Does he have any interest in sports? For instance, does he watch any games on TV? Does he encourage his followers to participate in sports? Have any well known athletes arisen in the movement?

Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen first explains what the word “sports” means to him. He sees sport as a vehicle for communication and sharing between groups and individuals.

With the expansion of the network of communications in the world, the concepts of democracy, peace, dialog, and understanding are being expanded. Without doubt one of the vehicles of communication to be able to influence the social is sports. Everything regarding the sport in a moment goes from one end of the world to the other. In terms of the durability and its tomorrow, dialog and tolerance which we believe are necessary along with other vehicles should be disseminated through this channel, too.[1]

Why are sports a good vehicle for communication and mutual influence? For instance, 90 minutes on a soccer field provides an opportunity for people to share pleasurable moments and excitement, coming closer together. The gentlemanly contest displayed during the game, without seeing the rival as an enemy, encourages competing according to the rules. The notion that, “Winning does not depend on crude force but professionalism, doing its task well, and being well-prepared,” spreads. Sports contests are not to destroy the rival, but to compare talents, to test, to see who is better in the field. A contestant, while testing his own skills and by getting the audience to participate in the game, is able to produce a great partnership and a group of emotional fellowship. At that moment, the masses, who feel the same excitement and concerns, understand that they share a commonality in the rules of the game and in human sentimentality. In other words, they discover their humanity one more time in the contests.

Fethullah Gülen explains:

In a contest, in general, there would be winners and losers. To the extent that at the end of the contest, the rivals embracing each other in a gentlemanly manner and show that they have the same goals and aims, this friendship and sportsmanship can envelope the audience and even the entire society. This would be an important lesson for those who from time to time put the chairs on fire, curse each other, fight with each other in a bloody manner, and those who want to see or want us to see the sports as a vocation devoid of sentiments and thoughts. Yes, even if it is considered as insignificant today for the supporters, instead of fighting, shaking hands in a friendly manner and leaving the stadium with love and affection, this hatred and discord would be prevented, at least to an extent, and the world at this moment needs it very much.

Furthermore, every profession should be exercised appropriately; we should act according to the requirements of that profession. An imam uses his voice in the mosque; but an artist in a cinema or theatre cannot act in that way. He would bring it to the fore the body language, and acting skills.

If he is an author he would bring it to the fore his pen. He says whatever he wants to say with the tongue of the art, the literature. There is a benefit for it to be done in this way. Otherwise the impressiveness and impact of those messages would be broken and no benefits can accrue from them. The same applies to the sports. For instance, at the end of a goal scored, the statements such as, “I have done this with my faith, it happened with the permission of God” may lead some people to delirium and rebellion. Instead, the sportsman, an athlete should express himself through his achievements, gentlemanlike character, and his life.[2]

At this point, Fethullah Gülen asking people to go after what they desire and to realize them in the way he wants, rather than just praying with words.

Unfortunately in our day, the importance of some of the concepts is not comprehended. Everyone has a need for religion, and the peace and security religion promises, more than bread and water. I am in the opinion that all of these will have positive reception if they are presented properly. Since almost all the people in the world, who want to do something in the name of Islam, are approaching this important matter with ill manners, and wrong methods, they are causing them to be hated rather than liked. And they are forming gaps unbridgeable between people. But what is expected from Islam is to be a bridge between the humans, a road, and an element closing the gaps among the people. In summary, we can say that an element like sports has to be taken advantage by any means to realize dialog and tolerance in the society.[3]

It is clear that Fethullah Gülen attributes a great social role to sports and through his inspiration, sports is encouraged in schools. Fethullah Gülen had implied that he prefers wrestling and soccer among the branches of sports, but he leaves the following question unanswered, “Do you watch matches?”

Fethullah Gülen also was asked, “Has ever a known sportsman arisen from the schools and the movement?” After remarking that from the school in Georgia, Zaza Pachulia has been playing in the National Basketball Association in the United States, Fethullah Gülen states that many sportsmen attended schools established by the movement in the fields of soccer and wrestling. He adds, “But determining them name by name is the subject of another study.”

[1] Fethullah Gülen 2006d, 161.
[2] Ibid., 161–162.
[3] Ibid., 162.

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