radical ideologies on the extreme left and extreme right. He thinks the right education rather than political Islamist discourse will maintain the strong culture of tolerance and diversity found in Turkish history. In the end, Gülen thinks Islam's true and peaceful face can only prevail in stable and conflict-free environments that are no longer plagued by corruption.

Another important rule in Gülen's teachings is the focus on decentralization, which is also an important tool in the battle against corruption. It is acknowledged that decentralization has often proven to be instrumental in reducing corruption in government, especially in a large country like Turkey with a population of 77 million.

Provided that the capacity for governance, effectiveness, human resources and accountability are strong in local governments, decentralization is often a suggested method to improve the governance of the country with less graft activity. It is quite telling that the corruption scandal revealed the reasons why Erdoğan usurped so many powers of local government in leasing and selling public land and buildings starting in 2011. That is how Erdoğan's loyalists have started getting kickbacks from the sale of public properties that used to be managed by local officials.

As part of the decentralization, Gülen often talks at length urging his followers to go through an in-depth consultation process and reaching out to all stakeholders before starting to implement a policy decision. He says this is the way of the Islamic Prophet. In fact, Gülen himself leads by setting an example on decentralization. For example, Hizmet and Hizmet-affiliated institutions may have been inspired by Gülen, but none of them are governed by Gülen or his close advisers. They are all professionally managed with their own independent boards that are accountable to shareholders. They are completely transparent in terms of subjecting themselves to rigorous government laws, regulations and regular reviews. From banking to media outlets, from social charity groups to thousands of schools, none of them has had any interference by Gülen. If these institutions are outside of Turkey, the same principle follows. They have to respect the law of the land in any given country.

Unfortunately, by invoking the fallacy of "guilt by association," Erdoğan has declared a total war on all these companies, institutions and groups that may be considered to be sympathetic towards Gülen, who suddenly turned out to be the number-one enemy of Erdoğan because of his criticism about corruption and mismanagement. This misplaced battle has in the first place damaged Turkish economic and social structures, but Erdoğan does not seem to care about that at all because his priority is to survive personal legal troubles emanating from the corruption that incriminated him, his family members and close associates.

Erdoğan erroneously believes that as long as he keeps demonizing Hizmet and shifting the blame for his personal problems on members of Hizmet, he will be able to survive politically forever.

No doubt Gülen, a deeply religious person, is also troubled by the moral and religious implications of corruption as well. As a leading Islamic scholar, he witnessed how political Islamists have abused entrusted power by citizens of Turkey and exploited religious sensitivities of people for personal gains. This hurts the religion of Islam first and foremost, Gülen believes. The failed political Islamist experiment in Turkey has also spoiled the national education systen with ill-advised engineering from Erdoğan, who wants to raise a new breed of political Islamists to fuel his political campaigns. Gülen is considerably upset because education, the only way to transition Turkey into the broader world, has been squandered for petty politics and personal interests.

Therefore, fighting corruption and standing firm against intimidation and scaremongering tactics by Erdoğan is also a moral imperative for Mr. Gülen before anything else.


Foreign Affairs magazine published an important article by Victor Gaetan on Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement. Below is an exerpt and link to...
Radio show host Rita Cosby discusses Fethullah Gulen's strong position against terrorism with Alp Aslandogan. Gulen was the first scholar in the...
It's imperative for those with an interest in today's Turkey to read the recent report prepared by the Washington. DC based Rethink Institute . In...
FBI Washington Field Office Citizens Academy Alumni Association held its annual general meeting at Rumi Forum on September 16,...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FOREIGN AFFAIRS :The Muslim Martin Luther? by Victor Gaetan

Foreign Affairs magazine published an important article by Victor Gaetan on Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement. Below is an exerpt and link to the orginal article.

...His commitment to education as the main solution to problems plaguing most Muslim societies is the most concrete expression of Gulen's religious teachings. Drawing on Islam's sacred texts -- the Koran, hadith (words of the Prophet), and Sira (biography of the Prophet) -- as well as Turkish and Ottoman cultural tradition, Gulen has developed a distinct form of Islamic theology that puts social engagement, not political engagement, at its center.... Read More

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fethullah Gulen's firm position against terrorism on Rita Cosby's Show

Radio show host Rita Cosby discusses Fethullah Gulen's strong position against terrorism with Alp Aslandogan. Gulen was the first scholar in the Islamic world to condemn 9/11 attacks by saying "no muslim can be a terrorist and no terrorist can be a Muslim."

Monday, September 22, 2014

REPORT Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey

It's imperative for those with an interest in today's Turkey to read the recent report prepared by the Washington. DC based Rethink Institute . In particular it addresses the hate speech used against Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen (Hizmet) Movement. The hate speech was perpetrated by former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, currently the President of the Republic of Turkey.

On December 17, 2013, a graft probe alleging corruption among some members of the cabinet became public. Immediately thereafter, the Gülen movement (a.k.a. Hizmet), one of the largest faith-based communities in Turkey, became the target of offensive statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The paper argues that from the standpoint of human rights law, there is little doubt that some of the prime minister’s statements are fundamentally incompatible with the principles underlying the concept of human rights. Some of these expressions, indeed, amount toprima facie hate speech as understood by the European Court of Human Rights, the jurisdiction of which is already accepted by Turkey

According to the European Court of Human Rights, any language which spreads, incites, promotes or justifies hatred based on intolerance, including racial and religious intolerance, is considered to constitute hate speech and is unworthy of protection under the guarantees of freedom of speech. As a matter fact, if the element of hatred is detectable at first sight, the European Court of Human Rights defines such language as abuse of freedom of expression. In this regard, some of the language used by Prime Minister Erdoğan to describe the Gülen movement – i.e. “perverts”, “hashashins”, “traitors”, “spies”, “worse than Shiites”, “leeches” and “a terrorist organization” – do indeed constitute prima facie hate speech....

Read Full Report: