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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fethullah Gulen's Interview with Politico: ‘I don’t have any regrets’

By on 9/9/16 POLITICO

Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric that the Turkish government blames for the recent attempted coup, has long been reclusive, rarely granting interviews. But in the wake of the accusations against him, he’s sought to clear his name.

Other op-eds and articles by Fethullah Gulen here

Gülen recently agreed to answer a handful of written questions from POLITICO. The exchange is here in full:

You insist your movement is peaceful, not political. But multiple sources tell me that Hizmet has a dark side — where individuals are carefully groomed to enter government and related professions with the intent of an ultimate takeover. Is this true? If not, is it possible that these sorts of activities are happening without your knowledge?
I have served as a preacher for nearly 30 years before coming to the U.S. and my friends continued to publish my talks after I settled here. There are over 70 books based on my articles and talks. It is natural that in Turkish government there are people who share some of my views just as there are those who don’t share them.
My teaching has always been to act within [the] law and in an ethical way. If anybody who follows my works acts illegally or unethically, or if they disobey the lawful orders of their superiors, that is a betrayal of my teachings and I fully support their being investigated and facing the consequences.
If there is no discrimination, government institutions reflect the colors and patterns of its society. We know that in Turkish government institutions there are people of various political and religious orientations, such as nationalists, neonationalists, Maoists, Kemalists, Alevis, leftists, sympathizers of Sufi orders and others. For decades, none of these groups could be transparent about their identities except the Kemalists because of political profiling and discrimination. And now, loyalty to Erdoğan is replacing loyalty to Ataturk as the criteria for acceptable identity.
It is the constitutional right of every Turkish citizen to serve in their government institutions if they are qualified to do so. To accuse anybody of having a nefarious goal without evidence is slander. If people are afraid to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals, it is the regime’s problem, not theirs.
As far as my discourse is concerned, I have never advocated for regime change in Turkey. To the contrary, 22 years ago, in 1994, I told publicly that there will be no return from democracy in Turkey or elsewhere in the world. This was both a prediction and a commitment to democracy. Publications who are allied with President Erdoğan now, criticized me severely then, nearly calling me an infidel. When the military was dominating the domestic politics during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was charged in Turkish courts … but not a single piece of evidence could be brought to show that I supported any other regime but democracy.

What do you think the future holds for your movement in the wake of the attempted coup in Turkey and Turkish leaders’ demonization of your organization?
President Erdoğan appears determined to wipe all the institutions set up by Hizmet participants and prevent any future attempts to establish any new institutions. This is contrary to [the] Turkish constitution and all the international agreements Turkey is a party to. But unless world leaders take a stance with effective measures against this witch hunt, there is no internal dynamic in Turkey to stop the president.
Our friends have so far defended their rights through peaceful protests and in Turkish courts. Now even law offices are being raided and lawyers are being detained. People’s right to defend themselves in the court of law is taken away from them. [The] Erdoğan government is doing everything to push these people to violence. But so far they resisted and remained peaceful and I am confident that they will remain so. Some Hizmet participants have left the country to seek opportunities for investment or for professional work abroad.
This is a sad loss for Turkey but it is the only choice for some people. Private properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been confiscated. I hope and pray that this madness will not last for long.

If the U.S. government decides to extradite you to Turkey, will you agree to the decision?
The U.S. government has a long history of upholding the rule of law and respecting freedoms. Because of this, they have a respectable reputation around the world. I don’t consider it likely that they will abandon this tradition and undermine their reputation simply because President Erdoğan is so adamant about this issue. In the unlikely event that the extradition matter is decided on political grounds, I have already stated that they don’t need to force me out of the country, I will buy my own ticket and go on my own will without blinking an eye.

I am not worried about myself but I am worried about President Erdoğan’s insistence jeopardizing Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO. Both the U.S. and NATO played crucial roles in transforming Turkey from a single party regime to an imperfect democracy. If Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO are harmed, I don’t think it will benefit Turkish democracy in any way.

Is it true that you and President Erdoğan were once friends and allies? If so, what caused the tensions between you that have led to this situation today?
Many observers called our relationship an alliance but in truth, we were never very close. I met him two or three times, all before he ran for elections. When his party ran for elections I was already here, so I could not vote anyway, but Hizmet sympathizers supported his party through their votes and their voices in the media.
The reason for this support is not complicated. In going into elections in 2002 they [Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party] promised moving Turkey forward in its bid for EU membership by implementing democratic reforms; enhancing human rights and freedoms; better integrating Turkey with the world; ending public corruption, and government’s political profiling of people and their discriminatory measures. I and my friends supported them for these promises.
Leading into elections in 2011, they promised a democratic constitution that would be drafted by civilians without fear of military generals. But after winning that election they began to reverse every democratic reform they implemented before. The democratic constitution was first conditioned upon the inclusion of executive presidency and then completely forgotten.
In the past, I did support the idea of a presidential system if it is to be modeled after the U.S. or France or other countries where there are checks and balances against the president. But Mr Erdoğan’s proposal was akin to a sultan regime. I could not support such a system with a clear conscience.
Mr Erdoğan put pressure on me and Hizmet sympathizers to publicly support his idea of a presidential system. He increased the pressure by supporting government-funded alternatives to Hizmet institutions and then began threatening to close them down. If we complied with his demand and became loyalists, we would be enjoying the Turkish government’s favors now. But we declined and we have been facing their wrath for the last three years.
This might be called the price of independence. It is a heavy price indeed but I don’t have any regrets and I don’t believe any of my friends have any regrets. My only sorrow is that the country continues to suffer because nobody can stand against his uninhibited ambitions.

If you had the opportunity to speak to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama now, what would you say to them?
I don’t think President Erdoğan would consider it worthwhile to speak with me. In the past, I made efforts to reach out to them via letters on the government’s profiling and discrimination, or on the issue of how to address the plight of Kurdish citizens. But none of those attempts were taken seriously. Now, I just pray that God gives him prudence so that he doesn’t jeopardize the future of this great nation.
I witnessed President Obama’s efforts to maintain the relationship with Turkey despite the challenges of dealing with an authoritarian leader. The U.S -Turkish relationship is very important for both countries but more vital for Turkey. I would be sad to see this relationship deteriorate. At the same time, President Erdoğan’s domestic actions are undermining core democratic values of U.S. and NATO.
I am worried that while trying to maintain the relationship, the ground on which this relationship is built upon is shifting. According to the media reports that I see, violent radical groups like ISIS are getting tacit support within Turkey, the handling of security concerns regarding the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is causing civilian casualties and suffering among Kurdish citizens and President Erdoğan’s ambitions to become a national hero is threatening to further destabilize the region. There is growing anti-Americanism and the media under President Erdoğan’s control is playing a leading role in this.
How to keep the relationship alive while preventing Turkey from turning into another Middle Eastern authoritarian regime is a very sensitive task and I hope that the president’s capable team of experts will lead him in the right direction in managing this challenge.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

IFLC: Promoting Intercultural Dialogue

  • Turkish promote cultural exchanges
Luis Gonzalez
Nihao Mundo
Dominican Republic
In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, there are institutions linked to "Hizmet" or "volunteer movement" better known as "Gulen Movement", by the name of the person who inspired it, Fethullah Gulen, Turkey. It is an educational, intercultural and interfaith movement, transnational, with a presence in almost every country in the world.
These institutions in the Dominican Republic, are the "Horizon Foundation" and "Galaxy International School," which unofficially represent Turkey. Mr. Tayfun Tuna that is at the forefront of these institutions, invited us to participate in one of the most significant activities in which institutions related to Gulen Movement are involved. I mean the "International Festival of Language & Culture" which began performing in 2003 with the purpose of bringing children around the world through poetry, folklore, song and dance, organizing a festival on behalf solidarity and cooperation.
In the beginning, the festival took place in Turkish local audiences, nationally, but quickly the great reception among the population and the resounding success in the country, resulted in global expansion.
The International Language and Culture Festival is a pioneer in the exaltation of cultural and linguistic exchange as an engine for creating cross-border ties of friendship.
Tolerance, respect, understanding and friendship are the values ​​pursued through this Festival, and its promotion and acquisition from an early age, using music, dance and poetry as channels to convey this message. This year, just produced the 14th edition of the festival entitled "Beautiful Colors of the World", in Washington DC USA, on Thursday, April 28, at 630pm in the majestic Hall of the Constitution. In that we had the honor to participate and intoxicates observing both the rich cultural diversity of our world, as the extraordinary talent of young students from 26 countries who displayed their culture through poetry traditions, singing and dancing in a expression of friendship and hope for the future.
On Friday April 29, we participate in a version of the Festival, a little more solemn and formal, in the lounge (ECOSOC) Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (UN) in New York, where the message was reiterated by the same young players.
In addition to the same "Gulen Movement", we could identify as organizers of these events to institutions such as the "Peace Islands Institute", which has offices in the famous Fifth Avenue in New York.
An institution, also linked to the "Gulen Movement" which was our hostess, coordinator of the agenda exhausted in Washington, New York and New Jersey, was the "Nilufer Jamaica Foundation", based in Kingston, whose Director, Eyup Ensar Ozturk, as all who have Dr. Fethullah Gulen, as a guide, is characterized by service to others.
We hope this message will continue to multiply on the planet and that we achieve world peace in diversity.Education and opportunity for cultural exchanges with young people is an excellent way, because I congratulate the organizers and promoters.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fethullah Gulen: The real conquest is not the winning of territory but the atmosphere of peace

Fethullah Gulen, the prominent Muslim cleric, has urged people of all faiths to come together to address global conflict at the first-ever US Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference in San Diego, CA, which seeks to promote interfaith dialogue and mutual respect worldwide.  

Gulen was not able to attend the US Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference due to his poor health. His speech was read by Zeki Saritoprak, professor of Islamic studies at John Carroll University.

Below is full text of Fethullah Gulen’s message:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dear Dr. Anthony Cirelli,

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi,

Dr. Sayyid Syeed,

Dr. Khurshid Khan,

Dr. Moustafa al-Qazwini,

Most Rev. Robert McElroy,

Most Rev. Donald Hanchon,

Most Rev. Barry Knestout,

I thank you for your kind invitation to make the opening remarks for the American Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference held at the national level for the first time this year.

That exceptional leaders from the American Muslim and Catholic communities have formed such a dialogue venue is very meaningful for the advancement of peace and tranquility in our age. I congratulate every one who has contributed to this initiative.

My health condition unfortunately doesn’t allow me to be with you in person.

However, I would like for you all to know that this invitation is very meaningful and valuable to me.

Although it may seem that the series of unfortunate events humanity has endured in recent years validate those who predicted dark scenarios in the so-called clash of civilizations framework, I have personally always been hopeful for the future of humanity.

In the shared perspective expressed in the Holy Quran and the sources of divine religions grounded in revelation, humans by nature seek the good and the beautiful.

I thoroughly believe that humankind will be attracted to the atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, and will embrace each other. Hope is an expression of trust in God’s grace. Desperation, on the other hand, is the primary obstacle before any progress and leaves individuals crippled, unable to tap into their potential.

The Earth has never been free of those who propagate fear, hate, and enmity for various motives. Today, unfortunately, we observe examples of these individuals and groups in both the East and the West. However, undeniably, humans are tired of wars, violent conflicts, bloodshed, atrocities, and they are thirsty for universal dialogue and peace. Our globalizing world presents a historically unprecedented ground for developing affinity, integration, and mutual acceptance.

Although hostilities and conflicts in history have essentially been driven by a clash of worldly interests, sometimes nationality, class, and religion have been used as means in order to rally the masses to a certain side. In reality however, the fundamental vision of all religions that have been embraced by a significant segment of humanity, in particular, religions based on revelation, are societies whose individuals attain internal tranquility, and a world of universal peace that such societies constitute.

In the Holy Quran, eeman (faith) and amal-i-saalih (righteous deeds) are always mentioned in tandem. Amal-i Salih is the name of deeds accepted by Allah. Sulh (peace) and salih (righteous) are two words from the same root; Salih means that which leads to Sulh (or peace), and is guided by the pursuit of peace. Therefore, Islam, a religion of unity, demands his adherents to be on the path to universal peace and tranquility.

It is clear that in an atmosphere of conflict, peace cannot be served by simply opposing and reacting to the agendas of others. In this regard, at a time where core values of human civilization are cherished at least as a vision, humans, who are civilized by nature of their creation, can solve their issues only through communication facilitated by dialogue venues.

The vast majority of the world’s population adheres to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In the 21st century, therefore, it is an inevitable conclusion that the universal peace will depend on the dialogue among the adherents of these religions and traditions. I have stated that initiatives for dialogue are long overdue on the occasion of our meeting with his Excellency the late Pope John Paul II in 1998.

14 centuries ago, the Holy Quran called for dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians, the latter two it referred to as Ahl-Al Kitaab, or people of the book. However, in the intervening centuries periods of conflict outnumbered periods of peace due to the conditions of those times. Now, however, the following centuries should be defined by mutual respect, love, and coalescence.

By the use of the term “people of the book” the Quran is addressing not only Jews and Christians but also all individuals in contemporary society pursuing knowledge and enlightenment through reading and writing. As Bediuzzaman Said Nursi pointed out, it can be said that the people of learning and enlightenment are also invited to dialogue.

Again, the Holy Quran refers to the Hudaybiya peace treaty signed by the Muslims of Medina with the polytheist Meccans as a “conquest” as opposed to the surrender of Mecca two years later. The real conquest is not the winning of territory but the atmosphere of peace when weapons are set aside and people enter a period of peaceful co-existence and dialogue. With the Hudaybiya peace treaty, the doors to fighting were closed, and the doors to hearts were opened, and the grounds were laid for the breaking of false prejudices.

When the ideas that the Prophet Muhammad, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, expressed in the treaty of Medina and in his farewell sermon are evaluated within their historic socio-political context, the type of civilization Islam enjoins for its adherents becomes clearer. We regard the idea of upholding the dignity of every human being, and accepting them in their respective positions as the pillars of this civilization.

The initiatives for dialogue among adherents of all world religious, especially between Muslims and Christians, taken with this consciousness are steps towards a common human civilization where peace and tranquility will reign.

If humanity’s adventure so far is any measure, it would be unrealistic to expect all conflicts on the Earth to cease anytime soon. However, it is also not wishful thinking to expect that relations among various communities around the world will become more humane, driven by access to information, the reliance on reason and the increased first-hand knowledge of each other facilitated by dialogue in our increasingly shrinking world. At the least, it is possible to localize problems and to impede their spread. The issue facing us is what we will do intentionally out of a feeling of responsibility in this context.

The ground of dialogue that you established in order for adherents of different religions to better understand each other is the reflection of the attitude of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. However, this activity that you have persistently continued for 20 years is symbolically much beyond a candle and instead is praiseworthy as a lighthouse and beacon of hope.

Destruction is easy whereas construction and repair are difficult. At times, in the face of burning fires of war, atrocities, stirring of hostilities, and conflicts around the world, those working to serve peace through means such as dialogue may feel defeated and fall into pessimism. Amidst the waves of grave hostilities and conflicts humans face or partake in, one might question what our efforts may signify.

However, it should not be forgotten that there is a special value in setting a good example. Humans, who are naturally disposed to beauty, will sooner or later will take interest in these good examples, and eventually embrace them. One day they will say, “up until now we tried fighting and war, now let us give a chance to dialogue and mutual acceptance.”

There are many precedents in the history of humanity where small groups influence much larger groups with the help of the centrifugal force that they generate. In this regard, the steps taken in particular by widely respected leaders of religious thought, like your selves, are crucial.

Ever since humans have existed, the struggle between compassion, love and hope on the one hand, and fear, hate, and despair on the other has continued. Just as the essence of the messages of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, upon whom all be God’s peace and blessings, are compassion, love, and hope, their life stories are also embodiments of those essences. Our world today is in equal, and maybe even greater, need for this message.

I congratulate again those who organized and participated in this conference as a collaboration of Muslims and Christians who are representatives of this message today and share their belief in the importance of dialogue.

I pray God the All-Compassionate to deliver humanity to those days where peace and tranquility reign in all continents of the Earth and human beings warmly embrace each other. And I ask God to accept this conference as an active prayer toward the same end.


Fethullah Gulen

Monday, January 4, 2016

MEDIA: French editor says Gülen’s messages on anti-terrorism revolutionary

A French editor-in-chief has praised the anti-terrorism messages in an article written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and published by a prestigious French daily last month, describing them as revolutionary and one of the "signs of hope" in 2015, which he said was marked by terror and fear.

Fethullah Gulen's op-ed in Le Monde

Jean-Pierre Denis, editor-in-chief of French weekly magazine La Vie, dedicated his editorial in the latest issue of the magazine to examining Gülen's messages in an article he wrote for the French daily Le Monde on Dec. 17.

In the article, which was titled "Muslims, we have to critically review our understanding of Islam," Gülen expresses his deep sadness and revulsion in the face of the attacks perpetrated by terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

"We Muslims have a special responsibility to not only join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, but also to help repair the tarnished image of our faith. … We must categorically condemn the ideology propagated by terrorists and instead promote a pluralistic mindset with clarity and confidence," he wrote.

Paris was the scene of multiple attacks by ISIL in November, which claimed the lives of more than 120 people and which sent waves of horror across Europe.

In his article Denis said the piece written by Gülen in Le Monde is revolutionary. He said while many intellectuals call for a more determined fight against supporters of extremism, their efforts remain mostly isolated or made by people who don't find support in their societies.

Yet, he said the case of Gülen is different.

"This Turkish citizen who lives in exile in the US was a person who used to give inspiration to [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan before he became his biggest opponent. Even this shows his political and religious weight," he said.

Erdoğan launched a war against Gülen and the faith-based Gülen movement he inspired after senior members of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan's government were implicated in a graft probe that went public in December 2013. Erdoğan accused the movement of masterminding the probe to overthrow his government despite any evidence to this effect.

Denis also said Gülen puts greater responsibility on the shoulders of Muslims to eliminate terrorism and he rejects the approach that blames the Christian West for all the unfavorable developments in the world.

Noting that Gülen is fighting against a culture of hatred courageously and openly, Denis said: "I voluntarily stand behind this voice by making long quotations for the last editorial of this year. 2015 has not only been a year of those who spread unhappiness and desperation but it has also been a year of people like this [Gülen] who spread hope."

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 3 January 2016, Sunday