The Gülen Movement which is now international must coincide with global realities. When looked at from this perspective, what are the aims of the movement?

Fethullah Gülen

The Gülen Movement which is now international must coincide with global realities. When looked at from this perspective, what are the aims of the movement? How have the aims remained the same and how have they changed since the beginning of the movement?

Fethullah Gülen, in his reply to this question, stresses the expectation of the “pleasure of God” and emphasizing the fact that there could be no change in this basic rule. But, in terms of worldly perspective, according to the developing and changing background and circumstances, taking on global projects that would support our country and religion and make them eternal is an important change we might have. He reminds us, however, that “these are efforts to reach the same pleasure of God from different roads.”[1]

Later, he expresses the sadness that he feels from the severe criticism of this movement which set out with a sincere intention. He notes that until now Turkey tried and failed in expanding its impact through military and political means; what he is having difficulty in understanding is why to accomplish that through cultural means is regarded as strange:

Some biased and prejudiced people with misconceptions, criticizing the Movement of Volunteers, are constantly reiterating the same claims. They say, “Organized activity.” They slander by saying something like “They aspire to do this; they have that in their intentions.” They are even able to filibuster the Supreme National Assembly of a nation with the same baseless claims, based only on grudges, hatred, and vindictiveness.

I am unable to suit these expressions neither for myself or yourself; I am uncomfortable to make such statements in front of you. But in the face of these unfairness and injustices, not on my behalf, but if I do not speak up on behalf of the volunteers they are trying to slander, I would not be having fidelity to them, I believe. Think about it! They are against the educational facilities that they have never seen, never toured, never known; they write against them, they try to plant doubts in the minds of others. How many times did we repeat it? The other day, we explained everything in detail through an interview. We said: “The schools do not belong to one particular person; these educational institutions belong to this nation.”[2]

The activities and the schools of the Gülen Movement went through strict inspections, they were searched, investigated, but in his words:

No crime was found, about none of them was started a trial. That state was the same state; the inspectors were the inspectors of the same state. Yes, what was happening was not an inspection but in a sense raiding. At the end of all of these, the institutions were cleared of any wrongdoing, proven to be clean, and are operating within the legal framework. Although these went into state records many, many times and these records are still in existence. If the gossips did not end there, there must be some grudge and hatred in this matter, and this is unfair; it is unconscionable.[3]

Fortunately, most of these doubts have been addressed and the pressures on the Gülen Movement have been relaxed for the last several years..

Fethullah Gülen repeats his aim and the aim of the movement which carries his name:

God knows our intention, for the last 30 years this nation knows it, too. We have no desire other than earning the pleasure of God and sharing with the world community our historical valuable acquisitions, to establish islands of peace in a bloody geography. As a nation, we believe that we have a lot of good things. We have an honorable and glorious history that we might call our Golden Age for the last thousand years, from another perspective, a history of 4000 years. In many matters we have become skilled. For instance, we have developed a serious understanding of aesthetic standards. It is both our right and duty to display this goodness and to display them in exhibitions. Now in our age, the places these exhibitions take place are our educational institutions, the schools, cultural centers, and even the business places established by those who went abroad for the purposes of trade. Because the things pouring out of their behaviors and conducts would be again our past, our belle lettre, our religious considerations, and ethical norms; and these values will be meaningful for the people of other civilizations.[4]

Fethullah Gülen then turns to a frequently asked question about how the vast spectrum of the movement’s activities is financed:

If you would like to sincerely desire to learn from where the water comes to this huge mill, follow up the water from the original point. Follow them up in its canal and at where it turns the wheels. If you are not prejudiced, you are also going to see it. Whatever the strength and power which gave our nation its independence in some period in the past, it is the same power behind these educational activities. These are the services of our nation, displayed in some other ways, for instance the sacrifices displayed during the War of Independence and the source of it is their hearts. But, those who do not give without something in return, shall never understand this.[5]

Among Turkey’s special contributions to the world are educational activities, which accommodate different cultural climates, and the tolerance maintained among many different faith based groups—a dialog which Fethullah Gülen refers to as the “Movement of Volunteers, ” evidently a special contribution of Turkey to the globalization.

Since the establishment of the republic the main political actor is not the social groups but the state. The state determines who and what citizens will become (identity): how they speak, dress, behave, and even think. Deviation has always been prevented and punished. For that reason, there is a “learned hopelessness and helplessness” in the society regarding doing different things and being different. Whoever entertains the thought of transcending the bounds of this narrowly defined “existential space,” is marked as treacherous and treated accordingly. Although the Gülen Movement is not a political entity, it has committed the “crime” of a nongovernmental group’s acting on its own, independent of the state, and like the similar groups of its kind, has been subjected to suppression.

According to the official ideology (and even Constitution), “the nation belongs to the state.” Existence of another social will is “dangerous” for the state to exert absolute control over the society. It threatens its monopoly over power. The asymmetric relationship between the state and the people is at the expense of the civic society; all the initiatives of the civic society are considered “objectionable” and treated as such.

The Gülen Movement, considering its beginning, development, activities, cadres and the material values it produces, is exactly and perfectly a civic initiative. It is based on the principle of volunteering and all of its initiatives are recognized as geared to increasing the human capacity, to make the individual efficient and sufficient for themselves, to do greater things in mutual solidarity and help others. The educational and human welfare projects, which are being operated with great zeal and meager means in faraway places, require an extraordinary ideal. Nothing less than a firm faith and confidence in the importance of the work carried out can make this ideal a reality. It seems that the core of that faith consists of “a particular kind of understanding Islam,” and the foundation of the trust comes from “the respect and love felt for Hocaefendi.”

Fethullah Gülen refers to the movement that he has inspired as “the movement originating its own models.” But as he always does, he calls everyone—the believer, as well as the detractor—to modesty and rationality:

We do not consider appropriate and accurate to claim that because of this movement the face of the earth will change, all humanity will have smile on its face, and the face of the earth will become a worldly heaven or big claims like these…[6]

He defines the purpose of the movement as the sprinkling of water (through the contribution of the movement) over the plants (children) which have been left without water, have become yellowish, and are ready to fade:

In a period when people are almost at the throats of each other, and in never ending disputes and quarrels, they are awakening to the truth through the contributions of the heroes of love. By finding the human values anew, they are functioning as the water breaker against the floods which would sweep away the world and humanity to disaster. We wish, under the auspices of their sincere efforts, everywhere islands of peace to come into existence; let the societies in distress run to their white islands. But, we can never approve of the exaggerated words like saying this movement is the sole effort to change the color of the world, by overlooking other beneficial activities, pointing only to them and saying they are marching to that or this point, they are going to accomplish this and that. We would consider a contradiction to proceed with such claims and statements with our understanding of servitude to God and our ideas of moderation, ignoring the valuable services of others. Our duty is to serve religion and the nation within the framework of our own values, and while doing this, never desire to obtain the fruits of our efforts and be in any expectation.[7]

After stating the mission of the adherents of the movement, Fethullah Gülen attributes the negative view of some to their prejudices and their passion for domination and power:

Some people are experiencing serious paranoiac feelings, thinking that the participants of the movement [Gülen calls them “heroes of love”], will change the world and are not going to recognize their right to life. They have their own system of thought, lifestyle, and economic, political, cultural, and administrative philosophies. According that philosophy they have established a world. In that world they feel comfortable and consider every voice rising outside their world as a death warrant for themselves. They conceive even the most innocent individuals as the monsters to blacken their world and dangerous people to spoil their comfort. These dark spirited people who see darkness as enlightenment and the light as darkness are worried even about the people who always speak love and breathe love. They are pronouncing this fear and worry through various slanders by calling the black as white and the white as black.

In actual fact, none of these people, who devoted their lives to tolerance, dialog, and education will in the future, let alone darkening the face of the earth, would make a shadow for even a sole individual. No, as we do not see ourselves with a special mission, we absolutely do not carry an intention outside the work in the service of mankind, in order only to gain the pleasure of God.[8]

No matter what others say, without being trapped by big claims, overlooking the slanders behind us, and in the face of the wickedness without being panicked, we have to perform our own tasks. Whatever the treatment we receive, we should not lose hope, we should not resent anyone injure and be injured by anyone. … No matter under what circumstances we are, we have to make the best effort to meet our responsibilities. And even if we are left alone, we have to maintain this sensibility and act accordingly.[9]

Yes, our goal is the pleasure of God; we do not know anything greater than this gaye-i hayal [“purpose of one’s life,” one of the cardinal terms in the system of Fethullah Gülen]. In order to reach this goal, we have chosen the road of [exalting the unity of God], and we do not recognize any task greater than that. While walking on this road, with God’s permission, we are determined not to be boastful because of the greatness of the task or not to hesitate or worry in the face of the rebukes, reprimands, or curses of others.[10]

[1] Doğu Ergil’s interview with Fethullah Gülen.
[2] Fethullah Gülen 2010f, 220–221.
[3] Ibid., 221–222.
[4] Ibid., 222.
[5] Ibid., 222–223.
[6] Fethullah Gülen 2010d, 174.
[7] Ibid., 174–175.
[8] Ibid., 175–176.
[9] Ibid., 176.
[10] Ibid., 178.

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