Jul 25

Fethullah Gulen: I Condemn All Threats to Turkey’s Democracy

By FETHULLAH GULEN
JULY 25, 2016


ARIS MESSINIS / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE — GETTY IMAGES

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. — During the attempted military coup in Turkey this month, I condemned it in the strongest terms. “Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” I said. “I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.”

Despite my unequivocal protest, similar to statements issued by all three of the major opposition parties, Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately accused me of orchestrating the putsch. He demanded that the United States extradite me from my home in Pennsylvania, where I have lived in voluntary exile since 1999.

Not only does Mr. Erdogan’s suggestion run afoul of everything I believe in, it is also irresponsible and wrong.

My philosophy — inclusive and pluralist Islam, dedicated to service to human beings from every faith — is antithetical to armed rebellion. For more than 40 years, the participants in the movement that I am associated with — called Hizmet, the Turkish word for “service” — have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, a form of government that derives its legitimacy from the will of the people and that respects the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious views, political affiliations or ethnic origins. Entrepreneurs and volunteers inspired by Hizmet’s values have invested in modern education and community service in more than 150 countries.

At a time when Western democracies are searching for moderate Muslim voices, I and my friends in the Hizmet movement have taken a clear stance against extremist violence, from the Sept. 11 attacks by Al Qaeda to brutal executions by the Islamic State to the kidnappings by Boko Haram.

In addition to condemning mindless violence, including during the coup attempt, we have emphasized our commitment to preventing terrorists’ recruitment from among Muslim youth and nurturing a peaceful, pluralist mind-set.

Throughout my life, I have publicly and privately denounced military interventions in domestic politics. In fact, I have been advocating for democracy for decades. Having suffered through four military coups in four decades in Turkey — and having been subjected by those military regimes to harassment and wrongful imprisonment — I would never want my fellow citizens to endure such an ordeal again. If somebody who appears to be a Hizmet sympathizer has been involved in an attempted coup, he betrays my ideals.

Nevertheless, Mr. Erdogan’s accusation is no surprise, not for what it says about me but rather for what it reveals about his systematic and dangerous drive toward one-man rule.

Like many Turkish citizens, the Hizmet movement’s participants supported Mr. Erdogan’s early efforts to democratize Turkey and fulfill the requirements for membership in the European Union. But we were not silent as he turned from democracy to despotism. Even before these new purges, Mr. Erdogan in recent years has arbitrarily closed newspapers; removed thousands of judges, prosecutors, police officers and civil servants from their positions; and taken especially harsh measures against Kurdish communities. He has declared his detractors enemies of the state.

Hizmet, in particular, has been the target of the president’s wrath. In 2013, Mr. Erdogan blamed Hizmet sympathizers within the Turkish bureaucracy for initiating a corruption investigation that implicated members of his cabinet and other close associates. As a result, scores of members of the judiciary and the police forces were purged or arrested for simply doing their jobs.

Since 2014, when Mr. Erdogan was elected president after 11 years as prime minister, he has sought to transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy into an “executive presidency,” essentially without checks on his power. In that context, Mr. Erdogan’s recent statement that the failed coup was a “gift from God” is ominous. As he seeks to purge still more dissenters from government agencies — nearly 70,000 people have been fired so far — and to crack down further on Hizmet and other civil society organizations, he is removing many of the remaining impediments to absolute power. Amnesty International has revealed “credible” reports of torture, including rape, at detention centers. No wonder Mr. Erdogan’s government suspended the European Convention on Human Rights and declared a state of emergency.

Turkey’s president is blackmailing the United States by threatening to curb his country’s support for the international coalition against the Islamic State. His goal: to ensure my extradition, despite a lack of credible evidence and virtually no prospect for a fair trial. The temptation to give Mr. Erdogan whatever he wants is understandable. But the United States must resist it.

Violent extremism feeds on the frustrations of those forced to live under dictators who cannot be challenged by peaceful protests and democratic politics. In Turkey, the Erdogan government’s shift toward a dictatorship is polarizing the population along sectarian, political, religious and ethnic lines, fueling the fanatics.

For the sake of worldwide efforts to restore peace in turbulent times, as well as to safeguard the future of democracy in the Middle East, the United States must not accommodate an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government.

New York Times:
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/07/26/opinion/fethullah-gulen-i-condemn-all-threats-to-turkeys-democracy.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&referer&utm_source=Viber&utm_medium=Chat&utm_campaign=Private

Jun 17

Fethullah Gulen issued the following statement on the Orlando shooting attack

June 17th, 2016

I am shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific attack that took place in Orlando, the deadliest
mass shooting in United States history. I unequivocally condemn this hate-driven terrorist attack
and I share my revolt and disgust with billions of people around the world.

Media reports stated that the attacker pledged allegiance to ISIS on the night of the attack. The
totalitarian mentality that characterizes terrorist groups like ISIS should be treated like a cancer
within our societies and countered through political, social and religious efforts.

To the family and friends of the deceased, I send my sincerest condolences and pray that in the
collective consciousness of humanity, the values of mutual respect and
dignity of every human life triumph over fear and hate.

Jun 13

We Strongly Condemn the Heinous Attack on Innocent People in Orlando

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of Orlando terror and hate attack. We condemn all forms of religious and other forms of extremism that teach hatred and incite violence. However, we need to do more than merely condemning these horrific acts and proactively take steps to counter the “cancer” of extremism.

First, our society as a whole needs to deny the extremist narrative that their actions represent Muslims. It goes without saying that Muslim Americans should promote the peaceful message of Islam.

Our deeds matter more than our words. We should build institutions and programs to cater to the needs of our youth and provide them opportunities to develop social skills to be productive members of our multicultural society. It is imperative to invest in our youth so that they are driven more by hopes and dreams, not hatred and fear of the others.

Feb 08

One such principle is that taking the life of a single innocent is a crime against all humanity

“Every terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam profoundly affects all Muslims, alienating them from fellow citizens and deepening the misperceptions about their faith’s ethos.” 2016 Around the Fountain series started with a compelling argument from Fethullan Gülen. Fethullah Gülen in his article “Muslims Must Fight Extremist Cancer” makes six suggestions for Muslims to take action against the extremist terror in the name of Islam:
a. First, we must denounce violence and not fall prey to victim-hood.
b. Second, it is important to promote a holistic understanding of Islam
c. Third, Muslims must publicly promote human rights—dignity, life and liberty.
d. Fourth, Muslims must provide educational opportunities to every member of their communities, where the study of sciences, humanities and arts is embedded in a culture of respect for every living being.
e. Fifth, providing religious education to Muslims is critical to depriving extremists of a tool that they use to spread their twisted ideologies.
f. Finally, it is imperative that Muslims support equal rights for women and men.

The January session of the Around the Fountain discussion that took place at Mosaic focused on various aspects of extremism and its relationship with Islam. About 35 participants from different backgrounds had the opportunity to seek answers to their hard-pressing questions. In agreement with Mr. Gülen, the participants contended that violent extremism has no religion as there will always be people who manipulate faith texts. Also participants asserted that mainstream Islam is a way of moderation as Islam’s core ethics are not left to interpretation.

According to Mr. Gülen, “One such principle is that taking the life of a single innocent is a crime against all humanity (Quran 5:32). Even in an act of defense in war, violence against any noncombatants, especially women, children and clergy, is specifically prohibited by the Prophet’s teachings.”

Jan 14

Love is A Verb Screening in Colorado Springs on Feb. 11th

Love is a Verb

Story
Love Is A Verb is an examination of a social movement of Sufi inspired Sunni Muslims that began in Turkey in the l960s and now reaches across the globe. The group is called Hizmet, the Turkish word for service or The Gulen Movement after its inspiration, leader and beloved teacher Fethullah Gulen, a man that Time Magazine named as one of the most influential leaders in the world in 2013.

Through a co-operation with the people inspired by Fethullah Gulen, we had an unprecedented access to the ideas and actions of the movement around the world. We met teachers who crawled through a tunnel to open a school in Sarajevo during the war and the students whose lives they changed. We met a Sufi conductor whose orchestra is composed of children whose parents were once at war. We got a glimpse of the interfaith work the movement provides in Turkey, including a visit to Rumi’s exquisite shrine. We went to their schools in Turkey, in Somalia, in Iraq. We meet a Kurdish teacher in Iraq who credits everything she is to her former Turkish teachers who stayed during the bombings, and a Kurdish woman who had also gone to one of the Turkish schools in Iraq and is now working as an engineer to bring water to the dessert. Finally, in Somalia we follow two Turkish doctors putting their lives at risk in a place where other relief organizations have deemed too dangerous, a place where they sleep under armed guard.

SCREENING
Colorado Springs, CO, US, 80922: Thursday, February 11 6:30PM – 7:25PM at Cinemark Carefree Circle and IMAX 3305 Cinema Point, Colorado Springs, CO, US, 80922 – CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS AND TRAILER

Jan 04

The Gulen Movement: A Shared Bridge between the U.S. and Islam by Peter J. Mehl

A lively Around the Fountain program took place at Multicultural Mosaic Foundation on

September 19, 2015. There were about fifteen participants, and they discussed the Fountain

Magazine article The Gulen Movement: A Shared Bridge between the U.S. and Islam by

Peter J. Mehl. Dr. Mehl is a Professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Central

Arkansas, and shared his views on the Gülen Movement’s intercultural and educational

endeavors in his article. The participants enjoyed Turkish tea, cake, and various snacks during

the program.

The excerpt “Life is a shared bridge of ‘passing over’ and ‘coming back.’ It is a passing

over to other cultures and faiths, not to disown one’s own heritage, but to come back to

incorporate new wisdoms and insight into one’s own worldview. The Gülen Movement is one

such bridge,” summarizes the main idea of the article that the participants of the discussion

pondered on. Participants also reflected on their experiences with the Movement, and drew

parallels between the social relations in the United States and Turkey. Some of the participants

had visited Turkey multiple times and expressed how the two visits differed and how the

representation of minorities in Turkey presented problems in interfaith relations. Others

expressed the need to act on shared interfaith/intercultural vision to make a difference in society

and how the Movement accomplished this, while emphasizing there is still a lot of space for

improvement. The Movement’s potential for building social capital, integration of migrants to

the U.S. culture and various processes that enabled or makes integration difficult were also

discussed. The humanitarian assistance programs the Movement engaged with locally Colorado

and worldwide were also mentioned along with how Muslim groups work to help the homeless

in Colorado. Various perspectives on interfaith and interracial relations were also mentioned

during the discussion.

Dec 17

Muslims, we have to critically review our understanding of Islam.

Words fall short to truly express my deep sadness and revolt in the face of the carnage perpetrated by terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
I share profound frustration with a billion-and-a-half Muslims around the world at the fact that such groups commit terrorism while dressing up their perverted ideologies as religion. We Muslims have a special responsibility to not only join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, but also to help repair the tarnished image of our faith.

It is easy to proclaim a certain identity in the abstract with words and symbols. The sincerity of such claims, however, can only be measured by comparing our actions with the core values of our self-proclaimed identities. The true test of belief is not slogans or dressing up in a certain way; the true test of our beliefs is in living up to core principles shared by all major world faiths such as upholding the sanctity of life and respecting the dignity of all humans.

We must categorically condemn the ideology propagated by terrorists and instead promote a pluralistic mindset with clarity and confidence. After all, before our ethnic, national or religious identity comes our common humanity, which suffers a setback each time a barbaric act is committed. French citizens who lost their lives in Paris, Shiite Muslim Lebanese citizens who lost their lives in Beirut a day earlier and scores of Sunni Muslims in Iraq who lost their lives at the hands of the same terrorists are first and foremost human beings. Our civilization will not progress until we treat the suffering of humans regardless of their religious or ethnic identity as equally tragic in our empathy and respond with the same determination.

Muslims must also reject and avoid conspiracy theories, which have so far only helped us avoid facing our social problems. Instead, we must tackle the real questions: Do our communities provide recruitment grounds for groups with totalitarian mindsets due to unrecognized authoritarianism within ourselves, domestic physical abuse, neglect of youth and lack of balanced education? Did our failure to establish basic human rights and freedoms, supremacy of the rule of law and pluralist mindsets in our communities lead those who are struggling to seek alternative paths?

The recent tragedy in Paris is yet another reminder for both theologians and ordinary Muslims to strongly reject and condemn barbaric acts perpetrated in the name of our religion. However, at this juncture, rejection and condemnation are not enough; terrorist recruitment within Muslim communities must be fought and countered by an effective collaboration of state authorities, religious leaders and civil society actors. We must organize community-wide efforts to address all factors that aid terrorist recruitment.

Ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means

We need to work with our community to set up the necessary framework for identifying at-risk youth, preventing them from seeking self-destructive paths, assisting families with counseling and other support services. We must promote a proactive, positive government engagement so that engaged Muslim citizens can sit at the table where counterterrorism measures are planned and share their ideas. Our youth should be taught ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means. Incorporating democratic values into school curricula early on is crucial for inculcating a culture of democracy in young minds.

In the aftermath of such tragedies, historically strong reactions have surfaced. Anti-Muslim and anti-religious sentiment as well as security-driven treatment of Muslim citizens by governments would be counter-productive. The Muslim citizens of Europe want to live in peace and tranquility. Despite the negative climate, they should strive to engage more with their local and national governments to help work toward more inclusive policies that better integrate their community into the larger society.

It is also important for us Muslims to critically review our understanding and practice of Islam in light of the conditions and requirements of our age and the clarifications provided by our collective historic experiences. This does not mean a rupture from the cumulative Islamic tradition but rather, an intelligent questioning so we can confirm the true teachings of the Quran and the Prophetic tradition that our Muslim predecessors attempted to reveal.

We must proactively marginalize decontextualized reading of our religious sources that have been employed in the service of perverted ideologies. Muslim thinkers and intellectuals should encourage a holistic approach and reconsider jurisprudential verdicts of the Middle Ages that were issued under perpetual conflict where religious affiliation often coincided with political affiliation. Having core beliefs should be distinguished from dogmatism. It is possible, indeed absolutely necessary, to revive the spirit of freedom of thought that gave birth to a renaissance of Islam while staying true to the ethos of the religion. Only in such an atmosphere can Muslims effectively combat incivility and violent extremism.

In the aftermath of the recent events I am witnessing, with chagrin, the revival of the thesis of the clash of civilizations. I do not know whether those who first put out such a hypothesis did so out of vision or desire. What is certain is that today, the revival of this rhetoric simply serves the recruitment efforts of the terrorist networks. I want to state clearly that what we are witnessing is not a clash of civilizations but rather the clash of humanity with barbarity in our common civilization.

Our responsibility as Muslim citizens is to be part of the solution despite our grievances. If we want to defend the life and civil liberties of Muslims around the world and the peace and tranquility of every human regardless of their faith, we must act now to tackle the violent extremism problem in all its dimensions: political, economic, social and religious. By setting virtuous examples through our lives, by discrediting and marginalizing the extremist interpretations of religious sources, by staying vigilant toward their impact on our youth, and by incorporating democratic values early in education, we can counter violence and terrorism as well as totalitarian ideologies that lead to them.

*This article by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen was first published in Le Monde on Dec. 17, 2015.
English Version: http://www.todayszaman.com/op-ed_muslims-we-have-to-critically-review-our-understanding-of-islam_407253.html

Dec 02

Turkish group supports democracy: Objections

We object to USA TODAY’s uninformed depiction of Hizmet (aka Gulen movement) (“Turkish faith movement secretly funded 200 trips for lawmakers and staff” and “U.S. lawmakers got suspect Turkish campaign cash”). Hizmet is a pro-democracy movement whose supporters have set up schools, medical centers and disaster relief agencies around the world. Mr. Fethullah Gulen, the inspiration behind the movement, simply advocates for values.

If USA TODAY’s assertions are true that individual participants of the movement have breached the laws or the rules of their institutions, then those individuals would indeed have contradicted the core values of Hizmet. We are not defending those actions, and they should be subjected to legal or institutional investigation. But associating individual actions with the movement or Mr. Gulen is wrong.

POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media

Mr. Gulen’s contributions to interfaith understanding have been praised by world leaders such as President Clinton, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan. He also received an audience with the late Pope John Paul II. Time magazine’s 100 most influential people list in 2013 described him as “the most potent advocate of moderation in the Muslim world.”

Without this background, your articles simply echo the rhetoric made by an authoritarian Erdogan regime in Turkey.

Y. Alp Aslandogan, executive director, Alliance for Shared Values; New York

Source: USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/11/30/turkish-group-gulen-movement-your-say/76588894/, November 30, 2015

Nov 15

Fethullah Gulen Statement on Paris Terrorist Attacks

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New York, November 14, 2015 – I strongly condemn the brutal terrorist attacks across Paris, France in the evening of Friday, November 13, that resulted in the deaths and dismemberment of hundreds of innocent people.

Every terrorist activity, no matter where they occur, is a blow to the peace and tranquility of humanity everywhere. These revolting acts of terrorism are attacks not only against people of France but against universal human values that we all share and against human solidarity.

On this occasion I reiterate my categorical condemnation of all forms of terror regardless of its perpetrators or their stated purposes. No terrorist activity can ever be condoned on any grounds.

I send my deep condolences to the victims’ families, loved ones and the people of France.

I pray that God leads all humanity to a world of peace and tranquility. I invite everyone to join me in this prayer and act in solidarity against all forms of terrorism and in the effort to establish peace around the world.

About Fethullah Gulen

Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate, whose decades‐long commitment to interfaith tolerance and altruism has inspired millions in Turkey and around the world. Gulen is the honorary chairman of the Foundation of Journalists and Writers, Istanbul, Turkey.

Aug 27

Muslims Must Combat the Extremist Cancer

fethullah-gulenOp-ed by Fethullah Gulen in Wall Street Journal

As the group that calls itself Islamic State, known as ISIS, continues to produce carnage in the Middle East, Muslims must confront the totalitarian ideology that animates it and other terrorist groups. Every terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam profoundly affects all Muslims, alienating them from fellow citizens and deepening the misperceptions about their faith’s ethos.

It isn’t fair to blame Islam for the atrocities of violent radicals. But when terrorists claim the Muslim mantle, then they bear this identity, if only nominally. Thus members of the faith must do whatever possible to prevent this cancer from metastasizing in our communities. If we don’t, we’ll be partly responsible for the smeared image of our faith.

First, we must denounce violence and not fall prey to victimhood. Having suffered oppression is no excuse for causing it or for failing to condemn terrorism. That the terrorists are committing grave sins in the name of Islam is not merely my opinion; it is the inevitable conclusion of an honest reading of primary sources: the Quran and the accounts of the life of Prophet Muhammad. The core principles of these sources—relayed over the centuries by scholars who devoted themselves to studying the Prophet’s sayings and practices, and to the “author’s intent” in the Holy Book—dispels any claims terrorists make of religious justification.

Second, it is important to promote a holistic understanding of Islam, as the flexibility to accommodate the diverse backgrounds of its adherents can sometimes be abused. Islam’s core ethics, however, are not left to interpretation. One such principle is that taking the life of a single innocent is a crime against all humanity (Quran 5:32). Even in an act of defense in war, violence against any noncombatants, especially women, children and clergy, is specifically prohibited by the Prophet’s teachings.

We must demonstrate these values by showing solidarity with people who seek peace around the world. Given the nature of human psychology and the dynamics of the news, it’s obvious that mainstream voices are less likely to capture headlines than extremist ones. But instead of blaming the media, we should find innovative ways to ensure our voices are heard.

Third, Muslims must publicly promote human rights—dignity, life and liberty. These are the most basic of Islamic values and no individual, nor any political or religious leader, has the authority to snatch them away. Living the essence of our faith means respecting diversity—cultural, social, religious and political. God identifies learning from one another as the primary goal of diversity (Quran 49:13). Respecting each human being as a creation of God (17:70) is respecting God.

Fourth, Muslims must provide educational opportunities to every member of their communities, where the study of sciences, humanities and arts is embedded in a culture of respect for every living being. Governments in the Muslim world must design school curricula that nurture democratic values. Civil society has a role in promoting respect and acceptance. This is the reason participants of the Hizmet movement have set up more than 1,000 schools, tutoring centers and dialogue institutions in more than 150 countries.

Fifth, providing religious education to Muslims is critical to depriving extremists of a tool that they use to spread their twisted ideologies. When religious freedom is denied, as it has been for decades in parts of the Muslim world, faith grows in the shadows, leaving it to be interpreted by unqualified and radical figures.

Finally, it is imperative that Muslims support equal rights for women and men. Women should be given opportunity and be free from social pressures that deny their equality. Muslims have a great example in Prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha, a highly educated scholar, teacher and prominent community leader of her time.

Terrorism is a multifaceted problem, so the solutions should address the political, economic, social and religious layers. Approaches that reduce the problem to religion do a disservice to at-risk youth and the world at large. The international community would do well to realize that Muslims are the primary victims of terrorism—both literally and symbolically—and they can help marginalize terrorists and prevent recruitment. That’s why governments should avoid statements and actions that result in the alienation of Muslims.

Violent extremism has no religion; there will always be people who manipulate faith texts. Just as Christians do not endorse Quran burnings or the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, and Buddhists do not endorse atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, mainstream Muslims do not endorse violence. Muslims have historically added much to the flourishing of human civilization. Our greatest contributions were made in eras when the faith cherished mutual respect, freedom and justice. It may be immensely difficult to restore the blotted image of Islam, but Muslims can be beacons of peace and tranquility in their societies.

*Mr. Gulen is an Islamic scholar and founder of the Hizmet civil-society movement.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, Aug 27, 2015
http://www.wsj.com/articles/muslims-must-combat-the-extremist-cancer-1440718377

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