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Fethullah Gülen's Dinner Table

by Sahin Alpay, Milliyet on . Posted in Commentaries

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Fethullah Gülen Hodja is respected by a broad Islamic community. He opposes the recent trend of using Islam as a political ideology and dividing society into believers and nonbelievers. Rather, he states that people with different thoughts, beliefs, and lifestyles should be respectful, tolerant, and forbearing toward each other. He is trying to explain to society, through his words and deeds, that differences and problems are solved only through discussion, debate, and dialogue, not through fighting and violence.

Because he has opposed the political use of religion and has contributed to badly needed internal peace in a way becoming to a man of religion, I and many others respect him. His interpretation of Islam is compatible with free democracy. The world should be made aware of this effort.

I visited his community's schools in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. With their emphasis on scientific education, these schools are perhaps our most important tie with Central Asia. I participated twice, at the Hodja's invitation, in the large groups attended by fellow journalists. The second was the dinner given on the evening of November 8. It opened with the subject of tolerance and dialogue, which the Hodja frequently emphasizes. In relation to this, I pointed out how the intolerance shown to Deniz Gezmis caused a great deal of pain in our society. I said I believed that if Gezmis were alive today, he would share our opinion that different ideas and beliefs must be respected.

Sahin Alpay, Milliyet, 11/21/96