How is this global division of labor within the Gülen Movement managed?

Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen describes the group attributed to his name as, “a movement of volunteers formed by those who come together with the purpose of exalting people materially and spiritually.” He states:

I do not know 70 percent of the people who come to me. These people do not know each other, either. Some of them in Ankara, İstanbul, or İzmir, heard what was being said and explained, found them acceptable and started folding their sleeves and opened up schools. Later, saying “Let us carry this movement to abroad,” they opened up to outside world. They did serious sacrifices, did not eat but let others eat, did not dress but let others have them. The teachers who went abroad were content with as little salary as they could meet their basic necessities. The fact that these sacrifices of those magnanimous heroes who spread to the four corners of the world being attributed to a sick and weak man like myself is a grave mistake and at the same time, it would be a transgression into the rights of these self-sacrificing men and women.

In these explanations, we see the footprints of entry class whose influence is gradually increasing in Turkey, and not content with this national market, are opening to the world market. This class is different from the established urban capitalist class. The latter is a class that was enriched by the state for many long years and content with the import business aimed at the domestic market and with adopting Western habits, customs, and traditions. As for the people involved in the Gülen Movement or those who support it, they are different: Since they do not owe anything to the state, they have the ability to act with more freedom, and in order to make up for the support that they do not receive from the government, they require more solidarity and initiative.

It is difficult to say that there is a rigidly centralized (authoritarian) structure in this volunteer cooperation, which relies on the material support of entrepreneurs and where many people from all segments of society have taken upon themselves various tasks. But, on the other hand, it would be incorrect to say that there are no certain arrangements, orientations, and planning—that is to say, that there is no structure. A person you encounter in one part of the world as a teacher might be a hospital administrator at another time in another country. There is a division of labor, flexible and transferable, along with personal responsibility, requiring experience and skills.

Fethullah Gülen says the following about the supports for the movement:

In fact, the volunteers of the movement, whatever was done in the fields of industry, trade, or cultural activities, from the smallest to the greatest, they asked me about my feelings. I know some of them: The late Turgut Özal has written letters, maybe to 20 places that he was at the zenith of the state. As he did this while he was the Prime Minister, he did it again when he was the President. Even in his last travel abroad … he said, “I am the guarantor and co-signer of this business” to a President of another nation. Süleyman Demirel, regarding this matter has written letters with authority to forty heads of states. This is a heroic stance. We have to applaud it. While serving as Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel did this, and he did it again when he was the President. Later another Prime Minister, Bülent Ecevit, did the same.

But this support was, by and large, in the form of letters of trust and credit, for the purpose of and on behalf of the movement to easily maneuver abroad, mostly seeking permission to open up institutions. The funding and the efforts came from the movement.

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