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A reasonable statement from Fethullah Gülen

The statement made by Fethullah Gülen regarding the choice of the name Yavuz Sultan Selim for the third bridge over the Bosporus that is to be built by the government will certainly enrich the ongoing debate about this issue and will lead to a reconsideration of using this name. The sensitivities of the Islamic segment while evaluating Ottoman history as well as its different understanding of history is probably the reason why this segment failed to discuss the choice of the name Yavus Sultan Selim. In addition, the fact that Yavuz Sultan Selim was chosen with the consensus of the president, the prime minister and the parliament speaker, prevented objections against the name from being voiced loudly. If this name had been just the choice of the government, it is likely that we would have seen a larger number of objections. Certainly, when the top state leaders decided on the name Yavuz Sultan Selim, they didn't think of taking a look at the incidents that were experienced 500 years ago. But a historical era named after Yavuz, we should admit, is etched in the memory of Turkey's Alevi citizens as a period of trauma. They believe that Yavuz massacred 40,000 of Anatolia's Alevis. There are those who don't agree; there are historians who say that such a massacre never took place. And the discussion goes on. But it is hard to say that having these different approaches to history is working. If a certain group of people in society has managed to carry the memory that 500 years ago they were subjected to a massacre during a certain period in history, this means there is a problem to consider. And it is unfortunately not possible to resolve the problem simply by producing an alternative understanding of history. It is not difficult to understand how it is that this is...

Turkish Olympiads and achieving peace

ORHAN OĞUZ GÜRBÜZ A utopia ushers in a new era. We explore and take courageous actions thanks to our dreams of what is possible. Turkish colleges around the world are sponsored by entrepreneurs who are members of a movement in Turkey that has made serious progress in creating this utopia. If you describe languages, religions, races and continents as meeting points rather than as points of discrimination, you can be comfortable becoming involved in global communication and friendship. Turkey, which experienced joy and enthusiasm with the 11th International Turkish Language Olympiad, is also curious about the stories behind this festivity. To better understand these colleges and schools as Turkish brands and the educational activities performed by the civil society initiatives of private entrepreneurs, a variety of answers, including those making use of different analogies, are offered to the public. It is argued that graduates from these schools will create trade bridges in the future because they have established strong communications between peoples. Without a doubt these schools will help facilitate the development of multidimensional relations between nations in the future. It is obvious that these colleges will make a huge contribution to the future of home and host countries due to the high quality education they offer. Inevitably, Turkey will assume a huge role in world peace and the alliance of nations. However, the primary factor that makes these colleges and schools a success story and islands of hope for the future is that the idea of peace and friendship is the ultimate goal of this endeavor. In the great utopia built by the members of the movement of volunteers that is being extensively and strongly supported by people in Turkey, humane development, trade and international political relations may find a suitable place as secondary outcomes as well. However, the primary goal in the existence of these colleges is...

Fethullah Gülen on Islam’s Relationship and Compatibility Democracy

TAUSEEF AHMAD PARRAY* This article explores the Islam-democracy debate in the thought and writings of one of the prominent living Muslim intellectuals of Turkey, Fethullah Gülen. Born in 1941, Gülen, addresses the hotly debated issues that have gained prominence as they become highly intensified in the post 9/11 world. Fethullah Gülen (b. 1941, Erzurum, Eastern Turkey) is a Turkish Muslim scholar, thinker, author, poet, preacher, opinion leader, peace advocate and educational activist who has articulated his views for last three decades. He presently lives in Pennsylvania, USA, where he has lived since 1998. Gülen is considered one of the world's most important Muslim figures and is regarded as the initiator and inspirer of the worldwide social movement of human values known as the Hizmet (Service) or the Gülen, a transnational civic society movement inspired by Gülen's teachings. His writings about hizmet (altruistic service to the 'common good') have attracted a large number of supporters in Turkey, Central Asia and increasingly in other parts of the world. Students, academicians, business owners, professionals, public officials, men and women, young and old, contribute to multiple forms of service which crystallize in tutoring centers, schools, colleges, hospitals, a major relief organization, publishing houses, and media institutions, both in Turkey and in more than 100 countries of the world. The movement is mainly active in education, interfaith, and intercultural dialogue. However it also has aid initiatives and investments in media, finance, and health and is committed to education, dialogue, peace, social justice, and social harmony. While he does not advocate a new theology but refers to classical authorities of theology and takes up their lines of argument, Gülen's understanding of Islam tends to be mainstream. Although he has never been a member of a Sufi tarekat, he teaches that Sufism is the inner dimension of Islam and the inner and outer dimensions must never...

Hizmet: a social movement or political manipulation?

Sadık Çınar* In the last decade, the Hizmet movement has become a phenomenon in Turkish civil and political life. A shallow look from the outside, however, can lead to confusing and contrasting perceptions about the movement when it is only fed by newspaper articles, columnists and rumors. Politicians still think that the only means of political engagement is through established political parties and that any other institution, including all kinds of social movements, should be apolitical. They can engage in anything but politics. They couldn't and shouldn't make any demands of politicians. In that event, they should form a new political party or become part of an existing one. The political system couldn't bear the engagement of outsiders in Turkey's politics through any means other than official political parties. People from different points on the ideological spectrum are using strong labels to describe the movement, and some of them are quite conflicting. In this article I would like to write about the Hizmet movement's relationship with politics. I will try to find an answer to the question: Are they engaging in politics out of a pure right to civic, social engagement, or are they engaging in politics for political advantage? Before answering that question, I must explain the perception of "politics" in Turkish public life. When the nation-state of the Turkish Republic was built after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, political life was dominated by the Kemalist idea. This was one that was exclusive to the elite of society, state-centered and not open to civil initiatives. They saw politics as their way of ruling the public, and this group closed its doors to the "other." Kemalists effectively used ideological state apparatuses (a term developed by the Marxist theorist Louis Althusser to denote institutions of education, the churches, family, media, trade unions and law which are formally outside state control...

An Armenian from Turkey in Los Angeles (2)

Markar Esayan A major component of Turkey's official Armenian policy is the demonization of the Armenian diaspora. This component is still alive. The Hizmet movement, which has emerged as Turkey's representative in the international arena, has been making serious efforts to compensate for the damage done in this regard. I mentioned earlier that I had visited Los Angeles to attend the fourth Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival, held between May 15 and 19, at the invitation of the Pacifica Institute. Due to time constraints, I didn't have the opportunity to visit the associations founded by the Armenian community in Los Angeles. If I am not mistaken, Hrant Dink traveled to that city twice. A major component of Turkey's official Armenian policy is the demonization of the Armenian diaspora. This component is still alive. The Hizmet movement, which has emerged as Turkey's representative in the international arena, has been making serious efforts to compensate for the damage done in this regard. Indeed, the volunteers of the Hizmet movement have established close ties with their Armenian neighbors in Los Angeles and conduct joint activities with them. The best cure for prejudices and ideological myths is what I call “muhabbet,” i.e., coming together and having a friendly conversation. No one has to nurture the same views as us but this shouldn't prevent us from establishing relations, working together or loving each other. For about a century, the Armenian diaspora has been carrying the burden of this sorrow alone. Just as Turkey is not monolithic, the diaspora is not one single piece. It is our duty to dispense with our old habits reciprocally. The risk of being stuck in the middle is worth the reunion of two sister nations and starting to shoulder the burden of mourning together. The US, particularly the state of California, welcomed hundreds of thousands of Armenians who survived the...

An Armenian from Turkey in Los Angeles…

Markar Esayan Last week I visited Los Angeles to attend the fourth Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival, held between May 16 and 19. I wanted to write about my impressions before the effects of jet lag took hold and while my memories were still fresh. I was enthusiastic as this was my first visit to Los Angeles. I wasn't enthusiastic just because I was making my first visit to a place or because I would see all the major historic or religious landmarks of Anatolia within a 60,000-square-meter area in Orange County. I also have many relatives and friends living in this city and across the state, most of whom I hadn't seen for years. Perhaps it would be possible to catch up with some of them on everything during my tight schedule. When I accepted the invitation from the Pacifica Institute, I didn't know that Deputy Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateşyan and Bishop Maşalyan from Turkey were to be in attendance, and it was a nice surprise. Esteemed Ateşyan is a close relative and is my father's namesake. I also have had a very long friendship with Bishop Maşalyan. I hadn't seen them for a long time due to my busy schedule. In addition, I was happy as I would see many journalist friends of mine thanks to this opportunity. As a result, there were many Armenians in attendance, and I contributed to the political and daily debates in my own way. I must note that the group was very cheerful during the trip. With Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish songs and jokes made by Mr. Cemal Uşşak in his unique Laz accent, we once again had a sense of living together and brotherly feelings, albeit while being far from home. From the first moment of the trip to the last minute, everything went smoothly particularly with respect to the...

We make peace with ourselves as we integrate with the world

BÜLENT KENEŞ -- LOS ANGELES Turkey is quickly developing and making sure-footed progress toward a more peaceful and more prosperous future, despite a number of problems and fair criticisms. The greatest irreversible guarantee for the continuation of this progress in the right direction is Turkey's ever-increasing integration with the world and the international community. The best bit was the full harmony achieved among volunteers, visitors and guests of honor. Even the borders between political parties grew more indistinct, albeit temporarily. Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Alevis, Sunnis, leftists and rightists who came from Turkey shared the same enthusiasm. Americans with different religious, linguistic and racial backgrounds, as well as thousands of Turks living in the US and enjoying different lifestyles were solely occupied with getting their share of the enthusiasm created by the festival. As it integrates further with the world's extremely diversified cultures and civilizations, Turkey is starting to welcome the diverse cultures inside which were hurt by the past's socio-cultural fault lines created by the stereotyped approaches maintained until recently. Indeed, as its integration with the world grows, Turkey realizes the need for repairing these fault lines. As it mingles with the world, it benchmarks itself against the criteria valued by the international community and in the process it tries to understand its true identity. The more it integrates with the world, the more peaceful it grows internally and the more respectful it tries to be in its treatment of different religions, languages and cultures within the country. There is no doubt that the reforms the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) implemented in the political and legal spheres during the early years of its power, as well as the activities of civil society actors, play an important role in this. Some activities spearheaded by civil society may even produce more successful results than the public programs conducted...

Fethullah Gülen’s vision – Building bridges in Los Angeles

Yavuz Baydar Heading to Los Angeles, I had good reason to revisit a recent article that my colleague, Dr. Şahin Alpay, wrote for Today's Zaman.Titled "Why is Fethullah Gülen so influential?" (May 5), it addresses several basic questions about the personality who was chosen by TIME Magazine in its April 29 issue as one of the 100 most influential people in the world today. His responses lucidly portray a spiritual leader merging, in his own most peculiar way, tradition and modernity. "In Turkey and all over the world there are millions of Muslims who have no respect either for fundamentalist, fanatical interpretations of Islam or for those who try to turn Islam into a totalitarian political ideology," Alpay wrote. He continued: "These millions, while being committed to Islam's spiritual and social values, want to live in a world where freedom of expression, belief and enterprise have taken root, where ethnic and religious identities are respected, where education replaces ignorance, where science is valued as much as religious beliefs and where productive activity is encouraged and appreciated. This, undoubtedly, is the primary factor which makes Gülen one of the most influential thinkers of the world with messages he gives 'from a secluded retreat in Pennsylvania.' "Another reason, surely, is the fact that he is a thinker well versed in Turkey's rich tradition of Sufism, the people's Islam. If Said Nursi is the religious scholar who has carried this tradition to the modern age, Gülen is the one who has helped reconcile it with the requirements of an increasingly liberalizing and globalizing world." He added: "The schools sponsored by the Hizmet movement, which literally means 'movement in the service of the people,' have won the respect of thousands of parents in over 140 countries for the high quality of education they provide in English and local languages, and for establishing "peace...

Why is Fethullah Gülen so influential?

Şahin Alpay In 2008, the American Foreign Policy magazine and the British Prospect magazine asked their readers to vote for the world's top public intellectual. Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen won in a landslide. Time magazine, in its April 29-May 6, 2013 issue, published the names of the 100 most influential people in the world according to its own assessment. Gülen was one of them. The brief article introducing him was written by Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times bureau chief in İstanbul from 1996 to 2000 and author of "The Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds" (2001). Kinzer said, in brief, the following about Gülen: "From a secluded retreat in Pennsylvania, he preaches a message of tolerance that has won him admirers around the world. Schools founded by his followers thrive in an estimated 140 countries. ... 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. This makes him seem like a shadowy puppeteer and he is scorned by almost as many Turks as love him. But as the most potent advocate of moderation in the Muslim world, Gülen is waging an urgently important campaign." I pondered after reading my friend Kinzer's lines. What was it that really made Gülen one of the most influential thinkers in the world? And why is he scorned by almost as many as respect him in his own country? My responses to these questions are clear. In Turkey and all over the world there are millions of Muslims who have no respect either for fundamentalist, fanatical interpretations of Islam or for those who try to turn Islam into a totalitarian political ideology. These millions, while being committed to Islam's spiritual and social values, want to live in a world where freedom of expression, belief and enterprise have...

Islamic scholar Gülen’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...

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