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Preface and Acknowledgments

by Lynn E. Webb on . Posted in Fethullah Gülen: Is There More to Him Than Meets the Eye?

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Her history, population, natural resources and her geopolitical position considered, Turkey is a great country with a greater potential role she can play in the future of not only the region known the Middle East but also the whole of the world which is increasingly becoming a global village. Nevertheless, though she has experienced no serious war in the past 75 years since she was declared a republic in 1923, in these last 75 years, she has not been a power worth mentioning either in regard to the economy or the world balance of power. This is largely due to the internal conflicts she has suffered. During her 75-year republican period, Turkey has been shaken by anarchic events, especially those taking the form of student unrest between May 27, 1960-September 12, 1980 and later by religious or anti-religious and ethnic movements. After 1980, PKK (The Party of the Workers of Kurdistan) terror especially has become one of Turkey's greatest problems.

The problems of education and health, which have been Turkey's two most important issues since the period of the Ottoman State, continually grew larger during the republican period and, worse than that, became tools for political goals. Especially, ideological and political concerns rather than logic and science ruled almost all the decisions made in the field of education. During this time, Turkey never became a noteworthy country in this field in the international arena. To the contrary, the universities, which should have made high-level scientific work, each became a point of political focus and were in the forefront of the three military coups d'etat.

Recently, amidst the confused and confusing scene of Turkey, the name of Fethullah Gülen has become increasingly popular both at home and abroad. With the success and performance they have shown in international science olympiads and the honors they have earned in all branches of science, the schools opened almost throughout the world through Mr. Gülen's recommendation and encouragement, have almost become the representatives of Turkey in the field of science. According to the observations of many columnists in the Turkish press, the teachers working in the schools mentioned within the framework of Fethullah Gülen's understanding, are seen exemplars wherever they are by their sound characters, the level of morality in their behavior and the human values they carry, in addition to their professional proficiency. Regardless of the differences of race, faith and color, these schools can serve as a bridge between the peoples of the countries where they are and thereby can contribute to the world peace, as well as to the rapid integration of those countries with the modern world.

In addition to the schools, at a time when Turkey's social fabric has become damaged and there has been polarization along religious and ethnic lines and between secular and anti-secular camps, Fethullah Gülen's call for tolerance and dialogue, his reinterpretation of Islam and his efforts to reconcile different currents and views, and the activities of the Journalists and Writers Foundation, of which Mr. Gülen is the honorary head, towards this end may well have promised to prevent further deterioration of the social fabric and, in fact, can serve to repair it.

Thirdly, Fethullah Gülen's call for tolerance and dialogue and his meetings with different religious leaders inside and outside the country, including especially his meeting with the Pope received an enthusiastic welcome from the greatest portion of the Turkish media and intellectuals. In her thesis for the degree of master of arts in political science and public administration in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration of Bilkent University in Ankara, Berrin Koyuncu concludes on Fethullah Gülen's movement after a lengthy discussion; The reinterpretation of Islam by Fethullah Gülen constitutes a support for consolidation of democracy in Turkey. At this conjuncture, the views of Fethullah Gülen which carry much more importance are: democracy, tolerance and being a Muslim in Turkey.

Fethullah Gülen's meeting with Fener Rum (Greek) Patriarch Barthelomeos should be appreciated for its being the harbinger of tolerance and civility because it is the first meeting of a civil community leader with a Christian religious leader after the proclamation of the Republic. Fethullah Gülen argues that the most important thing for the well-functioning of a society is dependent on tolerance. He adds that tolerance can only be achieved with love of science and of man.

Fethullah Gülen has developed a notion of "being a Muslim in Turkey". The contribution of this concept is that the freedom and plurality-oriented Anatolian Islam stands against Islamists who ideologize it. Fethullah Gülen thinks that Turkey can never be an Iran regarding the establishment of an Islamic state because the interpretation of Islam by the Iranians and Turks are different. He claims that culture of a nation plays a key role in reinterpretation of Islam... Ali Yasar Saribay, a professor of political sciences in Uludag University of Bursa, argues that Fethullah Gülen's emphasis on the plurality of commonalties for the dialogue, his point of the war of dogmas, his rejection of useless Western hostility constitute the basis for an intersecularization of Islam.

The conclusions drawn by Berrin Koyuncu on Mr. Gülen's movement are also shared by Biilent Aras, visiting lecturer at Indiana University's Central Eurasian Department. In his article published in the September 1998 issue of Middle East Quarterly, Mr. Aras comments:

Gülen points out that most Islamic regulations concern private life and only a small portion of them concern state and government. He looks at the Islamic regulations bearing directly on government in the light of contemporary realities. This leads him to the conclusion, for example, that the democratic form of government is the best choice.

Gülen holds that the Anatolian people's interpretations and experiences of Islam are different from those of others. He frequently emphasizes that there should be freedom of worship and thinking in Turkey. He proposes two keys to provide peace in society: tolerance and dialogue. "We can build confidence and peace in this country if we treat each other with tolerance." (Alistair Bell, "Turkish Islamic leader defies radical label." Reuters, Aug. 7, 1995.) In his view, "no one should condemn the other for being a member of a religion or scold him for being an atheist." (The Turkish Daily News, Feb. 18, 1995.) These ideas about tolerance and dialogue are not restricted to Muslims but extend to Christians and Jews. On the question of women, Gülen has progressive views. The veiling of women is a detail in Islam and "no one can suppress the progress of women through the clothes they have to wear." Gülen also states that "no one should be subject to criticism for his or her clothing or thoughts." (The Turkish Daily News, Feb. 18, 1995.) Furthermore, he says, "women can become administrators," contradicting the views of most Islamic intellectuals. seen exemplars wherever they are by their sound characters, the level of morality in their behavior and the human values they carry, in addition to their professional proficiency. Regardless of the differences of race, faith and color, these schools can serve as a bridge between the peoples of the countries where they are and thereby can contribute to the world peace, as well as to the rapid integration of those countries with the modern world.

In addition to the schools, at a time when Turkey's social fabric has become damaged and there has been polarization along religious and ethnic lines and between secular and anti-secular camps, Fethullah Gülen's call for tolerance and dialogue, his reinterpretation of Islam and his efforts to reconcile different currents and views, and the activities of the Journalists and Writers Foundation, of which Mr. Gülen is the honorary head, towards this end may well have promised to prevent further deterioration of the social fabric and, in fact, can serve to repair it.

Thirdly, Fethullah Gülen's call for tolerance and dialogue and his meetings with different religious leaders inside and outside the country, including especially his meeting with the Pope received an enthusiastic welcome from the greatest portion of the Turkish media and intellectuals. In her thesis for the degree of master of arts in political science and public administration in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration of Bilkent University in Ankara, Berrin Koyuncu concludes on Fethullah Gülen's movement after a lengthy discussion;

The re-interpretation of Islam by Fethullah Gülen constitutes a support for consolidation of democracy in Turkey. At this conjuncture, the views of Fethullah Gülen which carry much more importance are: democracy, tolerance and being a Muslim in Turkey.

Fethullah Gülen's meeting with Fener Rum (Greek) Patriarch Barthelomeos should be appreciated for its being the harbinger of tolerance and civility because it is the first meeting of a civil community leader with a Christian religious leader after the proclamation of the Republic. Fethullah Gülen argues that the most important thing for the well-functioning of a society is dependent on tolerance. He adds that tolerance can only be achieved with love of science and of man.

Fethullah Gülen has developed a notion of "being a Muslim in Turkey". The contribution of this concept is that the freedom and plurality-oriented Anatolian Islam stands against Islamists who ideologize it. Fethullah Gülen thinks that Turkey can never be an Iran regarding the establishment of an Islamic state because the interpretation of Islam by the Iranians and Turks are different. He claims that culture of a nation plays a key role in re-interpretation of Islam... Ali Yasar Saribay, a professor of political sciences in Uludag University of Bursa, argues that Fethullah Gülen's emphasis on the plurality of commonalties for the dialogue, his point of the war of dogmas, his rejection of useless Western hostility constitute the basis for an inter-secularization of Islam.

The conclusions drawn by Berrin Koyuncu on Mr. Gülen's movement are also shared by Bulent Aras, visiting lecturer at Indiana University's Central Eurasian Department. In his article published in the September 1998 issue of Middle East Quarterly, Mr. Aras comments:

Gülen points out that most Islamic regulations concern private life and only a small portion of them concern state and government. He looks at the Islamic regulations bearing directly on government in the light of contemporary realities. This leads him to the conclusion, for example, that the democratic form of government is the best choice.

Gülen holds that the Anatolian people's interpretations and experiences of Islam are different from those of others. He frequently emphasizes that there should be freedom of worship and thinking in Turkey. He proposes two keys to provide peace in society: tolerance and dialogue. "We can build confidence and peace in this country if we treat each other with tolerance." (Alistair Bell, "Turkish Islamic leader defies radical label." Reuters, Aug. 7, 1995.) In his view, "no one should condemn the other for being a member of a religion or scold him for being an atheist." (The Turkish Daily News, Feb. 18, 1995.) These ideas about tolerance and dialogue are not restricted to Muslims but extend to Christians and Jews.

On the question of women, Gülen has progressive views. The veiling of women is a detail in Islam and "no one can suppress the progress of women through the clothes they have to wear." Gülen also states that "no one should be subject to criticism for his or her clothing or thoughts." (The Turkish Daily News, Feb. 18, 1995.) Furthermore, he says, "women can become administrators," contradicting the views of most Islamic intellectuals.

Gülen emphasizes worldly education and favors integration with the modern world. He supports Turkey's bid for membership to the European Union, and he follows a fairly moderate attitude towards the West and Israel.

Gülen's movement has never been mentioned in connection with any hostility towards the government and with internal anarchy, terror, misuse of office or other illegal activities. Although some have tried to evaluate this movement within the undefined concept of irtica (reactionary activities), because this claim has no concrete basis, it has not been accepted by the public or the courts.

After I married a Turk, Turkey became my main area of interest. I wanted to put in book form the observations I have been making over the years regarding Turkey. I have especially been following closely the developments that have taken place around the name of Fethullah Gülen in recent years. The important initiatives that have been made inside and outside of Turkey regarding him caught my attention every time I went to Turkey. Finally, after the meeting Fethullah Gülen had with the Pope at the Vatican, I found very strange some of the criticism aimed at him from publishing organs from the radical - though marginal - right and left. After that, when getting deeper into this issue with the desire to investigate more closely the reasons for this, the negative attitudes towards Gülen, the claims made about him and replies made to these by Gülen himself or others on his behalf awoke my curiosity even more.

This book was put together for the purpose of presenting to the Western public information regarding the recent controversies around radical secularism and fundamentalism in Turkey, which has attracted my attention and concentration for a long time. I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to my husband and other Turkish students studying in the US especially for their help in procuring necessary materials to prepare the book. I also thank the Mercury International Publishing, Consulting, Import and Export Company, Ltd. for publishing it.

Lynne Emily Webb is a writer and researcher in New Jersey, the United States of America. She obtained a degree of microbiology from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1983. She has worked as a scientist and writer. Her works aimed at the understanding of life's basic questions and attaining deeper levels of wellness through research.