How do officials of the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the Turkish government view these schools?

Fethullah Gülen

How do officials of the Turkish Foreign Ministry (ambassadors and counselors) and the Turkish government view these schools? Is there any contribution they make? If so, to what extent?

There is supervision and monitoring everywhere. Both our government and the respective governments and their officials are constantly inspecting them. Then, there is the Turkish Ministry of National Education, calling to Turkey the principals and the directors of these schools and giving them seminars.[1]

Furthermore, there are various kinds of civilian establishments, the cultural, political, and economic organizations. They came and see whether they are trying to form an alternative to the state. I tell them this: “Send some teachers to the four corners of the world, open up schools in every part of the world, open up cultural centers, make the Turkish language into a world language, let everyone love Turkish, let everyone love the Turks and when they play their own role in the future, let it find the support. You do it.”

I would even take a step further, despite the friends who do these services, despite those self-sacrificing people, those who are the rep of these institutions, the financiers, the businessmen; if I have the power, if my fame could reach, I would say to the whole nation: If some are saying, “Give those institutions to us, let us manage them,” then you give them, surrender them, let them manage everything, let us see whether it is managed or not managed. It depends on some sacrifice. It depends on giving service while being hungry. It is related to giving without receiving anything in return. It is not something which could be done by someone who, as long as alive, during a duty, living like the kings, and when retired grasping the villa of retirement to pass the rest of life.

It is not a question of anyone producing an alternative to the state, being in a struggle with it. On the contrary, there is the effort of supporting the state. No matter who is on the head of that state, they will comfortably have certain things they could use, and they would advance these possibilities further. This is another aspect of the matter.

In my opinion, there is a way discovered. There is a setting to which God Almighty mobilized our people to. If God wills, this service will continue forever. We will die, but those who come after us will own up the responsibility with more passion and love, they will further things if God wills. All of these are the things necessary to be done on behalf of our nation and the state.

Another issue is this: There are certain beautiful, great things that our state does which we cannot. But there are certain other things that the state might not be able to do it. For instance the state opens in some places schools or cultural centers … these are the things, to a certain extent, bound by the international relations. For a period of time, your relationship with a certain country might be very good. Your commercial, industrial, and cultural relations with it might be very good. But there is a constant change in the world, in the social geography. You see France is with you, you see later that she is against you. You see that your relations with the Netherlands are fine. After a while you observe that she is opposed to you. Let us say, the government opens a university in a place; it opens a high school or a language course in another place. When your act of this kind depends on the relations of the states, and if the relations of our nation go sour with those nations, they would also close down that school or the course. To me, a clever government would act in this matter with alternatives. It would activate the civil society organizations. It could do certain things at the governmental level, suiting the honor and dignity of the government. But meanwhile, it would have alternative plans. It would say to the civic organizations, “You do also certain other things. If our governmental relations do not go well, you could at least continue yours.” In fact, that is what happened. In some places, forgive me, experience of fiascos were the result of the decline in the relationships between the governments. In one of the Asian countries, due to the breakdown in the relationships between the governments was the cause of cessation of educational activities. In my opinion, an intelligent government would have many alternatives. It would not even think of only education, the schools, colleges, the language courses, cultural centers; but would establish there certain other things which would be appropriated by the populace like artistic activities, a theatre group, and a movie house. When they tell someone “go back,” those people who are settled there would remain there, would continue the cause, and would retain the movement. One has to be with many alternatives. Just like many different shoots from different channels, we have to spread around the four corners of the world.

But we should never forget that whatever we do, we are doing it for the sake of the people, on behalf of our government. If the government comes and says to us, civilians and soldiers alike, for the time being you take your hands of this matter, we are taking care of it from now on. We would say, “ay ay,” we would leave quietly. We would think that business is taken care; somehow it is being carried out. Heroically, with honor and dignity our friends can declare this everywhere they go.

No civil formation, no team, no movement, or group should think of itself in the place of the state; on the contrary, it should support the state; it should try to fill the vacuum somehow left by the state. While doing that it should never have a distance from the thinking that, “here I am an element or component of the state, I am doing these on behalf of it.” It should always behind the state, it should lean on it, and it should do everything for the state.[2]

This extreme statist or state-dependent discourse might make one to think that Fethullah Gülen or his followers to be statist without conditions or reservations. However, this would be an incorrect interpretation. Fethullah Gülen and his movement do not seek to be in opposition to the state. The state’s understanding, which is presented as a “foundational philosophy” and which legitimizes state control of religions and faiths, unilaterally has a problematic relationship with the Gülen Movement and other faith-based formations. It perceives all of them as a threat to secularism.

On the other hand, the Gülen Movement is a civic organization. It is voluntary and it moves with a sentiment of a mission, that believes in and that it considers a kind of calling of itself. In Turkey’s political culture there is no such tradition. Until now, what was essential was the omnipotence of the state. The view that the state is not a servant of the people, but their master, was prevalent and predominant. As such, the civic society and its activities were viewed with doubt. For that reason, Fethullah Gülen has stated repeatedly that he does not have any objection to handing over all the institutions that he and the members of his community have established to the “state,” that is, of course, with one condition: The state would continue the work with the same enthusiasm, sacrifice, and productivity.

[1] The interview given to Nicole Pope, Le Monde, 28 April 1998.
[2] “Bu Hareket Devlete Alternatif mi?” (Is this movement an alternative of the state?),

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