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Does Fethullah Gülen prefer a particular political movement or political party? What is the relationship of the movement with politics?

by Doğu Ergil on . Posted in Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen Movement in 100 questions

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Fethullah Gülen

Rather than party politics or cliquishness, our country needs disciples of knowledge, morality, and virtue who are well equipped with faith and hope, full of enthusiasm, and who have divested themselves of any wish, desire, and distress, be it material or immaterial, pertaining to this world or the other. Until we can find them and put ourselves in their hands, this intertwined exile and slavery, though relative, seems set to continue.[1]

Here I should also point out that, unlike some other religions or religion-like systems, Islam does not restrict itself to metaphysical considerations only, such as spiritual perfection of the individual, religious rituals, prayer, devotions, and contemplation. In addition to the emphasis on metaphysical considerations, Islam also sets out rules that order human individual, social, political, economical, moral, and legal life; and it promises safety from lawlessness and eternal rewards in return for the observation of these rules. Restricting the divine religion to only belief and individual religious rituals means compartmentalizing it and shaping it contrary to God’s will and approval. At the same time, this will force individuals to hesitate about what they need to practice and live by and how and when to practice it. It would not be difficult to claim that such compartmentalization can even cause some sort of mental confusion. If individuals cannot live by the principles of their religion freely because of certain obstacles put before them, this means that they have been denied the freedom of belief and conscience.

According to the religion of Islam, the Messenger has been sent to provide principles for life in this world and the afterlife, with the promise of eternal bliss for its followers. In the message of the Prophet, this world and the world of eternity complement each other. Personal and social responsibilities are interrelated. Prayer, supplication, and remembrance of God, the life of heart and spirit, and social and governmental issues are all facets of one unit. Besides all of this, every Muslim should be very sensitive and conscious about his or her own rights as well as respectful about the rights and freedoms of others. Moreover, as they defend their own rights at the same level, they are very willing to defend the rights of others.[2]

… I do not think that the institutions constituting the state are against so and so, against you and us. In some institutions, some whose voices are louder and who dwarfs others with their voices, whose noises are ahead of their activities, might appear to you as the state. That is to say, those who are against you are not the state, but a marginal group. Therefore, it is a grave mistake, to consider a vital institution for the life of the nation, as if it was in opposition to you. To reprimand her for such a mistake, to denigrate, to constantly criticize her, that is a second mistake, and doubly so, especially to damage the trust of the nation in her therefore to weaken it, this is a many fold mistake. For that reason, we should not be caught in the flood of those faults and mistakes.[3]

When he is reminded that before going to the US, he occasionally met with politicians, he replies:

I am a regular citizen and as a citizen, I think I have the right to meet with anyone. In my meetings with the politicians, they might have some political concerns, but up until now, I had no political interests. The proposals for meetings always came from them anyway, and I had accepted them as an opportunity to explain the issues of the nations to them. I had told all the persons I met, “I wish all the parties from the left to the right, could agree on the national issues, and not go to opposition with each other.” I am thinking that this kind of a conversation is just very normal.

There were times that I might have advised to take some measures in favor of the nation in matters related to the likelihood of our nation might be wounded. In those meetings, staying away from politics, I always tried to speak about the general and durable issues. For instance, I remember that once I said these things: It is important for a nation to say, “This is my government” rather than for a government to say, “This is my nation,” and in my opinion this is always what is sought after. On the contrary, if the nation considers the government as a chain of caterpillar to fall upon itself, that would mean that for a long time now, that body and that head were separated from each other.[4]

Although there have been those who mentioned my name with some parties, all of these, if they do not come from a deliberate intention, surely it would be a mistaken assessment and inaccurate information. It is a common knowledge that as a consequence of my philosophy of service, I am opposed to every kind of internal division and anarchy, to the monopolization in the fields of religion, civilization, and democracy to using and utilizing them negatively inside the country and using them as a vehicle to divide the people. But there are those who imagine for a time or those who see some benefit in inventing such fantasies that I supported the Justice Party, later Motherland Party, yet still later, True Path Party and then the Democratic Left Party.

Up until now ... there was no one and never a meeting of a political nature, a bargain in which even the use and mention of one word can be irritating to anyone; and it would not be possible and it shall not be possible in the future. I am not after such and such chairs in the national assembly, but am after the pleasure of God, which is declared in the Qur’an as more valuable and greater than everything, including Paradise. Up until now, as I did not lend support to any party directly or indirectly, written or verbally, vocally, in this matter and during the election of any member of any party, I did not give any hint to even the closest people around me, to support or not to support.

The late Turgut Özal was someone I respected and admired, but the claim that I advised people to vote for him is inaccurate. The secret of the matter lies in the farsightedness and fidelity of the nation. Turgut Bey, all his life, had run after lofty ideals, he was always with a vision. He was a great thinker and statesman. He was a constant supporter of the philanthropic activities, carried out in the educational field. Our people who know him in this character were supporter of him with a sense of fidelity.

In the matter of voting for Mr. Ecevit, in no uncertain terms, I would like to state that I did not give advices or encouragements. In any case, Mr. Ecevit did not demand such a thing and he did not have an expectation in that direction. In his relationships, he did not have a goal of obtaining votes.

Mr. Ecevit became a symbol of honesty. He did not say something yesterday and something else today. He reshaped the left under the new realities of Turkey. He tried to renovate the left and to form a left-culture, reconciled to and in peace with its religion and national values. It was for this reason that he did not see every pious person as an obscurantist. He demonstrated that the left can be in peace with the sincere Muslims. The far-sighted Turkish nation as a compensation for his honest and consistent conduct rewarded him with its votes.[5]

We are at an equal closeness to all parties. As I expressed earlier, I am not saying “at an equal distance,” because the followers and sympathizers of each and every party there are our own people. The parties and the political view points of people are is not obstacles for us to befriend them.

Those who embrace everyone, who fold their sleeves for heroism of love, would not exclude anyone for the sake of temporary political interests; would not imprison anyone in his/her political party or viewpoints. No matter who says what, no matter what imagination one has or vocalize his own expectation or suspicion, their line of thinking is well known: They neither support one party and set aside another nor are they conditioned and establish a front of hostility with a preconception against any party.[6]

What is understood here is that Fethullah Gülen takes extra care to keep the movement outside politics, but not necessarily the participants as individuals. For individual preferences, he is neither guiding them, nor preventing them. He is aware that the partial and divisive spirit of politics would impact negatively on a movement that tries to embrace everyone, based on solidarity with everyone else. He knows that it would only sow the seeds of hypocrisy. His exhortations are in this direction.

[1] Fethullah Gülen 2007b, 122.
[2] Sarıtoprak and Ünal 2005, 448–449.
[3] Fethullah Gülen 2005b, 58.
[4] Fethullah Gülen 2009a, 106–107.
[5] Ibid., 108–109.
[6] Ibid., 110.