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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement David Newton, Adjunct Professor at the Middle East Institute

With regard to Fethullah Gulen I’ve never had the honor, pleasure meeting him perhaps someday I will. But, again I go back to my service in the Arab World. The Arab World desperately lacks now, I think, a modern foreign looking scientific education based version of Islam which you find in Arab World are either fundamentalists or traditionalist. And you hardly ever find a prominent modernist. So the ideas of Mr. Gulen I think, I hope, will spread outside the Turkish speaking area and I know there is a great effort in the service movement to do that, and I hope especially know that so much attention to the Syria that will be an opportunity for Arabs to absorb some of the ideas of Mr. Gulen, and the other side of course beside his intellectual appeal is his goal for service in which the movement has already doing a great deal in the Arab World.
The one thing it does concern me is that his ideas will continue after his passing, and I wonder if really there is a possibility of other people following him allowing the same line of modernism, education, emphasis on science and the intellectual vitality which I think Islam in many countries sorely lacks.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Huffington Post Op-Ed from Rumi Forum President, Emre Celik: “To Good To Be True”

When was the last time you heard that?

I've heard it a few times -- here's the story.

I am now in my fifth year in Washington, D.C., having immigrated from Australia. Here I have had the pleasure and responsibility of presiding over the Rumi Forum, an organization dedicated to interfaith and intercultural understanding. As part of my position I have the good fortune to travel and talk about issues relating to pluralism, social cohesion, and peaceful coexistence.

On one occasion returning from a speaking engagement in Jacksonville, Florida, I stopped over at the Philadelphia airport for a short commute to a similar engagement at Georgetown, Delaware. I was seated amongst numerous dignitaries including State Legislators and various community leaders. After initial pleasantries we started speaking about the role of the Rumi Forum, and in particular the inspiration that Fethullah Gulen plays (Gulen is our Honorary President), and the motivation behind a global movement, Hizmet). This person had been on one of our study trips to Turkey as part of our intercultural mission to better educate leaders about this important Muslim majority country and strategic U.S. (and Western) ally. He knew quite well the important role Hizmet had played through numerous NGOs both globally and in the U.S. in regards to the values of civilizational dialogue, democracy, human rights, and respect for the 'other'.

Yet at the end of the conversation he leant over to me and said, "I like what the forum and the wider movement does, but it's too good to be true."

Three days later, I was in Norfolk, Virginia, to speak at our local chapter's awards night. I sat next to one of the recipients. An important civil servant, he had worked hard and passionately on various initiatives. He hadn't known much about our forum but had inclined to accept the award after some personal research. After we had developed a rapport, he turned to me and said, "Emre, I respect all that you do and am honored to be receiving this award but it's too good to be true."

In my five years in this position, I had only heard those words twice, and they were three days apart. I wasn't at all surprised. People for various reasons can have doubt or be skeptical about individuals or groups. But at the same time, I was somewhat saddened that after close to 15 years of service to the wider American community, particularly in the wider D.C. metropolitan area, the forum had people that had known us and our mission well or had come into contact with us through various programs still fostered doubt.

I wasn't sure if it was our Muslimness, or Turkishness or the fact that the forum is part of a global movement (only becoming recently known to the wider American population through various articles) that somehow led to such skepticism. Is it purely a post 9/11 syndrome by a small minority or simply an attitude toward all forms of 'other' -- and we happen to be the new or current 'other'?

Does such skepticism further ostracize the 'other' or does it give rise to greater motivation and encouragement for such communities, groups and organizations to be more proactive? I believe it is the latter. Our passion for community service can (and never should) be dampened by a handful. We need to ask ourselves, "What can we do further to bridge the gap between communities and eradicate doubt, prejudice and misunderstanding -- personally, socially and intellectually?"

We should all be proactive in dialogue, and this is not too good to be true!


Evolution of the Hizmet Movement by Dr. Aslandogan

Transcript Below:


Bulent Aliriza, Director and Senior Associate of Turkey Project introduces Alp Aslandogan and the topic of the talk: Gulen or Hizmet Movement (GM/HM) is lead by Fethullah Gulen, focuses on Education and Social Issues. However, it is influence –or even more perhaps, perceived influence- goes well beyond these areas in Turkey as well as U.S. and else where around the world. Few people seem to be neutral about the movement.


Hizmet Movement (HM) is the preferred terminology by its participants, meaning serving fellow humans. Western naming Gulen Movement (GM) is not preferred because it puts too much emphasis on one person. There are other terms describe the movement like ‘Camia’ in Turkish, but none of them would be the right term to describe, so I prefer to use multiple terms.

Movement started as a community around a maverick preacher, a scholar by the name of Gulen; and transformed into a social movement -still transforming- especially in 1990ies. So, many scientists see it as a transnational social movement, faith inspired social movement right now but some of the aspects of the early decades are still there, those aspects that relate to the community roots. Its focuses are on education projects but there are other areas where participants have established foundations, -sometimes- corporations and associations. These areas include -besides education- healthcare, disaster relief & economic assistance, publications of different forms and formats, interfaith and intra-society dialogue; there are also a number of professional associations, both in business and other professions like white/blue collar associations serving two purposes:
i) for the professional development of its members
ii) to channel some of their resources toward charitable projects

Talk Flow will be as following:
  • Some examples of projects and institutions (before talking about them)
  • Gulen himself
  • Movement projects and institutions

[Dr. Aslandogan starts showing snapshots of some projects of the movement]

  • A snapshot from a school in the city of Bursa.
  • A snapshot of a hospital in the city if Sanliurfa.
  • A set of pictures from a village rebuilding project in Darfur. That the humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization Kimse Yok mu? (Isn’t there anybody listening) Foundation organized.
  • Pictures of Gulen’s very symbolic, pioneering initiatives in interfaith dialogue in early 90ies in Turkey.
  • A snapshot from an intellectual meeting in town of Abant in Turkey; only meeting of its kind which brings corners of various segments of the Turkish political and ideological spectrum together where about a 100 to 150 intellectuals participated.

What is common among these projects, volunteers and the officers of the organizations is a concept that I liked to call is committed core. This concept involves people who are committed to a high cause; they have solidarity around a high cause. As an example, establishing an educational institution, be it a dormitory, be it a tutoring center, be it a school in a neighborhood, which has problems; let’s say drug problem. Vast majority of the community would like to get rid of that problem, be it violence, drug or whatever. People with good intentions try to do certain things, and when they start to see that their efforts going nowhere, then they get disheartened, disillusioned and they simply leave or they do not do anything about the solution of the problem any more. So, the problem continues in a community of well meaning good intentioned people, because nobody actually goes to the final last mile. So in the case of the Hizmet Volunteers, -its not the only example of this concept by the way, there are many other examples around the world- volunteer see whatever they are doing as something beyond a salary paying job, as something that gives meaning to their lives. And they have solidarity with their fellow participants around this particular cause and therefore they are willing to commit much more than other well-meaning citizens might. In the case of drug problem for instance, in a school environment, if there is a drug problem, a principal, or a teacher, or a parent, or a PTO member is willing to say “drugs will not enter this school, over my dead body if someone attempts”. So, such individuals, one, two or three, when they come together in a place, when they make this school free of drugs, then other well meaning people who were dormant before, they also gather around them. So, this committed core, actually brings together the good in people, the intentions and energy in the people and activates them. I often use the example of the sugar crystallization experiment -if you have done that in school-, or saturation experiment. That is, you pick up a container, put water in it and begin heating it while adding sugar in it, and then you allow it to cool down. And at certain point you drop a little sugar crystal into that container and if you continue to cool down, you will see that little crystal of sugar becomes larger and larger. So, that little sugar crystal actually serves to bring together the sugar that is already in there, in the water. I think the impact or effect of the HM in Turkish and other societies is that because of these committed core, committed individuals, other well meaning people who want to do good for their society they gather around them to build projects for their society.

Then Dr.Aslandogan shows example snapshots from some other projects. In one of the pictures, there is a lady medical doctor with two of her colleagues running a TV show that deals with family problems.


Let’s talk about Mr. Fethullah Gulen who is the core inspirer and motivator for the movement’s participants. He is a multi dimensional person: he is a scholar, he is a thinker, he is a preacher emeritus who worked for the Turkish government’s directorate of religious affairs -that’s the only way one can preach in Turkey-, so he was a civil servant for a number of years. He is also an author, a very prolific author who has -I believe- more than 12,000 pages in print right now. His speeches, addresses, short talks are also published on the web -I believe- there is over 1000 hours of audio/visual material available either on the web or in other formats. He is also an educator, that is he personally teaches, to this day he teaches a group of graduates of schools of divinity, in his residence, and throughout his life he has been a personal mentor and tutor. He is a progressive scholar and preacher but he is rooted in tradition, i.e. in his interpretation of the Islamic resources, be it the Quran, the commentaries on the Quran, the prophetic tradition, and other resources of the Islamic tradition, he is very progressive but he is always rooted in tradition when he brings an interpretation it is always based on roots in the tradition, based on this particular hadith or based on the interpretation of that particular scholar. Therefore he is not cut from the tradition. This is important for his impact, because we see especially in Western countries, Muslim scholars, thinkers, authors; they may state their opinion, write books and speak on topics, and their interpretations are found to be very compatible with western views but when they fail to connect with the tradition they lose impact on devout Muslim populations.
So, in the case of Gulen, his impact is there because he is not cut from the tradition.

As examples of his progressive interpretations, -though, he may disagree with that statement- :
* There should be no restriction on women to become a president or judge in any society
* Democracy as the best form of governance developed by the mankind.
* Turkey being a member of the European Union (EU)
* On issues such as freedom of expression or other basic human rights
* On Muslims’ approach to arts
these are some of his many progressive interpretations.

He is well versed in both Islamic and Western thought. He often mentions Western thinkers in his speeches; Bergson, Kant, Pascal are few of the names that comes to mind now right now. He combines intellectual work with fieldwork. That is, he is never isolated from the real community service work. Of course, within the last decade, because of his health conditions, he cannot personally participate in many activities, he continues to speak once or twice a week, he continues to edit some of his works that are about to be published, but most of his life he was personally involved in actual fieldwork.
Some of his stances those were significant when they were expressed:
* His support for democracy in the early 90ies when there was a political Islamist party in Turkey who was about to get the power. Turkish observant Muslims attitude toward democracy was mixed. There were arguments that there are some essential incompatibilities there and Gulen argued that there are no essential incompatibilities, and it is in fact the most compatible form of governance with the Islamic principles that pertained to governance.
* He supported Turkey’s membership in EU, this process and still continues to support despite the economic trouble that EU facing now
* May be his most prominent and important stance is against violence. He has been consistent in his stance against of violence of all forms, terror of all forms, in his sermons, in his short talks and books he speaks very clearly, categorically against violence. He rejects terrorism of any kind without regard to the declared cause. For instance, in the case of Palestine or other places when certain individuals who identify themselves as Muslims, when they resort to suicide bombings with the rhetoric that they have no other weapon. Gulen categorically rejects that argument. If an end goal is noble, the ways to reach end goal should also be noble. Having no other means is never a justification of some action that is wrong. In the case of 9/11 attacks, he came forward and condemned the attackers and attack with an ad on the Washington Post. His view on terror was published in a book. He helped edit with the views of other Muslim scholars so there is a book published on condemning terror based on Islamic Muslim resource arguments. And recently he condemned the attacks to the U.S. Ambassador in Libya  and categorically rejected that approach stating that such actions can’t be legitimate in an op-ed piece in Financial Times (dated Sep 27).
* Overall he promotes democracy, science and arts, both individual and group spirituality, dialogue, intra-faith, inter-faith, inter-cultural, inter-ideological, inter-political view; developing a culture of peaceful coexistence is an important item in this course.
* He stands against politicization of faith. During the 90ies, this issue was very prominent. He declared his view that religion should never be politicized. If this happens, then both politics and religion suffers, and religion suffers more.
* He is also against shallow and literalist interpretations of tradition that prevent Muslims from becoming active participants of pluralist democracies. He promotes deeper, more comprehensive look at the tradition and also considering the factors that influenced the interpretations of early ages.

The main themes of his advocacy or discourse roughly overlap with the activity areas of the Hizmet Movement. These include
i) education,
ii) community service,
iii) dialogue & peace-building,
iv) social justice, and
v) development of virtues, individuals and society.

Let me say a couple of words about number iv and v:

When we say social justice, there are of course multiple dimensions to it. In the Turkish context, one dimension of social justice was to help prevent or eliminate the disenfranchisement of certain segments of Turkish society, in particular, the observant Muslims and also the Kurdish citizens. Because Turkish Republic had an ideology from the beginning, and basically every citizen was asked to subscribe to that official ideology which relied upon a nation state; the idea of Turkishness; a particular interpretation of secularism which is driven from 19th century French experience; an emphasis of elitism and elites leading the country; seeing religion as essentially negative, preventing people from thinking rationally. So, this was the essence of the official ideology. Now, this official ideology was adapted and applied across the government institutions that resulted in discriminations against many citizens, including observant Muslim citizens. With his efforts Gulen helped break this monopoly. He encouraged observant Muslim parents to send their kids to schools of law, to schools of military, to police, business, etc. Traditionally, historically more observant parents were reluctant to send their children to these schools. The argument in their minds was that “if I send my child to a law school –the Turkish law at the time include elements from German, Italian, Swiss law- there could be elements that are against my faith therefore if I send my child to a law school he might have to do things that are contrary to my faith”; or, “if I send my child to the military school he will become an officer, he won’t be able to practice his religion, he will have to drink alcoholic drinks, and other issues, so I should not send my child to the military school”. And similar arguments were developed in the minds of observant citizens. So, when you combine this with the discrimination at those government institutions against observant citizens, the end result was severe under representation of observant Muslims and also other segments of society in these government institutions. So, as a contribution to social justice and equal representation -proportional representation- he encouraged sending everybody’s children to all these institutions, to all these schools and being there, having their rightful place in these institutions which is theirs. It’s their government, and they have a right and duty to be present in those institutions. So, today in many government institutions, including the military, the judicial system and other places, there is more proportional representation of the political views, the worldviews of the Turkish society. And I think Gulen deserves a part of the credit for that.

Number five, for the development of virtues, individuals and society:
From the beginning Gulen’s approach to social transformation was a grassroots bottom-up approach, which is in contrast with the political Islamist approach, i.e. more of a top-down approach. That is Gulen’s message was that if you would like to achieve a virtuous society, if you would like to transform your society toward desirable goals from your prospective then the only way to do it is through cultural and social means. Attempting to employ political mechanisms to impose a particular lifestyle on people’s life is completely unproductive, as matter of fact it is counter productive. So, if you would like to achieve a social transformation, go through with education and focus on the individual, person by person, educate them if they are willing to participate in that institution or in that program. That is the only way to do. I think that presents a sharp contrast with some other movements in the Middle East and there are experts that talk about this topic such as Dr. Greg Barton from Australia and Dr. Elizabeth Ozdalga from Turkey.


Now I would like to go talk a little bit about institutions and activities. The educational activities of the movement participants in Turkey have multiple dimensions. If somebody is somehow associated or they are inspired, they are readers of Gulen, they listened to him or they met the movement participants, they would want to do something about education no matter where they are and what their position is, career-wise or in their society. And this doing something about education is a very core value, because education is seen as the ultimate solution to all social problems. Yes, government can do and should do certain things. Yes, there should be policies and funding and everything. Yes, yes, yes. But the long-term solution to any social problem has to go through education. Under representation, drug problem, violence problem, social problem, social conflict, you name it, all those social issues, they can only be solved for the long term through education. Therefore, if somebody is associated somehow with the Hizmet Movement they would like to do something about education. It could be in the form of supporting a student with a scholarship, it could be choosing education as your career, becoming a teacher, it could be helping support a private school or tutoring center, it could be helping start a tutoring center. There was an interesting project recently. The Writers and Journalist Foundation, they asked Turkish singers to sing some spiritual religious songs that prays the Prophet and some other religious values and they collected these songs on a CD and they marketed the CD and with revenue from this project they actually build tutoring centers in Southeast Turkey that helped the Kurdish kids there get a better future and career. So scholarships actually choosing careers in education establishing institutions such as dormitories such as private schools such as collage prep. courses and other forms of education initiatives. In this particular example, in this picture we are seeing a group of students in a school in Bursa and they are in the music class, so these schools are secular curriculum, schools that are open to everybody and there is no religious education, besides whatever government mandates in their official curriculum guidelines, and they are non-sectarian schools. In the smaller picture, you are seeing another little girl who won a medal in social science olympiad. Now this is important because, the balance of social sciences with math and science and arts is important for a well-balanced education. In the absence of this balance, it has been seen that the graduate of certain schools, which emphasize only physical sciences, they may turn out to be a radicals. So, in these schools there is a balance between social sciences and positive sciences and arts.

This is an example from the Sema Hospital in Istanbul. The attractive feature of these hospitals from the community’s point of view is that they are affordable, and they bring the latest medical technology to the country. Sometimes when people cannot afford for certain types of medical care, then there are some mechanisms for funding helping them pay for those treatments.

In the smaller picture you are seeing a volunteer who is probably some place in Africa. It is a medical service either screening or free health care service in Africa.

This is the hospital that I mentioned, in the city of Sanliurfa, and the prominent family behind this hospital is actually a Kurdish family. Although there is no such a statistics, I think the proportion of Kurdish participants  in the movement is roughly equal to the proportion in the Turkish society.

This is a snapshot from the efforts of Kimse Yok Mu? Organization. It is a disaster relief organization which help the victims of all the major disasters of the recent past.

In the smaller picture you are seeing a volunteer doctor who has done a cataract surgery in probably in Kenya or some place near Kenya. In the health field, in addition to the hospitals there are thousands of doctors who are Hizmet Movement participants or they are sympathetic. They participate in these free health care service projects. Often the organizer for this project is Kimse Yok Mu? Organization, but there is also a healthcare professionals association that have organize these volunteer services by doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals.
This is the picture that I mentioned before about rebuilding a village in Darfur. I have an interesting anecdote with this, I was accompanying a social scientist in interviews in Turkey and we visited a women’s association in Istanbul I forgot it’s name right now. In this association we met with a lady who apparently was observant but she was not covered and when we talked about every body profession and what they are doing she said that she is an architect and she is the one who is actually drawing the plans for the building in this town that Kimse Yok Mu? is rebuilding. So, a professional lady, observant but not covered, an architect who is doing free architectural work for this project. I thought that this picture is very meaningful to represent what Hizmet stands for.
In addition to the disaster relief, the Kime Yok Mu? Organization has many other economic assistance programs. For instance they have the sister family program which matches a family in need with a family who is financial able and this is a long term partnership that helps the family in need for the longer term, not just for once.
The interfaith dialog efforts of Mr. Gulen and the movement participants were very symbolically significant in the early 90ies. These pictures are from the early 90ies, 1994 or 1995 timeframe. These are significant, not because Turkish people don’t have a culture of coexistence, they do. During the Ottoman Empire, Muslims and Christians and Jews and others live together of course with certain difficulties and with certain restrictions but nevertheless by in large they lived in peace. So, there is a culture of recognizing the members of other religions and respecting their religious practice. But, during the First World War, things changed, especially during the Turkish War of Independence, things changed. A small portion of Greek community in Turkey, Greek Christian Orthodox Community in Turkey sided with the Greeks and they supported British against the Turkish War of Independence. And also a small portion of the Armenian Community sided with the Russians and the British against again the Turkish community. Therefore, these situations left a scar in the collective mind of the Turkish population. So, although they have a history living together and respecting others religions, these events, the terrible events during the last periods of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the Turkish Republic, left big scars in the minds of Turkish people. The question was about the loyalty of these citizens, non-muslim citizens, is their loyalty to Turkish state or is their loyalty to their fellow brother in religion or ethnicity. So, these scares continued in to the 80′s and 90′s. So with his Efforts Gulen actually helped closed a page -and it is a work in progress obviously- but he helped close a page in history and opened a new page. Okay, in the beginning of our country may be certain members of religious minorities this certain things that we don’t approve and that were against their country but that is history and you can not blame members of all that community for the actions of a few. Therefore let’s close that page and open a new page. We are in a new world, we are in a globalizing world and we have to learn to treat each other in ways that we haven’t done before. The environments that we are living in, that the countries that we are living in, this is totally a new situation. In the history we did not have liberal democratic countries. We did not have governments who did not subscribe to a particular religion. They do not require their citizens to subscribe to a religion. They are not restricting the religious practice. This situation did not happen in history. So, we are facing a new situation. We should position ourselves and our treatments to others according to the new situation. So this was the main message. And he also promoted bringing out the best in religion. When some people use the religion to divide, let’s use religion, the elements of the religious discourse and practice to unite. That was the main message of these meetings. Now, because of the scars that I mentioned when Gulen did these moves, it was controversial especially among the more radical circles, be it religious or ultra-nationalist circles. There were CDs blaming Gulen that hundreds of thousands of these CDs are distributed to the homes. Charging Gulen to be a secret catholic, a secret Jew, or a secret something that is working for foreign governments or CIA. To this day, you can go to the web and pick up pictures that show Gulen movement underneath the super NATO or CIA or MOSSAD or something. To this day you can find those claims. So, when Gulen did these movements it was courageous, and it was deeply appreciated by the religious minority leaders. You might have heard recently, the Turkish government decided to return some of the real estate that was confiscated from religious minorities earlier, after the military coup of 1971. So the Turkish government decided to return those properties to religious minorities, which of course they were very happy with this decision but the Greek orthodox leader Mr. Bartholomew said that these actions of the government, the environment atmosphere for these actions to take place were prepared by Gulen’s efforts (it is on the record for saying this). As a consequence of his contribution to Interfaith dialog in Turkey and elsewhere, Mr. Gulen received a personal audience with the late Pope John Paul the second.
The Abant meeting in Turkey brings together intellectuals from all corners of the political and ideological spectrum is the only meeting it is a kind over a hundred participants. It takes place in different places every year sometimes multiple times every year. So this is a contribution to intra-faith or societal dialog if you will. And all these efforts, especially dialog and tolerance related efforts have been recognized at the highest level of Turkish government and also by world leaders. And you see the pictures some of the former Turkish ministers, prime ministers, presidents and also some notable world leaders who congratulated and the praised the efforts of Mr. Gulen and Hizmet movement in these fields.
This picture is from a group of students and again in southeast Turkey, this is the school building. This is an example from a college prep course again in southeast Turkey and they are very proud with the students that they take place in schools of medicine and especially which is the number one thing among the families in Turkey. On the right hand side you can also see students placed in the school of law, schools of pharmacy, schools of education, and engineering, and veterinarian sciences. So these schools and the tutoring centers do a great service to the citizens to the children in that region, historically under served. A group of students with Dr. Martha Ann Kirk from a university from Texas. She did a couple of studies southeast Turkey and Northern Iraq, studying the Hizmet related institutions and their services there.
This picture is also very important. Again in southeast Turkey, some observant parents are reluctant to send their daughters to the schools, besides whatever is required by the government. They are worried about moral issues, social issues that pertain to their daughters. So in the case of Hizmet movement related institutions, be it a school or tutoring center the movement’s values give them confidence that when they send their children and their daughters to this institutions, then certain social values are preserved and observed represented, so they can be comfortably send. So, actually movement helps educate the girls in Southeast Turkey and other places where there are observant parents. For those who are interested in more details of the movement, there is a work by Dr. Helen Rose Ebaugh who is a sociologist, there is more intellectual kind of publication by Dr. Jill Caroll on comparing Gulen’s views with the prominent Western thinkers, there are 9 pages in the book of Mr. Graham Fuller named the new Turkish Republic, he devoted 9 pages to the movement which I find to be very objective, he discusses both the movement values, projects, and also critics. I think it is very objective balanced treatment of the movement if you just have little time to devote to the this topic then those 9 pages I think your first point start. Dr. Muhammed Cetin has a book based on his dissertation. There are multiple books edited based on conferences that involve many Western social scientist. One of them is edited by Dr. Hakan Yavuz and Dr. Esposito. Another one by or Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz and Dr. Esposito. One by myself and Dr. Robert Hunt. So you can find those on

So that is the end of my presentation and I would be happy if I could help respond to some of your questions.
Bulent Bey introduces Mr. Aslandogan and describes movement with a single sentence: GM/HM lead by FG focused on Educational and Social Issues
HM is the preferred terminology by its participants meaning serving fellow humans. Western naming GM is not preferred because it puts too much emphasis on one person. There are other terms describe the movement like ‘Camia’ in Turkish, but none of them would be the right term so I prefer to use multiple terms.
Movement started as a community around a maverick preacher, scholar; and transformed into a social movement -still transforming- especially in 1990ies. So, many scientists see it as a transnational social movement, faith inspired social movement. Its focuses is on education projects but there are other areas where participants have established foundations, corporations and associations. These areas include -besides education-  healthcare, disaster relief & economic assistance, publications of different forms and formats, interfaith and intrasociety dialogue; there are also a number of professional associations, both in business and other professions like white/blue collar associations serving two purposes:
i) for the professional development of its members
ii) to channel some of their resources toward charitable projects
Talk Flow:
Some examples of projects and institutions (before talking about them)
Gulen himself
Movement projects and institutions
Snapshot from a school in Bursa
Snapshot of a hospital in Sanliurfa
Village project in Darfur of Kimse Yok mu? foundation.
Pictures of very symbolic, pioneering initiatives in interfaith dialogue of Gulen in early 90ies.
Snapshot from an intellectual meeting in town of Abant in Turkey; only meeting of its kind
brings corners of various segments of the Turkish political and idealogical spectrum together where about a 100 to 150 intellectuals participated.
What is common among these projects, volunteers and the officers of the organizations is a concept that I liked to call is committed core. This concept involves people who are committed to a high cause, they have solidarity around a high cause. e.g. establishing an educational institution, be it a dormitory, be it a tutoring center, be it a school in a neighborhood which has problems, let’s say drug problem. Vast majority of the community would like to get rid of that problem, be it violence, drug or whatever. People with good intentions they try to do certain things, and when they start to see that their efforts going nowhere they get disheartened, disillusioned and they simply leave or they do not do anything about the solution of the problem any more. So, the problem continues in a community of well meaning good intentioned people, because nobody actually goes to the final last mile. So in the case of the Hizmet Volunteers, -its not the only example of this concept by the way, there are many many other examples around the world- volunteer see whatever they are doing as something beyond a salary paying job, as something that gives meaning to their lives. And they have solidarity with their fellow participants around this particular cause and therefore they are willing to commit much more than other well meaning citizens might. In the case of drug problem for instance, in a school environment if there is a drug problem, a principal, or a teacher, or a parent, or a PTO member is willing to say “drugs will not enter to this school, over my dead body if someone attempts”. So, such individuals, one, two or three, when they come together in a place, when they make this school free of drugs, then other well meaning people who were dormant before, they also gather around them. So, this committed core, actually brings together the good in people, the intentions and energy in the people and activates them. I often use the example of the sugar crystallization experiment -if you have done that in school-, or saturation example. That is, you pick up a container, put water in it and begin heating it while adding sugar in it, and then you allow it to cool down. And at certain point you drop a little sugar crystal into that container and if you continue to cool down, you will see that little crystal of sugar becomes larger and larger. So, that little sugar crystal actually serves to bring together the sugar that is already in the water. I think the impact or effect of the HM in Turkish and other societies is that because of these committed core, committed individuals, other well meaning people who want to do good for their society they gather around them to build projects for their society.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement, John Esposito, Georgetown University

I think that the Gulen movement is an extraordinarily unique movement. And it took me many years really to appreciate it. Because it was so different also because, it doesn’t advertise itself. So you have a movement that having a significant impact, locally and globally and yet it’s not as if they are always out there and you are facing in terms what they do. And when one first gets interested in it, you also begin to realize that at times because people don’t know or understand or because of the other people’s ideological agendas this is kind of negative are. But the fact is that the more and more that you get to know and engage the Gulen movement globally and all of its components, whether you look at it in Turkey and across the world and the components that are educational, social, cultural etc. what you see is a unique movement. Particularly as I look to Muslim world I don’t know of a movement that is as diverse in its impact, in terms of countries, in terms of sects of the society but also in terms of the areas that it has an impact, i.e. it is a movement that impacts the corporate sector, it can impact the political sector, the religious sector, social sectors, and do it an extraordinarily pluralistic way and that was also interesting.
When you get your average Muslim movement, social movement whatever, too often it’s focus is not as universal as it should be. Somewhere now are beginning to making adaptation but none has the track record: fifteen hundred schools across the world, various forums, Rumi, Niagara, inter-religious all across the world and doing that in a way that is able to at least as I see them in cities when I meet audiences they pull it a sectors of society and a community where I kind of wonder how did they get this people to come here? So I think it is a very significant movement in terms of its long term impact but also it is one that others will be wise to attempt to emulate.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

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

I think Fethullah Gulen is a remarkable philosopher. I’m pleased with the influence that he’s had because virtually all of his followers share the goals of charity, interfaith peace, and the condemnation of violence. It does trouble me sometimes that there is no control all over who gets the call themselves a Gulenist and even though who knows very little about Fethullah Gulen, his writings, the organizations, are willing to see the hand of conspiracy where none exist. But of course we are human, we all tend worry, and sometimes we put labels on things. And experience I’ve had with Gulenist organizations has been entirely positive. I’m a Jewish academic born in America with European parents and everyone made me feel like part of the same community, we sharing the same goals.
All of the statements I’ve seen from Fethullah Gulen regarding political events, even up to his touching statements regarding the victims of the Boston bombing, have always been against violence, in favor of peace. And for bringing people of all faiths together. So I’m very happy with the analogy I’ve gained about the Gulen and Gulen Movement, the activities of most of his supporters all that I know personally, they have been great and I think the organization is great.

Rumi Forum Represented at the National Prayer Breakfast

Rumi Forum president, Emre Celik, attended the 62nd Annual National Prayer Breakfast with President Obama`s invitation. ”Religion strengthens America and no matter what, no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate” - President Barack Obama

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ISLAMICommentary Op-Ed from Rumi Forum President, Emre Celik: “Hizmet and I”

Gonul Dunyamizdan’ — loosely translated as ‘From the world of our hearts’ — was a 2-cassette series of sermons by Fethullah Gulen that I was given. The year was 1992. I was 21; a university student completing my computer engineering degree in my hometown Sydney. Those cassettes were given to me by a newly acquired graduate student friend. He was on an engineering scholarship from Turkey studying in Australia.

I was busy in various community-based activities from being the administrator of a university students association to being busy in a local mosque that I attended. I was an active Muslim, having interacted with various groups within the Muslim community in Sydney.

I was at that stage a fan of Said Nursi — an important Islamic scholar and thinker of Kurdish background. His magnum opus, ‘The Risale-i Nur’ (Treatise of Light), was a 6000 page exegesis on matters of the Islamic faith and theology as an antidote to the various ‘isms’ of the day, amongst them atheism.

As part of his methodology he expounded upon the compatibilty of religion (Islam) and science. He used rational parables to explain complex religious and theological concepts. As a student of quantum physics and other physical sciences, Nursi’s approach to faith was easily approachable and intellectually satisfying.

Then came those tapes and what would lead to my friend Ibrahim becoming a close friend and mentor. Those cassettes become the first step in my personal journey towards ‘insani kamil’ (human perfection) as expounded by Muslim thinker and intellectual Fethullah Gülen’s understanding of Islam in the 20th century (and now 21st century). Part of that ‘perfection’ were spiritual ideals — though in the purest sense these might be considered unreachable — were indeed the lofty principles by which Gülen encouraged others to live.

Amongst them included the concept of hizmet or service (for the pleasure of the Almighty). Within Gülen’s understanding of this term was the concept of ‘Hakka hizmet hakka hizmet’  i.e. serve the Almighty by serving the community. And this concept stood out for me, particularly at a time when many of those pious Muslims around me emphasized personal and spiritual development but lacked experience, methodology or vision to encapsulate this important Islamic tradition of service to others.

Gülen, also inspired by Nursi’s understanding of the social ills of the Muslim world — poverty, disunity and ignorance — emphasized the importance of alleviating these in the Muslim world. Gülen didn’t stop there. He took this one important step further. It was incumbent on all Muslims, he preached, to help alleviate such social ills no matter the background of the person or the community being served. They could be Hindus in India, Buddhists in Japan, Agnostics in Europe, Baptists in the US, indigenous tribal religions in Africa or Muslims in the Middle East — all could and should be served as such ills were prevalent the world over.

It was this social consciousness that has helped people like me to ‘live’ Islam in the practical sphere — beyond whatever personal or inner gain, the living of my faith became a communal and societal gain. So no matter who it was we indeed are concerned with the difficulties of our neighbors, friends and others in society.

This ‘leap of faith’ for me and my friends has helped our movement in the establishment of and running of schools, education centers, dialogue centers, boarding homes, cultural centers, relief projects, and numerous other activities that help others throughout the world.

Forty years on we still continue to see Gülen encouraging others around the same ideals.  Despite the difficulties of his home country he continues to write and speak about hizmet and insani kamil. And in those forty years he has been able to inspire two generations to traverse the globe and establish more than 2000 institutions across 6 continents and more than 150 countries.

I recently listened to those first cassettes again, ‘Gonul Dunyamizdan,’ including where Gülen recalls Yunus Emre’s oft recited poetic verse “Dovene elsiz, sovene dilsiz…” meaning “Those who strike you (react) as if without a hand, those who slander you (react) as if without a tongue.”

Under these trying times as we come to grips with the realities of trying to understand Gülen, it might be wise to recall these words, and as Gülen tells us — “Hizmete devam,” continue to serve.

Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement, Ori Soltes, Georgetown University

HERE is a transcript of the entire video…
Fethullah Gulen is one of the more remarkable people, whose writings over the last several years I’ve been studying rather carefully. He is an individual it seems to me who falls very much in line with the direction that Sufism takes, that is to say Muslim mysticism takes, particularly in the writings of people like Rumi and like ibn Arabi, in the following manner: one of the things that one recognizes as a mystic, I mean a true mystic not someone who vaguely talks about mysticism. A true mystic realizes that of his or her goal is in a certain fundamental way to become one for a moment with God with the innermost recesses of God. Then the only way that can happen is if he or she empties self of self. If I’m to fill with God, I’ve to empty myself of myself, or there is too much of me in the way. And so for example, if my intention is to gain enlightenment for myself, it won’t work. I won’t succeed as a mystic because that is too selfish. My intention has to be to gain enlightenment in order to come back from that experience and share it with the community around me, and improve community around me. So with that it mind, a Sufi like ibn Arabi or a Sufi like Rumi recognizes that being so certain that only my way of thinking in terms of religion or anything else for that matter, be speaks a kind of egotism which is overly filled with self. And I have to empty myself in order to be filled with God. So Gulen, it strikes me, commons from that kind of sensibility. He is a student of course of Islam in general. He is a student of the wider world of both religion and science; literature, and history, as broadly as one can imagine and thinking historically all the way back -let’s say- to Socrates. But he is also within the rhomb (2:22?) of Islam and a profound Sufi and a Sufi who is particularly aware of and has thought in a great deal about what people like an Arabi and Rumi have thought and written and so what that in mind he strikes me as a kind of perfect paradox. He recognizes that for him and for those around him the most perfect religion on the planet is Islam. But at the same time he also recognizes that for others who are Jews or Christians or Hindus for them their form of faith is the most perfect on the planet for them, and each and everyone of these forms of faith has something to contribute to a large conversation about faith about God and more important than that in a sense what with God or even without God in our minds we can do to improve the world. So the movement that sometimes bares his name, the Gulen movement or more recently -as I’m happy to report because it is important- has begun to be called simply the Hizmet movement and the word Hizmet in Turkish means service,is a movement that applies the theory of all of these, the thoughts and the words about all of this to action. That the Hizmet movement is about not just thinking and talking, but acting to improve the world, whether is in educating children or whether is in broadening the mindset of university students or whether it is in social action; a whole range of activities that benefit the community at large. The diverse community, by diverse I mean different religions, different ethnicities, different raises, different nationalities all that is part of the purview of the Hizmet movement which puts in action the thoughts that one can see in campus Socrates here and Rumi there and Einstein here and Rutherford there, all coming to focus in a particular way through Gulen’s writing and then his teaching and then those who follow him, those who admire him, those who are inspired by him to do the things they do, for the most par is volunteers, they are not being payed to do, many of they things they do. And as someone who for example has visited a number of the schools that have been inspired by Gulen and founded by the movement. One of the things that stroke me is that teachers in that schools, the administrators in that schools don’t just they talk to talk, they walk to walk. They are there all hours. They are available for their students, they help them grow, and kind of curricula that they shape are broad based curricula that deal with everything from the arts and sports to science, literature, philosophy, and theology. So this is a remarkable person who has inspired a remarkable series of developments for which that word Hizmet and the phrase Hizmet Movement I think it is a nice simple and concise statement.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Towards an Islamic Enlightenment: The Gulen Movement" by M. Hakan Yavuz

There are 3 issues I want to deal with:

1.     One, why did I write this book?

2.     Second one is the message of this book?

3.     Third what is left out? Or what are the issues I think needs to be explored or the critical expect of the movement as well.

I wrote this book because my original dissertation very much covered Islamic movements in Turkey. Even though I did my field work in the Fergana Valley and Turkey but I left the Fergana Valley aside and very much focused on Turkey. The Gulen movement was one of my case studies in mid 1990s and I tried to examine and follow the evolution of the movement and I’m not a member of movement. I want to mention that as well. I approach the issue from a scholarly prospective. I did a number of field works in the Balkans, Central Asia and Europe on the movement. What made me to write this book, one this misunderstanding of the movement both in Turkey and outside. Second, somewhat inability of members of the movement to explain what they are doing because the movement is very much action oriented movement, and there are I would say just recently there are some institutes to conceptualize what the movement trying to do. So there are member of conferences of movement put together, some scholars, some member of movements but I was not satisfied with those works as well. And I decided to write the movement one to examine impact of neoliberal economic policies unleashed by Ozal and then also deepening up Turkish democracy. How democracy and market economy shapes Islamic movement, religion in general Islam in particular. In other word what we have in Turkey that in Europe usually protestant reformation played an important role in the evolution of capitalism; whereas in Turkey the capitalism and democracy help to create more or less Calvinist, protestant Islam. I think the Gulen movement is one of those interpretations of Islam. I would say the most powerful one and most successful one. Tries to reconcile with democracy moderation in general democracy, human rights and market economy. So what we have here a new Islam and I defined this new Islam. I think there are poor major characteristic or new imagine constructor or new understanding of Islam or we can call it a new Islam. One of the new defining characteristics of new Islam is that religion it is a type of religiosity more or less rooted in ourselves on soul in ourselves. Believing is important as long as you behave, that is this connection between believing and behaving that the religion should motivate you to do something. So the religion, the piety is not for the sake of but the piety but the piety for the sake of improving social, political and economic condition of your society. So here the piety becomes a motivating force not only fulfilling your religious duties but rather religion is an instrument in a way to improve your social conditions. The second, by new Islam religion especially Islam in the conceptual method of Gulen is a civil philosophy. That is something very important by civil philosophy I mean Gulen wants to integrate Muslims into public debate and discussion including interpretation of Quran and so they in understanding of Quran or making some decision on other words for Gulen to build the consensus something is very important. The consensus building should not be left to one or two religious scholars, people should participate what the verse means, what we need to do and this Islam provides that shared code of language how to debate, how to discuss and it offers general sense of good life for this building consensus So again building consensus true sharing life of Islam. I think this is something very important. So it is not the process in terms of building the consensus but that what we shared is definition of good life is something very important for the new understanding of Gulen.

Again this is not an Islam of Sheriah, this is an ethical Islam. Overall in the Turkish case, if you look at the religious movement in Turkey, no one wants sheriah because of also the sheriah has a very negative meaning because of a number of historical and political events in the country but this is a Islam, ethical Islam, a type of Islam you build a bases to create a consensus.

Finally, I would say the third major characteristic of this new Islam is been is voluntary. That it is very similar to Abdullah El-Main a professor at Emirate University and this voluntary that you should make your own decision to be a Muslim or not to be Muslim. It is your right to follow or not to follow. In another words that this the voluntary activity that the piety itself it also becomes to voluntary. It should not to be force, neither by community nor by the state. This voluntary expects is something very important, this is why we don’t know the membership of the movement, who is in and who is out is not clear. People come and people leave. And sometimes people come together for certain activity. When that activity is finished, people go home. Because it is very much this voluntary expect is something very important and this voluntary expect also that religion or piety should be voluntary, it has a social implication. Some spill over positive effect on the society. Finally, this new Islam according to my own understanding, it is an attempt to create enlightenment or there is a conscious effort to bring or filter revelation through reason. Reason plays an important role, in terms of the critical thinking in terms of what is right or what is wrong to determine the true consensus building. I think that is something also very important. The critical thinking and also this emphasis on open society. But you have to imagine and think the Gulen movement within large of conservative Turkish society. Where movement was and where it is today, an incredible change and transformation. Now I would argue that these are the four major defining of characteristic the New Islam that the Gulen tries to articulate. In my book I try to separate the Gulen movement and meaning the book consists of three parts. Because what Gulen thinks and what Gulen is trying to do is not necessarily manifested in the movement. Because the movement activities are rooted and located in different counties and social and political conditions of each country very much shapes the meaning. The meaning is the outcome. So there is this tension between the ideas of Gulen and the actions of the activities of the movement. They are not always the same. I’m not saying they are contradictory but the conditions, let’s say in Kirgizstan or in Uzbekistan or in the USA are not the same, so the activities of the movement also varies, there is this variation.

Now, whe n you look at the totality of Gulen’s cognitive map or his philosophy. I would say also how does  cognitive map of Gulen his carried out by the movement, there are seve n major centers of, I would say, concept and the activity, the practices based on some concept. One as I said this Islam as a civil philosophy is something very important for Gulen. Second, the movement and Gulen very much they stress bridging more than bonding. Bridging with different cultures and different societies. Here something quite interesting, it links to this consensus building, also how do you transform yourself, you transform yourself through acting with the other. There is this dialectic between self and other in terms of bridging with different cultures and different societies. This is I think very important and it also explains helps us to understand interfaith dialog of the movement. People say what is the purpose of this movement? My own work and on the bases o f my own study, I would say the key purpose of the movement is character formation. This is one the, it is more the purpose is not religious I would say , it is very much secular, it is a character formation. This is one of the reason why education is something very important for the movement. Another aspect, the practice of the movement which links to terminology or the concept of Gulen how to teach Islam? This tension between “temsil” versus ”teblig” rather than preaching you need to teach Islam through good examples, so the action, activity, practice, building  institutions become much more important than going and preaching the religion. Another expect of the Islam of Gulen, I see the understanding  of Islam by Gulen is  feminize d Islam.

I didn’t deal with this issue in the book but I consider it as feminized Islam. By feminize Islam, I mean the following that when you read the memoires of Gulen, he argues that his grand mother and mother shaped his understanding of Islam more than his grandfather and father. His father and his father, they played an important role in terms of disciplining the body. But he argues that it is his grand mother and mother who shaped his mind and for Gulen, Islam is a felt emotion that there is a inner dimension of Islam and he believes that the sentimental emotional aspect of Islam is essential in terms of action and activity. So there is this feminize d aspect of Islam that is a felt emotion. The finally, some another issue which is not a part of the book and it is a project of another book. That is for Gulen , this character formation is very important. But one of the defined aspect of the character Gulen wants to shape, should be someone who concerns the world, who cares other. There is this ethic of caring, ethical discourse to care the world because of that the world and humanity very much created by God. There is the sense you care and you should care if you are a Muslim, what is happening. Your  environment, the world and humanity because of your love your God. So these are the, I would say key issues of the book. I also criticize the movement in my book as well. I have four major areas that I think the movement needs to focus on. One is the gender issue, I tried to argue that the movement is not where it suppose to be, recruitment of women and the gender is one of the issue. Certainly, the Turkish culture certainly how Islam is understood in Turkey plays an important role. There are some changes in terms of the movement emphasizes women’s educations more than other groups but still it is one of the area, the gender, is a key issue.

Second, the movement very much focuses on the human being and community, less on the state. So this is when you are looking at the movement in Kirghizstan or in Germany or in Turkey. You know, because their concern is character formation, their main concern is the empowerment of the community. So you see the similarities but the strategies change. The goal is the same, but the practice and strategies would vary form state to state on the bases of the legal social and political context of that country. So this is one of the, even if Turkey the different regions of the country, so I tried to make sure in my book that we should not make too many generalization about the strategies of the movement but there is certainly a shared core what movement wants to do.

- Foreign cover for policy and international relations. Let me kindly ask you touch a little bit on the foreign policy, international relations outlook of the movement. For example, has Hizmet movement been an important factor in recent Turkish outreach in the world. And how does such a transnational home grown civic movement effect Turkish foreign policy in term of means and outlook? And what do you think are the general principles of the movement when it comes to international relations. Say for example, would you say the movement is confrontational or non-confrontational, pragmatic, realist? How would you comment on that?

- Well, I think the movement is one of the, there is a debate about the role of the movement in Turkey. Especially the state bureaucracy is not very comfortable with the movement because they don’t want civil society participation. So the movement participates, or tries to get engaged on a number of issues and there is also this engagement not only the inside of the country but the in foreign policy as well. That the movement very much focuses on civil diplomacy that not the states. This is not a state centric movement. Here concern is the human being and community. So the movement foreign policy principles are would say very much the human right especially the religious freedoms are something very important for the movement. And the human rights discourses important for the movement. But there is a debate what the movement is also supporting the human rights of those who don’t share the vision of the movement is a debate of Turkey, as you know. But overall, when you look at the outside the human right discourse the individual rights, the community, the civil society, these are very important for the movement. In other words, if you look at Turkey’s presents in many countries, regions of the world, outside of the Turkish Embassy may be in the US, you see Turkish coalition of America little bit but may be in it is only Washington but if you go outside of Washington, wherever you go, you have centers of the movement. Or if you go to Europe in the European cities is the same thing. In Central Asia the same. I went to Tokyo, Japan, you have the Turkish Embassy and you have the Tatar mosque in Tokyo and some Muslim communities and then the movement, nothing else. But you have here that the movement is quite active in terms of building societal ties, society to society rather than state to state. Because this is one of the main focus of the movement as well the individual and the community and its foreign policy principles of the movement, I would say not confrontational very much it engagement. Movement tries to solve the problems through peaceful means, this is one of the reason why Gulen was open the critical of the Israelite-Turkish tension over trying to break the siege of Gazzah. Because he believes that there should be a compromised diplomacy and the negotiation, something is very important for the movement. But the understanding, again the foreign policy principles of the movement I think the core of the movement is very much this is the human is something very important for the movement. So the foreign policy or other policies are very much the extension of understanding what is the purpose of the movement to improve the social and economic conditions of the society.

- Thank you.

- But again, one more last thing, the movement is the most pro-European in the country. This is one of the area of tension between AK Party because they used to be very pro-EU but not any more and whereas the movement wants to see Turkey to be a part of Europe rather than part of larger Middle East. So the movement sees the future of Turkey in Europe not outside Europe. And it is also against the special membership status as well. So this is one of the areas especially on the foreign of policy area. Also the movement is not very comfortable with Turkish government’s aggressive attitude toward Syria. The movement doesn’t want Turkey to get involved or dictate what to do. They would like to see less intervention in the affairs of the Arab countries. That doesn’t mean less engagement. Turkey should engage but Turkey should not see itself as an arrogant country to go and tell other Arab counties what is right and what is wrong. I think so…. and relation with the Iran, there is also some differences of opinion.

- They (Hizmet Movement) seem to be more critical on Iran.

- They (Gulen Movement) are more critical about Iranian government because of again they try to raised in terms of the human right issue in Iran, and the religious freedoms of the other groups in the country and they also not comfortable with Iranian politicizing Islam.

- Thank you. Now is time for questions from our audience. Yes, sir.

- That raises the obvious question as to the Gulen and its relationship to the U.S. You did talk a little bit about its interesting area. What is the public opinion as far as how should the US be conducting itself militarily right now in that area. Is that something that is come up with let’s say in the publications is to what their interests are as far as U.S. and how we should we conduct ourselves. Not only with respect to Israel but / as media coverage, how it is covered?

- I think, about the capitalism, there is no systematic critic of capitalism unfortunately in the movement. And the movement very much sees market or capitalism something good. Something good that someway this competitiveness of the capitalism is part of the, may be not the philosophy of the Gulen but actions of the movement that you need to be competitive, you need to engage, you need to do the past and also there is a sense that the movement feels they should be powerful as well. So movement doesn’t shy away from wealth of power and but they want that wealth and power to be used for the ultimate goal or purpose of the what the movement believes in. And most of the supporters of the movement in Turkey are middle or higher/upper middle class. So the type of Islam is evolved or the interpretation of Islam very much I would say caters this developing Turkish economy. Do they are comfortable with the capitalism and the economic wealth and power. But again, there should be some ethical boundaries what you can do with the power and wealth.

- Are they comfortable with Americans right now in terms of travel because we know there are certain places where Americans are not welcomed right now. So my question is this the case?

- In Turkey? I don’t think there is any problem in Turkey. I think Americans can.. I don’t see any problem. I think Turkey is still one of the main destinations for American tourists. The leader of the movement is in the U.S. one of the accusations movement receives from the some radical Islam’s groups. They framed the movement as uncle Sam’s Islam or it is on American Islam and they think that the Gulen movement is not in but the CIA, set of CIA activities. This is very much you hear these kinds of charges from the leftists, and the communists. And also some people in Russia for instance, movement is not active because they treat movement as nothing but American extension. So the movement is again also criticized inside Turkey as well by anti-American groups because one of the charge is the leader of the movement is in the U.S. The type of Islam, movement try to develop is nothing but the American design type of Islam.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hizmet Symposium Panel 1, Educational Paths to Peacebuilding

Transcript Below

-Before we get started with our panels today, we have opening remarks by the President, Emre Celik. He is the president of the Rumi Forum, here in Washington D.C. Please welcome Mr. Celik.

-Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. On be half of the organizing community, advisor board members and partner institutions, I welcome each and every one of you to the 2013 Hizmet Movement and Peace Building Global Cases Conference. Study and research on any social civic movement is essential to understand its workings and secrets to its success. The Hizmet movement is no different, institutions like the Rumi Forum and those similar in nature, including educational, dialog and service organizations they have spread breadth and depth of the world. Now are more than 140 countries needs to be understood. Questions about the Hizmet movement methodology and outcomes needs to be asked, researched and answered. Such a conference provides a mean for others to replicate if need be and to dispel misunderstandings and ignorance. It also offers avenues for similar minded institutions to come together and work collaboratively around the shared values of the movement. I want to give a special thanks to the partner institutions, George Town University, Mt. St. Mary’s University, and American University and numerous scholars in an adviser board that played an important role in the making of this conference. We sincerely hope to the papers presented today and tomorrow lead to further discussion and greater understanding the important social and civic phenomena known as the Hizmet movement. I am personally eager and certain all participants here today are keen to hear each of the speakers and also hope to those not present, will take advantage of the proceedings which we will hope will be published in the near future. Again thank you one and all.

- Ladies and gentlemen for opening remarks, please welcome James Herrington of the Texas Civil rights project.

-So, good morning. I was invited to give some observations about Hizmet. It is almost five years ago today that I was sitting in church at the end the service, after it was all over, someone shout from the back anybody want to go to Turkey. And I thought well.. Why not? I knew nothing about the movement. I knew nothing about Islam. I knew nothing about anything about why I’m here today. And in a sense this is attribute to the work of the movement. End it up of course writing a book about Fethullah Gulen, the political trial he was involved in. I’ve traveled around the Europe and talked a lot of people and travel around the U.S. in Canada and done a lot of talks. And met a lot of people in the movement. And movement for me is very amazing, undertaking because I see it is having three parts from what I see on the outside looking in.

One of course is very important is dialog, the dialog that occurs when we go to diners. You know, the dinners at people’s houses or the dinner like we had last night or the dialog that is part of academic enterprise doing today or the dialog just goes on people sit down and talk each other and understand each other.

And another part I think it is a phenomenally important and impressive about Hizmet is the education component. Having built 1,500 schools around the world in 140+ countries. The importance of schools I think is because the reach out the people who have not otherwise had that education. The schools get a foothold in the Kurdish area of Turkey to start with, an area which the women, young women, will not have opportunities to go to school because their father didn’t want them, associating with young boys, or the importance of schools keeping people being involved in the terrorists efforts that were going on. It is better to go to school than to go to the mountains. So begin the see that. Texas, I’m from, we have 29 movement schools and we have 25 thousand students in the movement schools. There are 28 thousand people on the waiting list. To me was important about there schools is they reach out to the community that will not otherwise be adequately served. For example, in Texas, there are long border with Mexico. Or in Austin where I’m from, they are in poor areas. But last time I was in Turkey, I went to a movement school in Antalya. I’ve a picture but I cannot show until tomorrow apparently. I went to one of these schools in a very poor area in Antalya, and some talking to the kids I don’t forth or fifth grades and asked what do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a teacher, I want to be a policeman, I want to be, you know, doctor all kinds of things kids say. But what strike me about it, if it wasn’t for that school, those kids would have no dreams. Those kids would have no dreams because they wouldn’t be in the school, they wouldn’t be thinking about this, they wouldn’t be thinking about what I can do. And we know building a civil society and peace building depends on education. Education is very important component of the movement.

The third part of the movement that I think very impressive is the idea of service, helping people. There is a helping foundation in Turkey, and foundations in each country. The foundation of Turkey, Kimse Yok Mu?, for example in the last major earthquake in Turkey, raised 37 million dollars in overnight with a telephone. Has provided aid throughout the world. Every time there is a catastrophe this Hizmet foundation show up and help people. We see it in local in Texas out today. As a matter of fact the Hizmet folks in Austin Texas are delivering a huge load of frozen meat to the food pantry where I volunteer on Saturday, that connection that was made through being in Church five years ago. As the importance of dialog, as the importance of Hizmet, the community services based on the education comes from Sufi movement, part of Islam, very moderate, what we call moderate but emphasizing souls seen each other. Souls helping each other. It is a movement to me in very many respects. It is what you see in early Christianity. You don’t have a form, there is not a formation of hierarchy, its service, helping people, meeting and a very important part of it is religious, motivation, Hizmet doesn’t try to convert but people exercising their spirituality. There is a Tracy Chapman song, Heavens here on earth, this reminds me the people that I’ve met all around the world in Europe and Canada and the U.S. involved in Hizmet:

“I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise
Of ordinary people leading ordinary lives
Filled with love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice”

That’s what the movement is about, building civil society. Not far from here you can go to Mark Luther King Memorial that have beautiful words that are prescribed and one of them is from a speech he gave in 1964 in Norway:
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

That is what I think the movement is all about. That is what peace building is about, that is what we are here to dedicate our time to during this symposium. I think for me this journey that I’ve been personally been on with Hizmet is very fantastic. It has changed my life, it has changed my own spirituality, it has helped me deepen my own spirituality and it has helped me understand better this final quote that I want to give you from Marry Anne Evans (George Eliot):

We make a living from what we get. We make a life from what we give. What we have done for ourselves dies with us. What we have done for others and for the world is immortal.

Thank you very much.