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How do you see the integration with European Union?

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

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Fethullah Gülen

How do you see the integration with European Union? What kind of meaning and importance, the idea of “Turkish identity of Islam,” will gain in relation to European Union and Turkey becoming part of the world?

Fethullah Gülen remarks that he finds it important for the European Union to be in negotiations for the first time with a Muslim country, in terms of Europe’s identity and its vision:

Regarding the EU, mostly the gains of Turkey has been talked about. I do not know if the European countries are aware of it, but what Turkey would bring to the EU is very important. If being aware of it, they are insisting on their course, it means their obstinacy is ahead of their sound thinking. In fact, for Europe, in this relationship there are a lot of gains, in terms of its future and its credit and esteem.

Our intellectuals are after Europeanization for a long time now. We are in the process of Europeanization starting with Tanzimat which gained speed during the republican era. As is known, the first serious agreement was signed in 1963. Afterwards, there were conferences pro and con. Some very serious people that I listened to in 1966 and 1967 raised their objections to it. Their ideas are overlapping with what the people who are anti-Europe now are saying: “It is a Christian club, they are playing a game with us, and they would Christianize us.”

Today, some Muslims have written books and they have distributed them. They say: “If they come, they would have their impact on our youth, with their appearance, religious conceptions, understanding of God.” Maybe, the Europeans had concerns about our poverty, and us being Muslims. Maybe, they did not have complete trust in the values of their religion, but they were not revealing them to outside. I would not know if they carry the same concerns, today. But it is obvious that up until now, they did not want to accept us.[1]

After this point, Fethullah Gülen takes his analysis to a sociological dimension:

The Turkish community in Germany that they thought would be assimilated have maintained both its existence and also it came to itself after two or three generations. While it was a community under the impact of others then, now it has begun to be an influential community. We have seen at several occasions, we are listening to people, compared to other Muslim communities, both in Europe and in the USA; there is a warm interest in the Turkish community. They find the Turks softer, compared to other Muslims. Maybe from the perspective of democracy, republic, and secularism, it is easier for them to view it with a more positive attitude; these are the comforting aspect of our society for them. Turkish Islamic identity is pronounced more in the USA and Europe than it is in Turkey.[2]

Regarding the slow progress of joining the EU as a full member, Fethullah Gülen comments:

Shall we join the EU or when shall we? Even though these are ambiguous at the moment, giving a date to review has had a psychological effect on the Turkish society. This appears as an achievement of the current government. Of course, there might be some aspects to be criticized, but thinking that they might be taken as a political deliberation on a political subject, I would rather avoid it. In reality, the Europeans should consider this as good news; they should have great interest in it, more than we consider we had received good news, in terms of membership in the EU.

It is because there are other powers which would like to have influence in the regions that the Europeans are interested. The Chinese entered into these areas long time ago, in virtue of their power of competition and the soft manner of their behavior. Neither the Europeans nor the Americans can compete with them. It is for certain that in the future there will be serious revolutions in the economic field.

Now, at exactly this point, Turkey can act as a bridge between Europe and the Far East. Europe needs a Turkey which has a deep and rich historical experience about the Middle East. They accepted Cyprus into the EU, but they should have been able to understand Turkey was more important than Cyprus. Another aspect of the matter is that even if those at the head of the current administrations are unable to appreciate, when we come down to the level of the public, we would see that they have an enormous interest in and sympathy for Turkey, with its history, the psychological effect it has on the society, and the extraordinary credit it has. This is so in terms of our past and in terms of current times as we are ruled by a republic and under a democracy. In various countries where the educational activities are undertaken, we witness this clearly. Therefore, only if the EU wins over Turkey, it can become a power in the region.

The USA, too, would like to retain its domination in our region. Its administrators appear to support the membership of Turkey in the EU, as far as it is reflected in the mass media. The USA which wants to retain its domination in the region, would not want to lose an ally like Turkey or Turkey to take its place in another power network somewhere else.[3]

Fethullah Gülen, when assessing the relationships between Turkey and the EU, does not want to see his country in this or that block, but wants to see it with many dimensions in the global system. He sees Turkey among the powers to have weight in the balance of power in the world or even as one of the powers to maintain that balance:

Turkey has a special history, national and religious values, as well as being a country bringing forth its own interpretations in the religious life. When considered from the perspective of the fundamentals of Islam, it is again seen, to a great extent, as a country which brings to the fore its own interpretations. Therefore, Turkey would have an inclination towards those who are closer to itself in interpretation of sentiments, thoughts, logic, philosophy, and life. Whoever has common values and interests with it, it would have some various great projects to accomplish with them. These are very important from the perspective of the international relations; but this truth does not constitute a barrier for it to enter the EU, and to develop certain projects with the Europeans.[4]

Fethullah Gülen draws a vision greater than EU membership or even larger than any kind of membership of an alliance.

We should look at the horizon and we should see certain things more clearly. For instance, as we have to admire the things they produced in the fields of science, technique, art and civilization, and put them as a crown on our heads, we have to see also that Europe has aged, and even the USA has grown a little old. Even if they seem today like a shining Sun, this Sun is very close to setting. Turkey, on the other hand is a country where the signs of dawn appears on its horizon, is a country experiencing a revival, a young and a dynamic country. We should not look at the dazzling brightness of them now, but at the things likely to shine in the future.

Turkey is more promising for the future. I am not saying these things on the top of my head. There is a Turkish reality, and it would not be possible to race with us in the future. We fell so many times, but we recovered each time. These days, the passion for searching is awakened and we are going through brainstorms now. Therefore, our state of affairs at the present time necessitates new searches, not a blindness by the system. If it can make good use of the dynamics at its disposal, Turkey would certainly take its place in the international balance of power that it deserves. However, the fact that it needs time, it cannot be done on the spur of the moment, should not be overlooked. Some day this nation would, for sure, display its own character. As the poet says, “Closed my eyes, I am gazing at such a Turkey.[5]

Fethullah Gülen notes that a country which does not change in response to a changing world would be out of development and the balance of power:

It is a very important issue to determine the national course. Our relations with the national sentiment, thought, tradition, convention, the Book, the Sunnah and the religion are reserved. But it is also a reality that our national sentiments and thoughts are not in harmony with the needs of the age and are incapable of producing sufficient motivation where everything is changing. Of course, it is vital to keep our essence, our color, and identity, but would it be necessary also to develop different policies with various nations in the world; which is being globalized? We have to be open to the change experienced in the fields of science and technology. But unfortunately up until today, a period of interregnum was experienced in this area. Things like common heritage of humanity and the globalization were not thought out sufficiently.

Our dynamics should be reviewed one more time again and should be appropriated by the society. By adding the things promised by this new age, the richness and the inputs of the age to this business, as it is often stated in many parts of Anatolia, there is a need for the revival of the notion, “If everyone brings and pitch in from the things cooked at home, a rich table can be prepared.” Of course, some time is needed for this, because acceptance is important. Just like the religions, this kind of an idea takes a long time to be accepted. ... The issues should be reviewed again, from the point of view of the modern conditions, and should explain well.[6]

Fethullah Gülen believes, only through this integration, we can agree on the common denominators with people inside the country, as well as with the rest of humanity. In this respect, he believes that the differences are not barriers for a shared living, “Yes, despite all these differences, I carry the conviction that there will be no conflicts.”

He believes that humanity and the nations have an obligation to share their accumulated knowledge and wealth with others—and from here a new type of relationship will arise, based on solidarity and justice. But, he says that this process will take time. Fethullah Gülen is optimistic; he looks forward to the future positively. But at the same time, he is cautionary and patient:

Because in some sense, we are face to face with the age to settle the accounts with it, embrace it, and then accept it. It would be more proper to leave certain things to the commentary of time, as long as this process we are in is accepted with its own peculiar features. Let there be no hurry and let there be a lot of efforts with regard to determining the course, and its nature.[7]

Fethullah Gülen is offering, not to sit back and wait passively, but to understand the age and to meet the future under the best circumstances. Therefore, he is not afraid of the future and the change. On the contrary, he is advising people that with their personal talents and skills, as well as the flexible laws and institutions of societies, they should be ready to meet the challenge of the future. Unlike many opinion makers, he is not hesitant and closed to the outside world, in the face of change. For instance, while the politicians, and some other sectors influenced by them, remain at a distance with respect to joining the EU, he states:

There is no reason for objection to unification with the Westerners and the Western thought, on certain necessary points. This is inevitable, anyway. So, that means in the nature of humans there is an inclination towards always seeking the good and the beautiful. If we have found our true self, the things we would be taking from them can only be good and beautiful things. And there are many good things to be taken from the West. Mehmet Akif had expressed it succinctly: “Take the science of the West.” Bediüzzaman has similar approaches. In this sense, I do not see any objection to be raised to becoming “Western.”[8]

Fethullah Gülen does not see the widespread animosity observed in the Islamic world towards the West as reasonable or beneficial:

I think, in the absolute sense [restricted and unconditional] the animosity toward the West would push us to a point to lose touch with the age. And you would be eliminated over time’. There remains the fact that, they did not hesitate to borrow from us what they thought they needed. Those who read little history of science would submit that before the renaissance occurred in the West, in a real sense, a Renaissance took place in Asia in the 5th century AH Al-Birunis, Al-Khawarizmis, Ibn Sinas [Avicennas] ... in Andalusia, in Asia to the extent that their voices were heard all around, they had become the breath of a great civilization. And again, according to many historians of science, the foundations of the Renaissance in Europe were laid in Asia. Some conservatives of the Westerners had adopted the names [of the sources] by distorting them. For instance, Al-Jabir was called El Gabir. The conscientious Western authors have acknowledged this. In my opinion, there can be no objection to take back from the Westerners what they borrowed earlier from us. We can take these matters and further advance them.[9]

When asked what role Turkey can play, he answers:

We are a new force. ... If we deliberate it with the methods of the sociologists and the social historians, out of 20 civilizations, people like ourselves, who came from behind, had established seventeen of them. In a sense ... without plunging into dogmatism, without being entangled with or being bound by the restrictions others set. We can form very original, different compositions. It seems that the dynamics for this is being prepared. Asia for a while was segmented completely; Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Eastern Turkistan ... All of them opened up to other civilizations under the influence of various cultures. In my opinion, the depths of thoughts dug by the rivers of these thoughts ... would take us to great visions. A rich culture, an unshakable civilization, these dynamics at the present is all promising such a result.[10]

Fethullah Gülen, who places a great deal of emphasis on the relationship with the East, does not ignore the West:

It is inescapable for the Turkish people to integrate with the West in this age we are living in. I am convinced that if Turkey enters into this business, by reviewing one more time on this way with its own reasoning, logic, its own dynamics, and its own values, we are not going to lose anything. ... I have no concern about it at all. ... Let us leave it to Europe and the USA to be concerned about it. In some areas, like in sentiments, thoughts and understanding, we are at a point to export them. I see the West like an old woman who offered already whatever she could. Neither it can give birth to anything nor can it be implanted with anything new.

If we reverse the situation, Turkish people, in terms of recent history of four centuries, is like a single person who never married, remaining virgin with its men and women, heart and mind, being capable of both giving birth or susceptible to implantation. The other side is also able to inoculate. Everything inoculated will be healthy and many kinds of thoughts will be born out of it. I believe that everything we would say and every thought we would display is still virgin. There are things that they in the West cannot find the counterparts for our terminology. It may seem to be simple, but when they go through the books belonging to us, and when we peruse them, a lot is to be found without the counterparts, they cannot render them.

From out of our creativeness and productivity, a lot of things will be spilled over around. You may take it as a joke, but I have the conviction that it is true. Leave those alone, who do not believe, let them think that this is a dream or fantasy. I know that with the dynamics at hand, God will help us to make this dream come true. For this reason, I have no concern about the West. But there remains the fact that we have to review “living” with all its components. We have to revive the vital institutions that we can properly call ours so that this process, represented by our people ... can travel at a safe pace and strong steps, and jump to a higher stage.[11]

Although not explicitly stated, Fethullah Gülen here is talking about the systematization of a thought which makes up the mortar of a formation, known as the “Gülen Movement.” He is giving the good news that our society is distilled from its history and culture; it has a new philosophy which can fill the vacuum, vacated by the concepts of morality and humanism of the Western civilization, which can no longer comprehend the human in all its wholeness. He is so confident of it that he says:

In the years ahead, we are going to run the long way in the international marathon, we are going to reach the finish line first in the Olympiads from science to art, from sports to culture. There may be some who might find what I am saying as empty talk. The sociologists, psychologists, the philosophers and the history writers might criticize them.[12]

[1] Gündem 2005, 3–4.
[2] Ibid., 4.
[3] Ibid., 5–6.
[4] Ibid., 74.
[5] Ibid.
[6] “İslam ve Dogmatizm” (Islam and Dogmatism), http://fgulen.com/tr/turk-basininda-fethullah-gulen/fethullah-gulenle-gazete-roportajlari/zamanda-eyup-canla/7860-islam-ve-dogmatizm
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.