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Gülen movement

 

Gülen movement

The Gülen movement is a transnational religious and social movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The movement has attracted supporters and critics in Turkey, Central Asia and increasingly in other parts of the World. The movement is active in education (with private schools in over 140 countries) and interfaith dialogue; and has substantial investments in media, finance, and for–profit health clinics.[1][2] The movement has been described as a "pacifist, modern-minded Islam, often praised as a contrast to more extreme Salafism."[3]

The movement has no official name but it is usually called simply as Hizmet (The Service) by its followers and is known euphemistically as Cemaat (The Community / Assembly) to the broader public in Turkey.

Nature and participation

The exact number of supporters of the Gülen movement is not known, as the movement is rather secretive to some but to others there is no official membership structure, but estimates vary from 1 million to 8 million.[4][5][6] The movement consists primarily of students, teachers, businessmen, journalists and other professionals. [2]

Some studies claim that the movement is arranged in a flexible organizational network.[7] It has founded schools, universities, an employers' association, as well as charities, real estate trusts, student bodies, radio and television stations, and newspapers.[5] They believe that the schools and businesses organize locally, and link into networks on an informal rather than legal basis.[8] Forbes magazine wrote that the Gülen movement is not seeking to subvert modern secular states but rather encourages practicing Muslims to use to the fullest the opportunities those countries offer.[9] The New York Times has described the movement as coming from a "moderate blend of Islam."[10][11] Prospect magazine reported that Gülen and the Gülen movement "are at home with technology, markets and multinational business and especially with modern communications and public relations."[12] Some believe that In Turkey, the Gülen movement tries to keep its distance from Islamic political parties.[13] The Economist described the Gülen movement as a Turkish-based movement that sounds more reasonable than most of its rivals, and which is vying to be recognized as the World's leading Muslim network.[14] It stated that Gülen has won praise from non-Muslim quarters with his belief in science, inter-faith dialog and multi-party democracy. Nilüfer Göle, professor of sociology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris, who is known for her studies on modernization and conservatism, has described the Gülen movement as the World's most global movement.[15] According to Lester Kurtz's (of University of Texas, Austin), Gulen schools (see section on Education) are a form of service to humanity designed to promote learning in a broader sense, to avoid explicit Islamic propaganda, and to lay the foundations for a more humane, tolerant citizenry of the World where people are expected to cultivate their own faith perspectives and also promote the well being of others.[16]

Some other studies, including some people who have left the movement, state that its organizational structure is strict, hierarchical, and undemocratic. Gülen (known to his followers as Hocaefendi, or “master teacher”) is the sole leader, they say, and each community is led by abis, or elder brothers, who are privy to only a limited amount of information. Sociologist Berna Turam has argued that the abis make strong suggestions about, and perhaps dictate, whom members should marry. Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish political scientist at the University of Utah, calls the movement “a resistance movement to the ongoing Kemalist modernization process in Turkey.”[17] Ilhan Tanır, a Turkish journalist who was in the cemaat but who left it, has expressed his concern about the blind obedience demanded of its members.[18] The belief that the movement commands or inspires blind obedience is not confined to those who have left it. In 2010, American journalist Suzy Hansen, writing for The New Republic, visited the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, where Gülen lives. The president of the facility, Bekir Aksoy, explained to her that “our people do not complain... They obey commands completely... Let me put it this way. If a man with a Ph.D. and a career came to see Hocaefendi, and Hocaefendi told him it might be a good idea to build a village on the North Pole, that man with a Ph.D. would be back the next morning with a suitcase.”[17]

The movement, according to researchers such as Yavuz, has three coordinated tiers: businessmen, journalists, and teachers. The first tier, the so-called Anatolian bourgeoisie, provides financial support: it funds private high schools, universities, colleges, dormitories, summer camps, and foundations around the world. The journalists of the second tier own one of the leading Turkish dailies, Zaman; its English-language counterpart, Today's Zaman (which is often not a faithful translation); the Turkish television station Samanyolu TV (STV); the Cihan News Agency; many magazines and academic journals; several lesser dailies and TV channels; and many Internet-only news outlets. Finally, teachers operate the schools.[17]

The movement is sometimes accused of being "missionary" in intent, or of organizing in a clandestine way and aiming for political power. About the accusations of "hidden agenda", members of the movement say "Anybody who accuses us of having a hidden agenda, is welcome to come and quiz us. We have nothing to hide".[19][20][21]

In the movement there are secular women from conservative-right circles and women who do not wear the Islamic head covering,[22] but most of the time female participants do not question gender segregation in the movement, and wear clothing that does not expose any part of the arms and legs.[23] Gender segregation "remains an ideal inside the cemaat and is never touched on in theory," but because of the variety of social activities the movement engages in, participants' practice is more liberal than the theoretical understanding of the movement.[24] However, many women in Turkey and elsewhere find the movement's requirements far from acceptable.[25]

Movement activities

Education

Globally, the Gülen movement is especially active in education. In 2009 Newsweek claimed that movement participants run "schools in which more than 2 million students receive education, many with full scholarships".[26] Estimates of the number of schools and educational institutions vary widely, from about 300 schools in Turkey to over 1,000 schools worldwide.[27][28]

Two American professors at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Temple University wrote that "these schools have consistently promoted good learning and citizenship, and the Hizmet movement is to date an evidently admirable civil society organization to build bridges between religious communities and to provide direct service on behalf of the common good".[29] Participants in the movement have also founded private universities.[30]

The greatest majority of the teachers are drawn from members of the Gülen network, who often encourage students in the direction of greater piety.[31] A 2008 article in the New York Times said that in Pakistan "they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer",[10] and described the Turkish schools as offering a gentler approach to Islam that could help reduce the influence of extremism.[10] However, schools are not for Muslims alone,[10] and in Turkey "the general curriculum for the network’s schools prescribes one hour of religious instruction per week, while in many countries the schools do not offer any religious instruction at all. With the exception of a few Imam-Hatip schools abroad, these institutions can thus hardly be considered Islamic schools in the strict sense."[24]

Other commentators, who focus on the presence of Gulen schools in the West, disagree with these statements and are much more critical. In 2008, the Dutch government investigated the movement’s activities in the Netherlands. Ella Vogelaar, the country’s minister for housing, communities, and integration, warned that “in general terms, when an organization calls for turning away from society, this is at odds with the objectives of integration.” It was, she noted, incumbent upon the government to “keep sharp watch over people and organizations that systematically incite anti-integrative behavior, for this can also be a breeding ground for radicalization.” Testifying about one of the schools in the investigation, a former member of the movement called it a “sect with a groupthink outside of which these students cannot [reason]”:

"After years living in the boarding school it is psychologically impossible to pull yourself away; you get guilt feelings. Furthermore, it forces the students to live, think and do as the Big Brothers [the abis] instruct them to. Furthermore, through psychological pressure, these students are told which choice of career is the best they can make for the sake of high ideals. . . . Another very bad aspect is that students no longer respect their parents and they do not listen if the parents do not live by the standards imposed by the group; they are psychologically distanced from their parents; here you have your little soldiers that march only to the orders of their abis. The abis are obliged to obey the provincial leaders, who in turn must obey the national leaders, who in turn obey Fethullah Gülen."

Following the investigation, the Dutch government, concluding that the Gülen schools did indeed promote “anti-integrative behavior,” reduced their public funding.[32]

The United States of America is the only country in the world where the Gülen movement has been able to establish schools funded to a great extent by the host country’s taxpayers. In June 2011, New York Times shed light on schools in the United States, revealing that "Gulen followers have been involved in starting similar schools around the country — there are about 120 in all, mostly in urban centers in 25 states, one of the largest collections of charterschools in America." [33]

On the other hand, there are a number of anti-charter groups that try to associate several successful charter schools, such as Harmony Public Schools, with the Gulen Movement. For example, when MerryLynn Gerstenschlager of Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative TEA Party group, testified before the House Public Education Committee of Texas, House Public Education Committee members did not share the Eagle Forum’s concerns about Harmony charter schools. Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, says she has “a large Turkish community in my district and several Harmony schools in my district. I think they are fabulous. I don’t think they teach religion.”[34]

Federal authorities are investigating several of the movement’s schools for forcing employees to send part of their paychecks to Turkey. In March 2011, Philadelphia Enquirer reported that Federal Agencies including "FBI and the Departments of Labor and Education - were investigating whether some employees were kicking back part of their salaries to a Muslim movement founded by Gulen known as Hizmet."[35]

The schools are also H-1B visa factories. (These visas are supposed to be reserved for highly skilled workers who fill needs unmet by the American workforce). In 2011, 292 of the 1,500 employees at the Gülen-inspired Harmony School of Innovation, a Texas school, were on H-1B visas, the school’s superintendent told The New York Times. The schools claim, according to an article written by Sharon Higgins in the Washington Post, that they are unable to find qualified teachers in America—which seems implausible, given the economic crisis and given that some of these new arrivals teach English, which often they speak poorly, or English as a second language, which often they need themselves.[36]

The FBI has investigated Concept Schools, which operate 16 Horizon Science Academies across Ohio, on the suspicion that they illegally used taxpayer money to pay immigration and legal fees for people they never even employed, an Ohio ABC affiliate discovered. The FBI's suspicion was confirmed by state auditors. Concept Schools repaid the fees for their Cleveland and Toledo schools shortly before the ABC story broke, but it’s unclear whether they have repaid—or can repay—the fees for their other schools.[36]

There is no evidence that Islamic proselytizing takes place at the American Gülen schools and much evidence that students and parents like them. Most seem to be decent educational establishments, by American standards; graduates perform reasonably well, and some perform outstandingly.[36]

Some commentators argue that schools are simply moneymakers for the cemaat (Gulen movement) and are the main avenue for building the Gülen community in the United States. In the USA, they obtain a substantial amount of private, state, and federal funding (in addition to tuition fees), and they have proved amazingly effective at soliciting private donations.[36]

Some analysts argue that the so-called schools linked to the movement became easy targets of the Islamophobia network in the US. The CAP report, called the Fear Inc, argued that various elements of the Islamophobia network treat these schools as a threat to America. They claim that "Muslim Gulen schools" would educate children through the lens of Islam and teach them to hate Americans".[37]

Some people inspired by Gulen constantly invite high-ranking leaders to dinners to speak and lavish them with awards. Dozens of Texans, ranging from state lawmakers to congressional staff members to university professors, have taken trips to Turkey financed by Gülen’s foundations. The Raindrop Foundation, for instance, paid for State Senator Leticia Van de Putte’s travel to Istanbul, according to a recent campaign report. In 2012 she cosponsored a state senate resolution commending Gülen for “his ongoing and inspirational contributions to promoting global peace and understanding.” Steve Terrell, a reporter at the Santa Fe New Mexican, found that a remarkable number of local lawmakers had recently taken trips to Turkey courtesy of a private group, the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, that is tied to Gülen. In Idaho in 2011, a full tenth of state legislators went on a tour in Turkey financed by the Pacifica Institute, also inspired by Gülen. The Hawaii State Ethics Commission sent a memo to lawmakers reminding them to check with the commission before accepting the all-expenses-paid trip to Turkey to which they’d been invited by Pacifica. “The State Ethics Commission,” said the memo, “does not have sufficient understanding of Pacifica Institute, the purpose of the trip, or the state ‘benefit’ associated with the trip.”[36]

Two schools, located in Texas, have been accused of sending school funds—which are supplied by the government—to Gülen-inspired organizations. Last year, The New York Times reported that the some schools were funneling some $50 million in public funds to a network of Turkish construction companies, among them the Gülen-related Atlas Texas Construction and Trading. The schools had hired Atlas to do construction, the paper said, though other bidders claimed in lawsuits that they had submitted more economical bids. Folwell Dunbar, an official at the Louisiana Department of Education, has accused Atlas’s vice president, Inci Akpinar, of offering him a $25,000 bribe to keep mum about troubling conditions at the Abramson Science and Technology School in New Orleans. Dunbar sent a memo to department colleagues, the Times-Picayune reported, noting that "Akpinar flattered him with 'a number of compliments' before getting to the point: 'I have twenty-five thousand dollars to fix this problem: twenty thousand for you and five for me.' " Abramson is operated by the Pelican Foundation, which is linked to the Gülen-inspired Cosmos Foundation in Texas—which runs the two Texas schools.[36]

Utah's Beehive Science and Technology Academy was $337,000 in debt, according to a financial probe by the Utah Schools Charter Board. The Deseret News tried to figure out where all this taxpayer money had gone. "In a time of teacher layoffs, Beehive has recruited a high percentage of teachers from overseas, mainly Turkey," the newspaper reported. “Many of these teachers had little or no teaching experience before they came to the United States. Some of them are still not certified to teach in Utah. The school spent more than $53,000 on immigration fees for foreigners in five years. During the same time, administrators spent less than $100,000 on textbooks, according to state records.” Reports have also claimed that the school board was almost entirely Turkish.[36]

A reporter for the leftist magazine In These Times noted in 2010 that the Chicago Math and Science Academy obscured its relationship to Gülen. And the school board was strikingly similar to Beehive’s:

“When I went to the school’s board meeting on July 8, I was taken aback to see a board of directors comprised entirely of men. They all appeared of Turkish, Bosnian or Croatian descent. Although I have nothing against Turkish, Bosnian or Croatian men, it does seem that a school board serving students who are 58 percent Hispanic/Latino, 25 percent African American, 12 percent Asian and 5 percent white might be well served by some women board members and board members from ethnic backgrounds the school predominantly serves.[36]
In April 2009, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published a piece about the Gülen schools in Central Asia stating the "Turkish educational institutions have come under increasing scrutiny... Governments as well as many scholars and journalists suspect that the schools have more than just education on their agendas..." The article quoted Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor of political science at the University of Utah, as calling the Gülen movement
"a political movement... and it has always been political.... They want to train an elitist class that will then turn Turkey into a centre of the religious World, Islamise the country,... It is the most powerful movement right now in [Turkey]... There is no other movement to balance them in society."[38]

The schools in Kazakhstan have been accused of following admission policies that favor the children from the wealthy and well-connected families.[8] Schools established by Gülen movement participants in Tashkent and St. Petersburg were closed for a period, accused of supporting Islamic groups (Tashkent) and diverging from the state curriculum (St. Petersburg).[39] However, the St. Petersburg school filed an appeal. Subsequently, the school was re-opened in July 2008 after having its license revoked for over a year.[40]

In April 2010, Trend News Agency published a piece about the Gülen schools in Georgia. Excerpt: "The Georgian Labor Party protested the opening of Turkish schools in Georgia. The party's Political Secretary Giorgi Gugava called the mass opening of Turkish schools in Georgia, "the dominance of Turkey in the Georgian educational system," and noted that these schools aim to spread Turkish culture and fundamentalist religious ideas…Gugava said the process is headed by Turkish religious leader Fetullah Gülen, whose activities are banned in his motherland…”[41]

In other sources, the schools in Central Asia have been described as supporting a philosophy based on Turkish nationalism rather than on Islam.[42]

Interfaith Dialogue


Gülen movement participants have founded a number of institutions across the World that claim to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue activities. For example, in 2006 in Gothenburg, Sweden, the Gülen movement started Dialogslussen which purports to promote interfaith dialogue in Sweden.[43] Gülen has met with leaders of other religions, including Pope John Paul II, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, and Israeli Sephardic Head Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron.[44] Similar to his role model Said Nursi, Gülen claims to favor cooperation between followers of different religions and different forms of Islam (such as Sunnism vs. Alevism). B. Jill Carroll of Rice University in Houston said in an Interfaith Voices program, an independent public radio program, that "Gülen has greatly impacted three generations in Turkey.". Of the schools she said: "These schools invest in the future and aim at creating a community that offers equal opportunities for everyone."[45]

Other Activities

Movement participants have set up a number of media organs, including Turkish-language TV stations (Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV), an English-language TV station in the United States (Ebru TV), the Turkish-language newspaper Zaman, the English-language newspaper Today's Zaman, magazines and journals in Turkish like Aksiyon, Sızıntı, Yeni Ümit, the English language The Fountain Magazine, and Arabic language Hira, the international media group Cihan and the radio station Burç FM. Since 1998 the Journalists and Writers Foundation non-profit was set up, which claims that its mission is "to organize events promoting love, tolerance and dialogue."[46] The aid charity Kimse Yok Mu? (Is anybody there?) was established in March 2004 as a continuation of a TV program of the same name that ran on Samanyolu TV for some years.

Movement supporters have also formed business lobbying groups and think tanks in Washington and Brussels, including Interfaith Dialogue Institute, Interfaith Dialog Center, and Rumi Forum.[47] Bank Asya, formerly Asya Finans, was founded by Gülen movement participants in 1994. Işık Sigorta (Light Insurance) company describes itself as a partner of Bank Asya.

Fethullah Gulen's and the Gulen movement's views and practices have been discussed in international conferences. In October 2007 in London a conference was sponsored by the University of Birmingham, the Dialogue Society, the Irish School of Ecumenics, Leeds Metropolitan University, the London Middle East Institute, the Middle East Institute and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.[48] Niagara Foundation of Chicago, together with several academic institutions, organized "The Gülen Movement: Paradigms, Projects and Aspirations" conference, which was held at University of Chicago on Nov 11-13 2010.[49]

Political Involvement

Questions have arisen about the Gülen movement’s possible involvement in the ongoing Ergenekon investigation (Ergenekon allegedly being an ultra-nationalist, pro-military, anti-government gang),[50] which critics have characterized as "a pretext" by the government "to neutralize dissidents" in Turkey.[51] In March 2011, seven Turkish journalists were arrested, including Ahmet Şık, who had been writing a book, "Imamin Ordusu" (The Imam's Army),[52] which alleges that the Gülen movement has infiltrated the country's security forces. As Şik was taken into police custody, he shouted,[53]“Whoever touches it gets burned!”. Gülen Movement newspaper Today's Zaman published an interview[54] with publishers and writers who had published or written the harshest pieces against Gulen and they all claim "nothing happened to them" and thus voids claims made by Şik who made his claim apparently in an attempt to divert attention to Gulen rather than his arrest. Upon his arrest, drafts of the book were confiscated and its possession was banned. Şik has also been charged with being part of the Ergenekon plot.[55][unreliable source?]

In a reply, Abdullah Bozkurt, from Gülen Movement newspaper Today's Zaman, has accused Ahmet Şık of not being "an investigative journalist" conducting "independent research," but of hatching "a plot designed and put into action by the terrorist network itself,"[56]

According to Gareth H. Jenkins, a Senior Fellow of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center at Johns Hopkins University:

From the outset, the pro-AKP media, particularly the newspapers and television channels run by the Gülen Movement such as Zaman, Today’s Zaman and Samanyolu TV, have vigorously supported the Ergenekon investigation. This has included the illegal publication of “evidence” collected by the investigators before it has been presented in court, misrepresentations and distortions of the content of the indictments and smear campaigns against both the accused and anyone who questions the conduct of the investigations.
There have long been allegations that not only the media coverage but also the Ergenekon investigation itself is being run by Gülen’s supporters. In August 2010, Hanefi Avcı, a right-wing police chief who had once been sympathetic to the Gülen Movement, published a book in which he alleged that a network of Gülen’s supporters in the police were manipulating judicial processes and fixing internal appointments and promotions. On September 28, 2010, two days before he was due to give a press conference to present documentary evidence to support his allegations, Avcı was arrested and charged with membership of an extremist leftist organization. He remains in jail. On March 14, 2011, Avcı was also formally charged with being a member of the alleged Ergenekon gang.[50]

History

1938, 1941 or 1942 Gülen born in Korucuk village of Pasinler township in Pasinler, Erzurum Province.
1950s Gülen's first meeting with people from the Nur movement
1960 death of Said Nursî.
1960s Gülen begins attracting disciples while a state preacher in Izmir
1971 Gülen arrested for an alleged crime of organizing and/or participating activities to change the basis of the constitutional system but is released seven months later.
late 1970s Gülen establishes himself independently of other Nurcu organizations; first ışık evleri ("houses of light," i.e., student residences) established
1978 First dershane (study center for university exams) opens
1979 Science journal Sızıntı begins publication[57]
1981 Gülen retires
1982 First "Gülen school" opens
1986 Zaman, a top selling daily newspaper in Turkey,[58] begins publication[59]
1988-1991 Gülen gives lectures in Istanbul and Izmir
1991 Fall of Soviet Union permits establishment of Gülen schools in Central Asia
1994 The (Turkish) Journalists and Writers Foundation, with Gülen as "honorary leader"
1996 Creation of Asya Finans (investment bank aimed at former Soviet Central Asia), with Tansu Çiller as an investor
1998 Gülen meets with Pope John Paul II in Rome
1999 Gülen movement schools in Tashkent closed by Uzbekstan government after a rift between Turkish and Uzbek governments
1999 Gülen emigrates to Pennsylvania
1999 Establishment of Niagara Foundation
2004 Establishment of Kimse Yok Mu ("Is there anybody there?"), a charitable organization
2005 Establishment of TUSKON (Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists)[60]

References

See also

Independent Sources

  • Claire Berlinski, City Journal, Autumn 2012, Vol. 22, Issue 4: "Who Is Fethullah Gülen?"
  • Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambition: Turkey's Islamist Danger, by Rachel Sharon-Krespin, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2009, pp. 55-66
  • Islamists Approach Europe: Turkey's Islamist Danger, by Bassam Tibi, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2009, pp. 47-54
  • Turkish Islam's Moderate Face, by Bülent Aras, Middle East Quarterly September 1998, pp. 23-29
  • Sociologist calls on Gülenist charter schools to come clean, December 22, 2010, Tim Steller, Arizona Daily Star
  • Interview with Helen Rose Ebaugh on the Gülen Movement: "An Alternative to Fundamentalism"
  • The Gülen Movement: a modern expression of Turkish Islam
  • The Gülen Movement A Sociological Analysis of a Civic Movement Rooted in Moderate Islam by Helen Rose Ebaugh
  • The Guardian, Islamophonic: Turkey edition Riazat Butt travels to Istanbul to look at the Gulen movement and check out the country's designer headscarves
  • Video, The Guardian: Turkey's most powerful man, Does the movement inspired by Fethullah Gülen represent a modern brand of Islam, or a subtle attempt to infiltrate religion into secular Turkey?
  • Park, Bill. "The Fethullah Gulen Movement." Global Politician 12 Dec. 2008
  • "Gulen Movement: Turkey's Third Power."] Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst Feb. 2009 http://tool.donation-net.net/Images/Email/1097/Gulen_movement.pdf
  • Hendrick, Joshua. "Globalization and Marketed Islam in Turkey: The Case of Fethullah Gulen." PhD dissertation UC Santa Cruz June 2009 (partial view, pp. 1–40)
  • News report video. "Rising Islamist movements challenge secularism in Turkey." Worldfocus (produced by WNET, distributed by American Public Television) 21 Oct. 2009
  • "Transnational Religious Nationalism in the New Turkey: The Case of Fethullah Gulen." Baker Institute event at Rice University (webcast) 09 Dec. 2010
  • Washington Post 05 Jan. 2010
  • "Islam Inc." A 28 minute programme on the Heart and Soul series of the BBC, 4 June 2011.

Gulen Movement Websites

  • Gulen Movement news
  • Gulen library
  • GulenMovement, USA
  • Gulen Movement Canada
  • Niagara Foundation
  • The Gulen Institute
  • Rumi Forum - Washington DC
  • Gulen Articles
  • Dialogue Institute of the Southwest
  • Dialogue Institute of the Southwest
  • The Gulen Movement
  • Intercultural Dialogue Institute
  • Gulen Schools
  • What is the Gulen Movement?
  • Pacifica Institute
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