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.