Turkey already has enough mosques, Gulen said.
Instead, build more schools, more hospitals and universities. For some Turks, this was a radical message. Nationalists accused Gulen of attempting to subvert the government. Islamists accused him of being too accepting of a political system that they felt had excluded them. Similar accusations have followed Gulen to the present day, and are just as far apart, depending on who is doing the criticizing and where the criticism appears in the press.
In Turkey, his accusers tell the Turks he is a puppet of the Pope and a secret Cardinal, while in the United States, detractors say he is an Islamist terrorist whose ambitions mirror those of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. While the depiction of an Islamic danger who is secretly trying to resurrect the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate is more alarming for English-language readers, the depiction of an American and Zionist puppet who is destroying Turkey and Islam with his 'moderate Islam' is likely aimed at manipulating Turkish-language readers.
In , Gulen came to the United States for treatment of his many health issues he is a diabetic and has heart problems. Accused of attempting to overthrow Turkey's government in , he was tried in absentia and acquitted in The Turkish Supreme Court threw out the case in Ashton maintains that an economic and political power struggle motivates those behind Gulen's persecution. The rise of an educated middle class poses a threat to nationalists and the military who held power until recently.
Gulen lives quietly in Saylorsburg, Pa. The United States granted him permanent residency in The Gulen Movement Gulen is nothing if not prolific. Though he formally ended his career as a cleric in , he has written more than 60 books, most of which are available in English. It's likely that an equal number of books have been written about Gulen or the movement he inspired. The man and the movement are subjects of myriad dissertations and scholarly treatises. In , readers of Prospect and Foreign Policy named Gulen the world's top public intellectual.
He has visited with the Pope, the head of the Orthodox Christian Church, Jewish Rabbis and foreign dignitaries worldwide. Yet, the elderly man with white hair and vaguely sad, puffy eyes remains a simple Muslim cleric, he says, with no political ambitions.
It requires treating all things with deep compassion. This is my philosophy, which obliges me to remain aloof from all worldly titles and ranks. The Turkish government suspects Gulen of having a hidden agenda, Ashton said, adding that it just isn't so. Two main themes stand out in Gulen's works: First, he teaches that Muslims have a duty to perform services for the common good, known as hizmet; second, he teaches that interfaith dialogue is crucial to creating a peaceful and harmonious world. Gulen's work and words have motivated an organic network of people who aspire to live up to Muslim ideals, Worldwide, the Turkish diaspora has enthusiastically embraced his moderate, modern interpretation of Islam.
Because the movement is not hierarchical, it's impossible to estimate the number of Gulen's followers; however it's likely to be in the millions. Hizmet, which has become synonymous with the Gulen Movement, often takes the form of education. Ozcan came to know Gulen through students who tutored him for free in his Turkish community. In Turkey, followers have opened hundreds of "Gulen-inspired" private schools, whose students include some of the best and brightest in the country, financed solely through private donations from Turkish citizens.
Admittance is by testing, and more than 40 percent of the Turkish students receive full scholarships, according to Ozcan, with an estimated 90 percent of students going on to receive college degrees. Ozcan and Ashton both made a point to separate Gulen, the man, from the Gulen Movement, which they say he does not lead.
Gulen-inspired schools have opened in numerous countries, including in the United States, as well as Asia and Australia, and are typically supported by Turkish businessmen, who are, in turn, organized into various regional trade associations under the banner of the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists in Turkey, similar to the U. Chamber of Commerce. The group's entrepreneurial and business-focus makes it a formidable financial powerhouse, which makes some Turks uneasy. About Those Charter Schools Gulen-inspired entrepreneurs have taken advantage of America's shift to charter schools, running about schools in 25 states, including the 33 Harmony Schools in Texas, the subject of an investigation by The New York Times last June.
The story, "Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas," focused on the schools' use of public money and whether those funds are funneled into the Gulen Movement. Sonar Tarim, superintendent of Harmony Schools, denied any affiliation to Gulen. Gulen say were originally inspired by his teachings," the Times reported, but uncovered no other connection. Using public taxpayer funds for schools or taking funds away from public schools is not the way of Gulen-inspired schools, Ozcan says.
The U. In Turkey, Gulen's detractors imply that the schools are part of a nefarious plot to take over the country from the inside. Graduates have insinuated themselves into the highest ranks of the police force and the judiciary, in addition to being in other prominent positions of power in the government and the media.
Because Gulen-school grads do well on entrance exams, he said, they easily get accepted into the police force. In other words, it's not surprising that smart, well-educated people rise to positions of authority, implied the Jesuit priest, a former top adviser on Islamic matters to the Vatican. I doubt that any of the people writing these missives have ever done that, been in the Turkish homes of some of the followers of Gulen.
I doubt they've been in a single home, and I've been in four-dozen. Never have I seen hate or exuding anything That's been my experience. Such counter arguments abound for every theory damning Gulen or the Gulen Movement.
In "Fethullah Gulen's Grand Ambition: Turkey's Islamist Danger," a recent article in the scholarly journal Middle East Quarterly, author Rachel Sharon-Krespin writes that "Gulen and his backers not only seek to influence government but also become the government. Sharon-Krespin cited statistics that don't appear in her references, according to Koc, author of one of her references. The majority are "from sources with no academic or scientific control for credibility" he says, including TV programs and blogs.
To say that Gulen heads up the movement that carries his name or is somehow pulling the strings of the organization the way an American CEO leads a multi-national corporation is inaccurate, according to his followers. Instead, he preferred to call it the Volunteer Movement. Gulen also stood by his long-time ascetic lifestyle.
His only belongings, he said, were "a quilt, bed sheets and a few prized books," adding that he did not know "how many countries this movement is active in, nor do I know how many teachers and students there are. Ashton, whose forthcoming book delves into the grassroots political and social impact of the Gulen Movement in Turkey, said that if he were to compare Gulen to another public figure, it would be activist nun Sr. Ashton has met Gulen, and said it's easy to see why he's inspiring. History will tell whether Gulen is a force for good or evil.
The movement springs from, and helps expand, the rising middle class, which has led to democratization and economic opportunity. For all their emphasis on individual integrity, Hizmet participants are forbearing of others and nonjudgmental. Although personally religious, they do not see themselves as a formal religious community, but firm subscribers to a democratic secular society that promotes traditional civil liberties, including freedom of religion. Hizmet followers seek greater equity in society. Over the years, people in Hizmet have established some educational institutions, such as elementary and secondary schools and universities around the world, though many are in Turkey.
They are high-performing schools, recognized for academic achievement. These endeavors, underway since the s, hold themselves out as alternatives to the more dogmatic, sometimes radical, and educationally-limited religious madrasah schools. Hizmet schools have been particularly important for less fortunate youth in southern Turkey and the Kurdish region because of the shortage of educational facilities there and the opportunity they provide. Many schools have dormitories for poorer students from outlying areas so that they can attend.
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They also furnish an opportunity for young women where traditional culture reinforces early marriage and child-bearing duties. They help students who speak Arabic or Kurdish develop facility with Turkish, which they need for university and employment. These schools, which emphasize science , mathematics, and related disciplines are non- religious and supported by entrepreneurs in Turkey and the Turkish diaspora in other countries.
They are expected to become self- sufficient eventually, supported by those whom they educate as they themselves graduate and enter business. The universities can accommodate only about half of those who take the test.
The dershanes had a successful record in preparing students for the exam; they were also places that sometimes inspired young people to become part of Hizmet. The movement also sponsors Houses of Light at university campuses, study centers for students where they can be with others of similar cultural and religious sympathies— some of whom became new Hizmet participants.
Since , the movement has sponsored the International Turkish Language Olympiads , a competitive event for high school students worldwide, culminating with the final event in Istanbul. Romania hosted the event in. The annual event now draws about 2, student participants and more than , spectators. Hizmet doctors and business people are also known to set up hospitals and bring medical services to underserved countries, such as Nigeria and in central Africa and northern Iraq.
It currently is sponsoring clean water well projects in eighteen countries across the globe. Kimse Yok Mu has helped victims of natural calamities around the world and established potable water projects in Africa, among other worthy endeavors. It has provided humanitarian aid in countries and assisted millions of people. Zaman is widely respected for its breadth of coverage and promotion of civil society and democracy 5 and is a major player in Hizmet. The self-sustaining movement relies on volunteers, charitable donations, and financial underwriting.
It is a characteristic Islamic practice to tithe, based on income, to charitable organizations. Individuals in Hizmet tend to give from 7 to 15 percent or more, depending on ability, to Hizmet charities and projects.
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Hizmet, it is thought, may have as many as eight million supporters or admirers in all areas of the planet. Hizmet supporters organize around the view that humans have the potential to do better than reflected by the current state of world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation fuel paranoia, personal and collective. For Hizmet, person-to-person communication is crucial to social tolerance. Dialog is not compromise, conversion, or integration.
Rather, it is the coming together of people, committed to their respective religious paths or who have no faith, but are living a life of good works , to better know and communicate with one another and, in due course, work together. This dynamic helps strip away false prejudices, dissipates fear and antagonism, and lays a foundation for trust, peaceful coexistence, and cooperative undertakings.