Hizmet (Movement) Unmasks ‘Undemocratic’ Erdogan

By Sevgi Akarcesme.

As a prominent preacher, Fethullah Gulen has to express his opinion on politics, argues the author.

Trying to understand what has been going on in Turkey over the last couple of months is impossible without taking into account the corruption scandal that broke out on December 17, 2013. Yet an article which appeared on Al Jazeera succeeded in doing just that. It made no reference to the biggest graft probe that the country has ever seen.


Who is Behind the Pennsylvania Demonstrations?

By Aydogan Vatandas*

The most important message of last summer's Gezi protests in Turkey was that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government had lost its legitimacy in the eyes of some segments of Turkish society.
While some of the members of the government received this message, Erdoğan himself interpreted the protests as a coup attempt against himself. He called the protesters “looters” on the one hand, and on the other he said they were an extension of some Western powers that aim to overthrow his government.

After the biggest corruption scandal in Turkey's history struck Erdoğan and his government on Dec. 17, it became obvious that Erdoğan is blaming the Gülen movement for everything that troubles him, including the Gezi protests.


A Useful Guide to Understanding the Hizmet-AK Party Tension

Mustafa Yeşil, head of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), whose honorary president is Fethullah Gulen, talks about the reasons for the increasing tension between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and the Hizmet movement, which conducts praiseworthy activities in Turkey and around the globe with inspiration from well-respected Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen.

Yeşil responded to some criticisms of the Hizmet movement as follows.

The Hizmet movement is part of civil society

What is the overall perspective of the Hizmet movement on politics and political parties?

Fethullah Gulen Answered WSJ's Questions

Fethullah Gulen candidly answered the questions of The Wall Street Journal.

By Joe Parkinson and Jay Solomon

1.       The Prime Minister has repeatedly attacked you and Hizmet in recent weeks. Do you believe that your alliance with his faction of the AKP is now definitively at an end?

If we can talk about an alliance, it was around shared values of democracy, universal human rights and freedoms — never for political parties or candidates. In 2010 constitutional referendum I said that if these democratic reforms, which are in line with European Union’s requirements for membership, were done by CHP before, I would have supported them.

A broad spectrum of Turkish people, including Hizmet participants, supported AKP for democratizing reforms, for ending the military tutelage over politics and for moving Turkey forward in the EU accession process. We have always supported what we believed to be right and in line with democratic principles. But we have also criticized what we saw as wrong and contrary to those principles.


Turkey's Education Crackdown Is Cause for Concern

By Michael Shank

It appears that Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Islamic preacher from Turkey who promotes peace and tolerance, and the schools associated with his religious Hizmet movement can't get a break.

They were first targeted in America, via discrimination aimed at the Turkish American community centered on his educational efforts, which was initially identified in the Center for American Progress' report "Fear Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America." The report found a well-financed, well-organized network of advocates, experts and media partners conducting a strategic campaign throughout America and "spreading hate and misinformation," as CAP put it.


Gulen Charter Schools Myth Flourishes

On the internet, the myth about so-called Gulen Charter Schools considerably flourishes lately. Looks like people are starting to believe in the lie they made up!

Fethullah Gulen-inspired schools are non-religious private institutions sponsored by generous entrepreneurs, altruistic educators, and dedicated parents. Using cutting-edge instructional technology and having already demonstrated outstanding academic achievements, many of these schools rank among the most prestigious educational institutions in their respective countries. Each school follows the curriculum of the host country, with the language of instruction is English. The schools provide scholarships for students who cannot afford the tuition. As many people have observed, Gulen-inspired schools are symbols of peaceful coexistence and dedication to the service of humanity. They also serve as an environment for peaceful coexistence, especially in conflict-ridden regions such as the Philippines, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Bosnia, and Kenya. (Quoted from Fethullah Gulen: Biographical Album published by the Gulen Institute).


Gulen Charter Schools Funded by Bill Gates and Walmart?

Bill Gates has become the symbol of Gulen Charter Schools(!)
The below piece written by Goose Network Blog is a good example of how ill-intention and ignorance can take a hate group to new heights. "Better late than never," says a proverb. So, I think it is a good idea to introduce this piece written at the early days of Gulen Charter Schools concept.  


Journalists and Writers Foundation Responds Accusations on Gulen Movement

I think the response below is something very significant in terms of answering the allegations about the Hizmet Movement. 

The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) has responded to a series of controversial claims and slanderous accusations made about the Hizmet movement which the foundation said are designed to pit the government against the movement and create tension between the two.


A Rare Meeting With Reclusive Turkish Spiritual Leader Fethullah Gulen

Fethullah Gulen was interviewed by Jamie Tarabay, Baghdad Bureau Chief of NPR News and he candidly answered her questions. Between the lines, you can read very humble approaches to many of the questions including the one where he "admits" that he might have misinterpreted some Quranic verses. That is really humility at its best... Enjoy the read.

The Atlantic: It's so rare to have an interview with you, why is that?

Fethullah Gulen: I grew up in a humble family with a shy personality. I accept these kind offers out of respect for those who are requesting such interviews, otherwise, I would prefer to live a secluded life just by myself.

We just saw your living quarters, and I saw a very small bed, a small mat, a small room. When you can have all the space you need, why do you use such a small area for yourself?

My whole life has been this way, during my years as a student, and later on in life I have always lived in such humble spaces. It's because I would like to live like my fellow citizens because I consider myself among them. By no means do I consider myself superior in any sense. Also, it is in my nature. I believe in the hereafter; I believe that's the true life, therefore I don't want to attach myself too much to this world.

Do you still teach every day?

I try to spend time with the students here every day as much as my health allows me. Some days my health prevents me from doing so, but I'd like to continue to study with them for as long as I am alive.


A Gulen-Inspired School in Iran?

Several months ago, a breaking news appeared on some media outlets. According to that news, a Gulen-inspired school in Iran (!) was raided and 83 CIA agents (!) were arrested (!) in the school. It is a rare talent to be able make three mistakes in one sentence.

Of course, this "breaking" news was immediately picked up by ODA TV, who is also the zealous supporter of so-called Gulen Charter School concept in the US.

First, there is no "Gulen-inspired" school in Iran, because Iran, as the example of perfect democracy (!) never allows the Movement to open a school. Second, in this non-existent school, you can't hide 83 CIA agents. Of course, with no school and agents around, you can't arrest them. And here is the proof for this blatant lie:

This is the only one that I could find, because later on they deleted the news and apologized for their blatant lie. Here is the apology:

Here they say, "The Movement is right. That news was untrue. Unfortunately, ODA TV also made the same mistake." Below is the full text for their apology. 

You can still find their apology here.


Top-notch School isn’t Marred by Loose Ties to Turkish Cleric

This is a slap-in-the-face type of answer to the doubters. As the author suggests, the labeling of top-notch charter schools is the outcome of xenophobic current. Just because there are some international faculty at a school, it does not necessarily mean that the school is doing a bad job!
SHOULD MASSACHUSETTS be afraid of Fethullah Gulen? That’s the question at the heart of the whispering campaign against the Pioneer Charter School of Science, a high-achieving public school in Everett whose loose connections to the influential Turkish religious figure came under heightened scrutiny when it sought state permission to expand to a second location in Saugus.
Gulen is a moderate Muslim cleric who emphasizes science and whose followers have started schools worldwide, including hundreds of charter schools in the United States. Pioneer’s director, Barish Icin, says the Everett school isn’t connected to Gulen, but some of the school’s choices suggest at least a casual link; the school has hired 16 Turkish science, math, or technology teachers with temporary visas, though only four are currently on the school’s staff. It has also contracted with a law firm tied to the Gulen movement.
But that doesn’t really matter. Public schools should be judged based on their performance, and according to state statistics, Pioneer is doing an exemplary job. The school has received state awards for its high MCAS scores, which are significantly above statewide averages; when it sought to expand, many parents attested to the education their children at the grade 7-12 school are receiving. The school offers 200 days a year of instruction, almost a full month more than district schools. Of the 34 students in the school’s first graduating class last year, more than 30 were accepted to four-year colleges. If this is foreign interference in American education, maybe we need more.
Indeed, part of the point of charter schools is to provide a testing ground for unconventional educational approaches; schools are given wide latitude to set their own policies, as long as they adhere to basic guidelines. Importing Turkish teachers is about as unconventional as it gets. But the school broke no rules, the state has received no complaints about religious influence at the school, and its academic results speak for themselves.
Nationally, much of the controversy over Gulen-inspired schools has carried an undercurrent of xenophobia, as if the mere possibility of Muslim educators were inherently alarming. But educators of all religions can be inspired by their faith to help others. As long as they don’t discriminate against other religions, or try to inculcate their beliefs into schoolchildren, then it shouldn’t be a concern. Unless such complaints arise, there is no reason to object to the Pioneer school, and the state made the right call by approving its expansion.

Ergenekon Terrorist Organization Suspects Get Sentenced

The long marathon of the court battle has come to an end and many of the Ergenekon suspects got very harsh but deserved sentences. If you need background information, please refer to Ergenekon Fact vs. Fiction page. On this page, this sentence is noteworthy:

"It is not unexpected for a member of the Ergenekon terrorist network to oppose the government in Turkey; after all, Ergenekon was allegedly trying to topple the government. From the evidence submitted to the court, we also know that these people are also staunchly anti-West, labeling the US imperialist and the EU and NATO Trojan horses vis-a-vis Turkey."


Alma Allen Silences Texas Eagle Forum's MerryLynn Gerstenschlager

MerryLynn Gerstenschlager, the Vice President of Texas Eagle Forum, voiced her concerns over the alleged "Gulen Charter Schools" in front of the Texas House Public Education Committee, yet nobody at the committee shared these concerns. The alarmist approch of Ms. Gerstenschlager (hard to write her last name) reflected the mindset of people with similar worldview. 

First of all, she makes a lot of factual errors such as "Turkish government was taken over by Islamists" as though there has been a coup that resulted in the governance of Islamists. There is no such thing. Turkey has been on free elections since 1950 and the current party, which considers itself "conservative democrat", won the last three elections. She also quotes from Rick Perry, but everyone knows Perry with his infamous gaffe about Turkey.

She also claims that "Fethullah Gulen was kicked out of Turkey", but that is not true, either. He left Turkey on his will and she was subsequently acquitted from all cases. 

Upon hearing some nonsensical claims about Harmony Public Schools, Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, said : “I have a large Turkish community in my district and several Harmony schools in my district. I think they are fabulous. I don’t think they teach religion.” 

Gerstenschlager also admitted the success of Harmony Public Schools:

“I have read stellar things about their academic performance. I never said they taught religion."

Allen told Gerstenschlager she should “underscore ‘stellar,’” and said she has visited Turkey twice.

“It’s beautiful. You should go. I will take you,” the lawmaker said.

Rep. Mark Shelton, on the other hand, R-Fort Worth, told Gerstenschlager the Harmony charter school in his district is immensely popular. “They are lining up trying to get into that school. Parents are thrilled. I am just not hearing anyone saying that there’s some problem in the school related to the issues you are talking about,” the physician-lawmaker told her. 

Mr. Shelton also asked, "You don't trust the parents with their choice?"

Allen, the Houston lawmaker, got in the last word during the public hearing.

“I am just dumbfounded,” she said. “Of all the cultures.. I don’t know why we single out Turkey. I think the Turkish culture is wonderful. I hope they open up more schools.” 

The full conversation between the three can be found below:


Fethullah Gulen Featured at TIME 100 List

Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen featured by TIME.

Fethullah Gulen, Turkish-Muslim scholar and thinker, has been featured by TIME which published its annual "TIME 100" list. Fethullah Gulen's inclusion came as no surprise to me, because he is clearly an influential person both in his native country and globally. Actually, TIME should have included Fethullah Gulen at least a few years ago in its list. They are a bit late on catching up with the realities of Muslim world. They think social movements in the Muslim countries are somewhat static, but the realities say the opposite.  

The introductory piece was authored by Stephen Kinzer, former NYT bureau chief of Istanbul between 1996 and 2000. Mr. Kinzer tried to be an impartial in his piece, but as an expert on Gulen Movement, I argue that he committed a couple of errors in such a short piece. First of all, Mr. Kinzer drew a very limited portrait of Fethullah Gulen in which Mr. Kinzer described Fethullah Gulen as a person preaching only tolerance, neglecting Gulen's influence in other areas. Second, the Gulen Movement is active in almost all walks of life, not just education and health. Third, and maybe the most important mistake, Mr. Kinzer wrote, "His influence in his native Turkey is immense, exercised by graduates of his schools who have reached key posts in the government, judiciary and police." Other than being an ambiguous one, this is a wrong sentence at its best. A great majority of the people who love Fethullah Gulen are not the graduates of Gulen-inspired schools. These people are the graduates of state schools. On the other hand, "reaching key posts" is an ambiguous expression as I said above. It deserves several questions: what does "key posts" mean? What happens when you reach these key posts? Is it illegal to be in these key posts just because someone admires Fethullah Gulen? Is it a similar mindset that was prevalent during the McCarthy Era in the United States? And many more questions to be asked...

Some "experts" still treat the Gulen Movement as if the Movement is an illegal organization and the members/followers/admirers/sympathizers of the movement "occupy" some posts and key positions without deserving them. That way, some doubts are tried to be cast on the Gulen Movement or the members of the Movement.   


Fethullah Gulen's Poems Turned into Songs for International Album

Artists from twelve different countries composed music for poems written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is known for his global message of peace and inter-faith tolerance, for an album titled “Colors of Peace-Rise Up” to promote peace and tolerance.
The poems were translated into English, and each artist selected one poem to interpret in song.
“Colors of Peace” brought two artists together from Israel and Palestine, Kobi Farhi and Ruba Shamshoum, respectively. Performing together for the first time, Farhi and Shamshoum sang the Gülen poem “The Pure Path.” The singer of the band Orphaned Land from Israel, Farhi is a well-known name not only in the Middle East, but also Europe, Latin America and India. Palestinian singer Shamshoum, who is also followed closely in the region, also works as an actor and has composed music for several movies.
Nil, a production company, completed the album in two years jointly with Universal Music. As part of the project, 50 Gülen poems were translated into English and sent to artists, and each artist picked a poem to turn into a song. As a result of this diversity, this world music album includes different genres such as pop, jazz, Indian sounds, Flamenco and Rai. The album is being marketed all over the world.
The project development manager of Nil Production, Tevfik Aslan, says that “Rise Up” turned out to be a diverse and colorful album that calls for peace with its universal language at a time when wars are prevalent.
Natacha Atlas from Britain, who sang on the album, said that she picked the most romantic Gülen poem to sing, as she joined other artists who stated that they found Gülen's poems romantic and impressive. She said that the poem “Continuous Beauty” has a unique spirituality, as she defined it as a “personal kind of love and a different connection with God.”
Atlas said that she learned more about Gülen after the project: “I heard that there were many rumors about Gülen, and his ideas and books are widely discussed. What is important for me is that he encourages dialogue. Spiritual and religious leaders have always been a center of criticism in all ages, but I have positive feelings about Gülen.” She also expressed her hope concerning the contribution of the “Colors of Peace” project to dialogue.
Ukraine's well-known voice of the band Bahroma, Roman Baharev, described Gülen as a “romantic wise man” as he said that he was touched by all his poems. Giving voice to the poem “Don't leave me alone,” Baharev added that he translated some of the poems into his own language. “I did not know about Fethullah Gülen before. I read his biography and realized that he is a man that enlightens people with his ideas,” commented Baharev. Expressing his pleasure to be a part of the project, Baharev added, “The world needs to renew itself, and just like Gülen I am in favor of enlightenment.”
German artist Chris Buseck who composed and sang “Rise Up” (Kalk Yiğidim), which became the title of the album, said, “I could not refuse to be a part of such a project that aims for peaceful coexistence among people.”
Pursing his work in Hamburg as part of a project called Good Morning Diary, Buseck started to research Gülen's ideas after Nil Production's offer. “I had to know about the goal of the project if I was going to take part in it,” said Buseck, adding that he read articles about Gülen and researched the ideas that he advocates.
“I saw that the project advocates values such as peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and education for all regardless of religious affiliation, language or culture,” Buseck said. He said that he is happy to support such a message, which should be spread by means of music.
Buseck said that the title of the poem was a reason why he chose that particular work. Stating that he has always liked the word “rise,” the singer used the word in his songs several times. He said that a feeling of melancholy dominates the tone of the poem and reflects well the overall feeling of the project.
On the album, the Italian musician Ely Bruna also took part, utilizing the poem “Music of Rain.” Performing in the genre of soul-jazz and funk, Bruna is a musician who has shared the same stage with famous singers, such as Whitney Houston. Describing the lyrics of “Music of Rain” as “perfect and very poetic,” Bruna said that music is a bridge that helps people live in peace and harmony. Along with others, she also expressed her happiness in taking part in such a project.
Ryan Shaw from the United States, Maher Zain from Egypt, KK&Reet from India, Cristello Duo Feat. Bruno Gouveia from Brazil, Bon Bon from Hungary, Faudel from France, Carmen Paris from Spain are among the other artists who sang on “Rise Up.”
The poems selected by the artists for the album include “Down Comes in Dreams," "The worldly life," "Rose of My Heart," "Rise Up," "Separation and Hope," "Continuous Beauty," "Never," "Rainbow," "Music of Rain," "Don't Leave Me Alone" and “The Cry of the Nightingale."


Do Good and Let it Unfold

The original interview was published in German on Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a famous daily newspaper in Germany.
The Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen has been living in the United States for 13 years now. An extensive network of supporters has developed there, serving in projects under his name.

There is no sign on the road to indicate the exit and the dirt track which leads you through a foggy broadleaf forest, coloured in all the shades of autumn, to an estate with eight houses. Thirteen years ago, the most influential preacher of Turkish Islam Fethullah Gülen retreated to this secluded place. Back then, the still powerful military had driven him out of Turkey. Stricken with illnesses, he decided to undergo surgery in American hospitals. Since then, he has rarely left the estate despite being issued a visa and a residence permit by the United States.


The Turkish "Great Teacher" Fethullah Gulen and His Amazing Social Reforms

Hence, there is no doubt that a person who is armored with love needs no other weapon. Indeed, love is strong enough to stop a bullet or even a cannon ball.

 ──Fethullah Gülen, Love Towards Humankind (p. 6)

We all live in this world and we are passengers on the same ship. In this respect, there are many common points that can be discussed and shared with people from every segment of society.

            ──Fethullah Gülen, Understanding Fethullah Gülen (p. 22) 

M. Fethullah Gülen was born in 1941 in Korucuk near Erzurum, in Turkey. He is a devout Muslim and Sufi teacher. He is also an important contemporary thinker, educator and poet.


A letter to Fethullah Gulen from a Catholic Priest

Priests in Istanbul, Turkey.

In Niğde, we visited the schools of the Sungurbey Education Foundation, established by by a private businessman-donor, Celal Afşar, whom we were privileged to have as our host.

He is also a close colleague of Fethullah Gülen and good friend of Fr. Alexei Smith. Mr. Afşar asked Fr. Alexei to write a letter to Mr. Gülen describing our group and the nature of our trip, which Mr. Afşar will deliver personally to him when he visits him next week in the USA.  Here are excerpts from the letter:

Can the Gulen Movement Considered Sect/Cult?

gulen movement
Gulen Movement cannot be considered a cult.
No, the Gulen Movement does not fit any of the criteria which are used to identify sects or cults. The Gulen Movement participants have never attempted to form a distinct unit within Islam. It is not a distinct unit within the broader Muslim community by virtue of certain refinements or distinctions of belief or practice. It is not a small faction or dissenting clique aggregated around a common interest, peculiar beliefs or unattainable dreams or utopia. 

The Gulen Movement is already a well-established and transnationally recognized diffused network of people. It has no formal leadership, sheikhs or hierarchy. There is no ritual or membership rite or ceremony to be a member, participant or a sympathizer for the Movement. Participants do not undergo any procedures, ceremonies or have to pass any initiation in order to be affiliated or to take part in activities.


In wider Turkish society, Gulen Movement participants are not viewed as and do not act as any kind of closed, special group. Movement participants, with their words, projects and actions, have proved that they do not have any strongly held views or ideology that are regarded as extreme by the majority in Turkey and abroad. The public, the media and the courts do not regard them as heretical or as deviant in any way. Movement participants have not been accused of practicing anything different from the generally accepted religious tradition.

The participants have always been in close connection with the society in which they live in. Their relations with the rest of the society is always positive and constructive.  


Dr. Greg Barton's Remarks about Gulen Movement

"If we want to understand the business dynamics of the Gulen Movement enterprises, so called the Hizmet enterprises, we can look at the model of the Nobel Prize winner Muhammed Yunus.


Fethullah Gulen Conferences Website

There have been several conferences about Fethullah Gulen on national and international level in the last decade. A number of distinguished and prominent scholars and academics wrote articles and essays about Fethullah Gulen and Gulen Movement. There is a specifically designed website to this end: Fethullah Gulen Conference. It is a simple but effective website where you can find almost all scholarly articles about Fethullah Gulen.


Teaching Peace in Schools

This week New York City hosts the United Nations General Assembly, the Clinton Global Initiative and the Education Nation conference. These massive events focus on international diplomacy and peace, societal problem-solving and improving classroom instruction. However, just a few blocks away from these grand assemblies, a smaller group met for the first time to tackle all these issues with a single, bold strategy.

Monday, an international group of educators and convened for the inaugural "Peacebuilding Through Education" summit sponsored by Fountain Magazine, the Peace Islands Institute and co-sponsored by regional universities as well as the Alliance for Shared Values, where I serve as president. The goal of the summit was to show how lessons of tolerance, understanding and intercultural respect can be woven into classroom curriculum or extracurricular activities. Throughout the day, speakers offered insights and strategies for building character in the classroom and creating a safe learning environment to incubate future leaders of more peaceful communities.

The first panel, featuring Ministers of Education from both the Philippines and Tanzania, focused on government's involvement in creating an environment for peace education. Later, I was fortunate to join a panel with fellow academics from Ireland and South Africa to discuss strategies for mobilizing civil society to achieve peace. Fellow academics from Ireland and South Africa spoke of peace education in an increasingly connected world. Another diverse panel including experts from UNICEF, Arigatou International and Fatih University in Turkey discussed the notion of peace as a shared ideal that can be reinforced through education.


Fethullah Gulen's Condemnation Message of 9/11

Below is an excerpt from a website about Fethullah Gulen in which Mr. Gulen's condemnation message about the unfortunate 9/11 attacks. You can also find out the authentic picture of Fethullah Gulen's message on "Washington Post" which was published ten days after 9/11.

... Fethullah Gulen was the first Muslim scholar who publicly denounced the 9/11 attacks, just a few days after these unspeakable acts. As far as we knew, his public condemnation message was published in the Washington Post. We searched the exact quote online -contrary to conventional media reporting, which is not famous with amplifying the tolerant voices, online resources have always been more diverse. Thus, we were sure that we’d be able to find the message in a few seconds, or just in a millisecond, as Google advertises, but to our surprise, nothing popped up! We looked for hours and could not find the exact quote of Fethullah Gulen’s condemnation message. There were many websites letting people know that a denouncement exists, but none could provide it to their readers. Some of the intellectuals in the room became curious about the statement. Could it be an urban legend that a prominent Muslim scholar had condemned the 9/11 attacks just a few days after the events and in Washington Post?


Fethullah Gulen Trial: The Gulen Legal Journey

Dr. James Harrington, the author of the book about Fethullah Gulen.

I found a website about Fethullah Gulen's legal journey. Based on Dr. James Harrington's book, the website provides legal documents as well as other materials that could prove useful about Fethullah Gulen's struggle with the ill-intentioned prosecutors. 


Russian Intellectuals Pen Essays on Fethullah Gulen

Dialog Eurasia praises Fethullah Gulen.

Taken from Fethullah Gulen ad Gulen Movement Videos website.

The people of Eurasia have now a better understanding of the teachings of Fethullah Gulen, who wants everyone to walk on the path of righteousness; the schools established through his initiatives teach friendship, peace and love.

Published in Russian and Turkish in Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the journal DA (Dialogue Eurasia) became a printing body that promotes dialogue development between people and cultures. The same is repeated in the motto of the journal: “Dialogue begins with “DA” (means "yes", in Russian).


Response to Hatchet Job on Fethullah Gulen

When Fethullah Gulen published his article on Financial Times, I was expecting a response from the infamous Islamophobes or those who happen to be in close connection with them. My prediction came true with the latter. Stephen Schwartz, who always seems to attack the mainstream Muslims in the U.S., published a incendiary and biased article in response to that of Mr. Gulen. Mr. Schwartz was mostly busy with attacking Mr. Gulen than criticizing the content of Mr. Gulen's article. He even brought that fallacious Gulen Charter Schools concept to the table again. Anyway, a timely and nice response came from Dr. Scott Alexander.  

It is pretty ironic that Fethullah Gulen, a moderate Muslim, is defended by a Catholic, Dr. Alexander, and is attacked by a Muslim, Mr. Schwartz! You decide who is right. Here is Dr. Alexander's response:

I am puzzled by the fact that a man as seemingly intelligent and articulate as Mr. Schwartz appears to have deliberately misread the Op-Ed piece by Mr. Gülen. I say this because, in the very beginning of Mr. Schwartz’s critique, he clearly demonstrates that he has no intention of striving for even the least degree of objectivity and fairness in his analysis of Gülen’s remarks. In fact, I am saddened to say that what Mr. Schwartz attempts to offer as a trenchant critique of Gülen and the global Gönüllüler Hareketi (“Volunteers’ Movement”) amounts to little more than a hatchet job on a religious leader who has inspired thousands, perhaps millions, of men and women to a reawakening of their faith and a faith-based commitment to service.

Violence is not in the tradition of the Prophet

Fethullah Gulen studies in his room.

Fethullah Gulen penned an article for Financial Times. The article is simple and brilliant and it constitutes the proper answer for the Islamophobics.

Muslims pray each day: “O Lord! Keep us on the straight path.” It is a prayer to help us move away from the extremes and maintain balance in our lives. We must neither be hostage to our reactionary instincts, nor must we remain completely silent in the face of the systematic defamation of our values and beliefs. This balance has been upset by the violent response to the insults targeting the legacy of beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The violent response was wrong and strayed from the straight path.


A Modern Ottoman

Is it possible to be a true religious believer and at the same time enjoy good relations with people of other faiths or none? Moreover, can you remain open to new ideas and new ways of thinking? 

Fethullah Gülen, a 67-year-old Turkish Sufi cleric, author and theoretician, has dedicated much of his life to resolving these questions. From his sick bed in exile just outside Philadelphia, he leads a global movement inspired by Sufi ideas. He promotes an open brand of Islamic thought and, like the Iran-born Islamic philosophers Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Abdolkarim Soroush, he is preoccupied with modern science (he publishes an English-language science magazine called the Fountain). But Gülen, unlike these western-trained Iranians, has spent most of his life within the religious and political institutions of Turkey, a Muslim country, albeit a secular one since the foundation of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s republic after the first world war.

Unusually for a pious intellectual, he and his movement are at home with technology, markets and multinational business, and especially with modern communications and public relations—which, like a modern televangelist, he uses to attract converts. Like a western celebrity, he carefully manages his public exposure—mostly by restricting interviews to those he can trust.


Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam

By Sabrina Tavernise

Praying in Pakistan has not been easy for Mesut Kacmaz, a Muslim teacher from Turkey.

He tried the mosque near his house, but it had Israeli and Danish flags painted on the floor for people to step on. The mosque near where he works warned him never to return wearing a tie. Pakistanis everywhere assume he is not Muslim because he has no beard.

“Kill, fight, shoot,” Mr. Kacmaz said. “This is a misinterpretation of Islam.”

But that view is common in Pakistan, a frontier land for the future of Islam, where schools, nourished by Saudi and American money dating back to the 1980s, have spread Islamic radicalism through the poorest parts of society. With a literacy rate of just 50 percent and a public school system near collapse, the country is particularly vulnerable.


Der Spiegel’s Recent Strange Attack on the Hizmet Movement

Nice piece by Ihsan Yilmaz.

Der Spiegel has published a piece about the Hizmet (Gülen) movement. Unfortunately, the piece does not look like a work of journalism.

The wording, selection of so-called experts, and most importantly distortions, misleading points and false information make the piece very problematic. The piece starts with a claim that “Gülen likes to present himself as the Gandhi of Islam”. However, Gülen has never made such a comparison. Without giving any background information about the Turkish politics and law, the piece accuses the movement being secretive. Its readers have a right to know that still in 2012, it is a crime to establish Islamic groups, movements and brotherhoods. These of course exist but they can only exist unofficially and depending on the socio-political situation, the authorities will turn a blind eye to these groupings that would operate normally in any proper democracy. Whenever conditions change, the authorities heavily punish these groups. Thus, as the piece puts the movement does not have an address or bank account but this is not its fault. This does not mean that the movement is secretive. It consists of volunteers, schools, businesses and so on. They operate as loose informal networks that the authorities know about and all these institutions are transparent institutions that regularly inspected by the relevant authorities.


A Mafia Opposing Alcohol, Violence and Firearms

"The recent yellow journalism example of Der Spiegel stirred some controversy. As an expert on Gulen Movement, I humbly think that the Gulen (Hizmet) Movement is the victim of biased journalists. Mahmut Cebi has recently written a nice behind-the-scenes article on that bad journalism."

I once listened to Mehmet Firinci, a student of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, recount the following story: “Bediuzzaman was about 75 years old when a group came to visit him. They were speaking of retaliating with violence against all the oppression they were facing. Bediuzzaman was listening to them while he was sitting on the ground. He became very outraged by what he heard, and all of a sudden he jumped as high as one meter off the ground despite his old age. He then stood up and pushed them away, saying “No to violence, no to violence.” In a similar vein, Mr. Fethullah Gülen made his position very clear against all kinds of violence and terror, be it from the al-Qaeda or PKK. His famous motto “A Muslim cannot be a terrorist, a terrorist cannot be a Muslim” has been ingrained firmly in the minds of many.

Fethullah Gulen Forum

Dr. Koc's recent book about Fethullah Gulen has opened my eyes about Dr. Dogan Koc. While doing some research about Dr. Koc's other possible articles, I came up with "Fethullah Gulen Forum", a website where you can find a number of articles about the Gulen Movement, including the ones from Dr. Koc. Here is what the website tells about itself:

FG Forum is an online discussion board of issues related to Fethullah Gülen. By creating active discussions, FG Forum aims to offer in depth analysis on Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen Movement.


Strategic Defamation of Fethullah Gülen: English vs. Turkish

Dr. Dogan Koc published a book about Fethullah Gulen entitled "Strategic Defamation of Fethullah Gülen: English vs. Turkish".

Here is what the book description reads:

Fethullah Gülen is a moderate Turkish Muslim scholar who is known mostly for his education and dialogue activities. The Hizmet Movement, inspired by Gülen, has established hundreds of education and dialogue institutions throughout the world. Several books and hundreds of articles and news reports have been written about Gülen himself and the movement. In recent years, a defamation campaign has been launched against Gülen and the Hizmet Movement. Although these defamation articles may seem random, this book will show that the articles are written strategically in a campaign manner. In Strategic Defamation of Fethullah Gülen, close to 500 defamation articles, books, and other forms of writings are analyzed according to their languages. Koç concludes that these defamations are not random and that they appear according to their respective audiences.

"Fortunately We Have not Closed Gulen Schools"

I was scanning the press the other day and came up a very interesting article by Mehmet Ali Birand, a secular journalist from Turkey, on Hurriyet Daily News. Entitled "Fortunately, We Have not Closed Gulen Schools", the article mentions a significant confession about the ultra-secular groups, some of whom are connected to Ergenekon underground organization, in Turkey: 

I have always been a supporter of Fethullah Gülen schools and the competitions they organized. Because I oppose those who said “these schools should be closed, they are a source of reaction,” I have suffered many troubles.

Look at the stage we have reached now. Yesterday, we wanted to close them, today we carry them on top of our heads. Fortunately, we have not closed them. Fortunately, we have not acted with a narrow-mind.
In his article, Birand talks about the current Turkish Olympiads in Turkey in which there are students from more than 130 countries. They put on a display in several cities including Izmir, where the organization took place in a packed stadium with more than 80,000 people


60 Minutes, Fethullah Gulen and the End of Gulen Charter Schools Myth

Fethullah Gulen in his bedroom
As a scholar studying the Hizmet Movement for more than a decade, I have opened this blog to clear some confusion/suspicion about Fethullah Gulen. My concern is not about the so-called Gulen Charter Schools, but rather for Mr. Gulen, who has no relationship or connection with any of the so-called Gulen (inspired) schools around the world (let alone the high achieving charter schools in America). Even if Fethullah Gulen was associated with Harvard or Oxford University, I would still object to that, because he himself would be the first person to do this. that is why, he never visits any of the schools he is claimed to inspire, nor does he have ownership or any other affiliation with any of them.
That is actually what makes the story of 60 Minutes very intriguing, because we see someone who constantly avoids associating himself with any of the educational institutions throughout the world. That is something rare in our American society. If we accomplish something, we fully take the credit for that accomplishment. But here we have someone who prefers self-exile and seclusion instead of publicity. Fethullah Gulen rarely talks to the media due to his health problems and "60 Minutes" was no exception. But even if he talks, he does not take the credit for the schools, charity works, and other activities of the Hizmet Movement.