What stops the Gülen Movement from becoming a cult or sect?
One common characteristic of participants in the Gülen Movement is their acceptance of the scholarly authority of Fethullah Gülen. They tend, in addition, to emphasize particular aspects in the practice of their faith. These aspects emerge as distinguishing features or styles in their positive discourse and peaceful action. However, certain factors disable any sort of retreat into a closed group or sect. These include the Gülen Movement’s consciousness of moral and religious values, and its ethics of responsibility towards Turkish and global human societies, the spirit of competitiveness and upward mobility, and the encouragement to acquire knowledge from multiple sources outside the Gülen Movement.
The Gülen Movement does not attempt to distinguish and then cut itself off from the Muslim or secular global communities by a distinctive ideology, myth or utopian vision. The Gülen Movement has no special doctrines or dogmas, no private texts or procedures, no rites, ritual, insignia, costumes or ceremonies that mark people as having “joined.” Indeed, there is no membership, properly speaking, and certainly not an exclusive one.
Leadership is decentralized, resource management and decision-making are diffused through institutions. Institutions are in regular, informal touch with each other, but they are formally and operationally independent. The institutions and activities of the Gülen Movement are open to all. The institutions and activities provide scientific education, sound moral teaching based on universal ethical values, and they encourage peaceful, positive activism, and civic engagement for everyone’s community and humanity.
The Gülen Movement is not linked to any sectarian tradition or affiliation. Networking, participation and affiliation in the Gülen Movement are not exclusive, alienating and sectarian because the Gülen Movement is not closed to the outside world; indeed, it intends collective engagement with the wider public. This is evident in its extensive, intercultural and interfaith activities and organizations throughout the world. It has no closed orientation either of a geographical, communal or ideological kind, but has an open and fluid structure.
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