"A Movement Originating its Own Models."

The establishment that you are involved has been designated by some as a jamaat (congregation, religious community), while others see it as a tariqat (religious order). You call it"A Movement Originating its Own Models." Why not jamaat, but movement?

Things must be called what they really are. I find it more suitable to call it a movement. It may also be called a jamiyyat (society, community), jamaat, or a civil non-governmental organization. But society refers to organizations with legal statutes and regulations; a religious community, on the other hand, refers to a group of people gathered around an idea proposed by a person, which also has certain rules peculiar to itself. As a matter of fact, I don't see anything wrong with calling it a jamaat; like a congregation that comes together for the hajj or in a mosque, people can form groups around a feeling or a thought, provided that it is within the framework of Islam.

Some identified this group as a civil non-governmental organization; this definition was also accepted by researchers outside of Turkey. But, for me, it does not really fit into that definition. Looking into what this movement really is, I can see that some ideas proposed some time ago have been widely acknowledged by Turkish people who gather across spheres whose extents are immeasurable, not only by myself, but by any person. They have gathered because of issues that are considered to be necessary or useful, and they realize the spirit of action that is required.

What kind of issues are these?

Educational activities, for instance, are organized by many people who believe that education is important for the future of the world; they support each other for this purpose, even if they do not know each other. Therefore, this phenomenon can also be called a comprehensive cultural activity. I still find it more fitting to call it a "movement," perhaps as an inspiration from Nurettin Topcu, by whose scholarly quality I have been influenced; a movement devoted to establish our feelings and thoughts and Turkish philosophy first in Turkey, and then to make it known worldwide.

Why do you stipulate "originating its own models" in your definition?

Before, when we needed to give examples in order to encourage people and to attract their attention, we used to refer to the Age of Happiness (the time of Prophet Muhammad) or to our history. These snapshots will always be remembered in admiration and our eyes will always water when we remember them. But for something to be more influential, it has to originate its own models. The Companions, the founders of the Ottoman State, as well as the heroes of our War of Independence originated their own models. Therefore, this stipulation is highly significant for me.

If a movement has started to produce its own models, and people have started to admire it, following in its steps, and devoting themselves to this cause, making it their ideal, or if they have accepted it as mafkura (lofty ideal), in the words of Ziya Gokalp, then the person who seems to be at the front of this movement would not even be aware of what is happening most of the time. People would do similar things here and there, even if they didn't know anything about each other, because they don't have any organic connection and because they have not been introduced to each other. But they are connected together by the bonds of a very serious thought and a lofty ideal.

Is there the connotation that it has become a model?

I think it has become a model. Other people can make use of this experience if they want to. There is a bizarre understanding in Turkey which I cannot comprehend at all: No matter how beautiful, ideal, rational, or how much stability one activity promises, the person performing this action is considered to be more important than the action itself. If the person who is associated—or charged—with this activity is someone admired, then this is most welcome; unfortunately, if it is the other way around, even the most beautiful activities can be rejected.

How is this movement perceived outside Turkey?

I have not come across this much oddness outside Turkey; otherwise, they would not have given any comfort. There have not been any problems in countries where this movement has flourished, despite the fact that many of these countries have very sensitive intelligence agencies which bring along suspicion, as well as there being many provocations that have occurred both from within Turkey and outside.

Even many countries where people are devoutly attached to their faith and who do not permit beliefs other than those of their own sects have welcomed volunteers of education, which is proof that they are able to take an objective look and find this service useful. It is hard to claim that this movement has been welcomed to the same degree in Turkey.

Is this period temporary or conjectural?

It can be considered as being conjectural, perhaps due to an antipathy felt against some of us, or due to a misinterpretation of some of our manners. I would like to express something subjective at this point: although this movement has been approved by many people coming from diverse views in many different parts of the world, some people in Turkey have continued to oppose it and behave harshly; and then I said to myself, perhaps a hundred times: "O my Lord, if this antipathy against this movement which propagates to the world the name, language, and culture of Turkish nation is because of my person, take my life, but do not allow harm to come to this movement." I have never had any aspirations other than to serve my nation, religion, and the way we live our faith.

I felt that it was necessary to make this statement, because if this movement is being approved as rational and acceptable by many diverse and even opposing views in the rest of the world and if it is only being rejected in one place, then we have to investigate either the ones rejecting us, or ourselves.

Investigating others may expand the extent of questioning which may lead to su-i zan (thinking malice about others). Self-accounting suits a believer more. If we are misunderstood and perceived differently due to our own faults, then we are the guilty ones. "Why do some people feel antipathy for us?" we should ask ourselves and re-evaluate our manners and conduct. I don't want to accuse anyone; I would rather say, "Perhaps, we have erred in our style."

What do you mean when you say that?

We may have erred in some ways, for example, we may have given an impression that this movement is all about religion and nothing else. Perhaps, some other people might have been disturbed by our thoughts about the "Turkish nation." These disturbances were revealed during that June storm (Gülen refers to the foray of conspiracies about him which were flashed out in the press in the summer of 1999). Some individuals, who occupy important positions, claimed in unison on this matter—although they appeared to be sharing opposing views—"how dare you expand to the world with pan-Turkism or pan-Islamism?"

These people also confused the minds of the intelligence services in other countries, perhaps by even passing over certain state institutions, and sending certain messages across. We later thought that "we have not sufficiently informed them about ourselves; we had better stay close and elucidate our ideas." The process of dialogue was related with this, to a certain extent. But, the hands that we extended to some people remained empty; some did not even grant an appointment; some told us not to come although they had promised a meeting. I find it hard to understand them, but this is human nature. Whether they are a believer or not, whether they accept religion or not, anyone can be tangled up in some issues.

We are passing through a period of enlightenment, like in the West where serious harshness, hostility, and intolerance were experienced; people were killed at the guillotine or burned to death. These hurricanes were subdued by determining the fields of activity and enlightenment. I believe truths will one day be revealed in Turkey, too. I can even say that this process has started.

Today, this movement is being appreciated by a majority of the elite. Some others, on the other hand, say, "everything is fine, but I wish such and such people were not behind them."

Activities are admired, but those who perform them are not; is this how it is?

An idea may be proposed by certain people; but what is important is its acceptance in the community. Once an idea is accepted no one will pay any attention to who is behind it. Our nation had adopted the idea of expelling the enemy out of the homeland during the War of Independence; but those in Istanbul did not even know anything about Antep, Urfa, Maras, or even Bandirma and Balikesir, even though they were so close.

People in those cities were trying to do certain things to attain their goal, and then later Istanbul wanted to be a part of it. Many scholars have accepted that the administration in Ankara organized this movement, which had already started among the grass-roots and was continuing. Similarly, the movement we are talking about today has been adopted by society and has become its property; people are not aware of each other, but they are involved in a certain activity.

What is most significant about this idea is its acceptance by the nation. It would not have been accepted if it had not been regarded as being useful and reliable, and no movement of volunteers would have come into being. It would not have its own models. Movements without their own models cannot last for long.

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