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Condemnation and Condolences regarding the Christchurch Mosque Shooting

We are deeply saddened about the terror attack that happened today in Christchurch, New Zealand. We offer our sincerest condolences to those who lost their loved ones and to the people of New Zealand. We strongly condemn this heinous attack that targeted believers while performing their worship service on their holy day.

Terrorism is an affliction that affects the entire humanity and we must all join hands to defeat it. We believe this disease can be treated through dialogue, education and by nurturing a perspective that sees every human as inherently worthy and dignified. We strongly hope that love and solidarity become widespread among all humans and similar tragedies won’t reoccur in the future.

Fethullah Gülen sur Le Monde: « L’échec de l’expérience démocratique turque n’est pas dû à l’adhésion aux valeurs islamiques mais à leur trahison »

Contrairement àce que démontre le pouvoir autoritaire d’Erdogan en Turquie, il est possible deconstruire une démocratie musulmane respectueuse de l’Etat de droit, défend,dans une tribune au « Monde », l’opposant exilé aux Etats-Unis.

Il fut un temps où la Turquie était saluée comme le modèle de la démocratie musulmane moderne. Il est vrai que, au début des années 2000, l’AKP [Parti de la justice et du développement, au pouvoir] avait mis en œuvre des réformes conformes aux standards démocratiques de l’Union européenne (UE) et amélioré le bilan du pays en ce qui concerne les droits de l’homme.

Malheureusement, les réformes démocratiques ont fait long feu. Le processus a été bloqué quelques années plus tard puis, autour de 2011, après sa troisième victoire électorale, le premier ministre de l’époque, aujourd’hui président de la République, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fait un demi-tour complet.

« L’échec del’expérience démocratique turque n’est pas dû à l’adhésion à ces valeursislamiques mais plutôt à leur trahison »

Le glissement vers l’autoritarisme a retiré à la Turquie son « exemplarité », à laquelle les autres pays à majorité musulmane pouvaient aspirer.

La démocratie est le système de gouvernement le plus compatible avec les principes de l’islam relatifs à la gouvernance. Certains pourraient être tentés d’invoquer l’exemple négatif de la Turquie sous Erdogan pour démontrer une incompatibilité entre les valeurs démocratiques et islamiques. Or, malgré des dehors d’observance islamique, le régime d’Erdogan représente une trahison totale des principales valeurs islamiques.

Celles-ci ne se réduisent pas à un style vestimentaire ou à l’utilisation de slogans religieux. Elles incluent le respect de l’Etat de droit avec un pouvoir judiciaire indépendant, la responsabilité des dirigeants et la protection des droits inaliénables et des libertés de chaque citoyen. L’échec de l’expérience démocratique turque n’est pas dû à l’adhésion à ces valeurs islamiques mais plutôt à leur trahison.

S’exprimer contre l’oppression est aussi un devoir religieux

Bien que musulmane à 99 %, la société turque reste remarquablement hétérogène. Les citoyens turcs adhèrent à de nombreuses idéologies, philosophies et croyances différentes et s’identifient comme sunnites ou alévis, turcs, kurdes ou d’une autre ethnie, musulmans ou non musulmans, pieux ou séculiers.

Dans une telle société, les tentatives d’homogénéisation sont non seulement improductives mais surtout liberticides. La forme de gouvernance participative où aucun groupe, majoritaire ou minoritaire, ne domine les autres est la seule viable pour une population aussi diverse. On peut en dire autant de la Syrie et des autres pays voisins de la région.

« La libertéest un droit accordé par Dieu, et personne – ni aucun dirigeant – ne peutl’ôter »

En Turquie ou ailleurs, les dirigeants autoritaires ont exploité les différences au sein de la société pour polariser à outrance, dresser les différents groupes les uns contre les autres et maintenir ainsi leur emprise. Quelles que soient leurs croyances ou leurs visions du monde, les citoyens devraient se réunir autour des droits de l’homme et des libertés universels et pouvoir s’opposer démocratiquement à ceux qui violent ces droits.

S’exprimer contre l’oppression est un droit démocratique, un devoir civique et un devoir religieux pour les fidèles. Le Coran demande aux croyants de ne pas rester silencieux face à l’injustice : « Ô vous qui croyez ! Observez la stricte vérité quand vous témoignez devant Dieu, fût-ce contre vous-mêmes, contre vos parents ou vos proches » (sourate 4, verset 135).

Le fait de croire ou de ne pas croire, de vivre selon ses convictions ou sa vision du monde avec la condition qu’elles ne nuisent pas à celles des autres et d’exercer les libertés fondamentales, en particulier la liberté d’expression, fait d’une personne un être humain. La liberté est un droit accordé par Dieu, le Très Miséricordieux, et personne – ni aucun dirigeant – ne peut l’ôter.

Le termed’« Etat islamique » est en soi une contradiction

Contrairement aux revendications des islamistes politiques, l’islam n’est pas une idéologie, c’est une religion. Il comporte certains principes relatifs à la gouvernance certes, mais ceux-ci ne représentent pas plus de 5 % de tout le corpus islamique.

Réduire l’islam à une idéologie politique est le plus grand crime commis contre son esprit. Tous ceux qui ont réfléchi sur l’approche islamique de la politique et de l’Etat ont commis trois erreurs. Primo, ils ont confondu l’islam établi par le Coran et la sunna [ensemble des paroles de Mahomet] et l’islam issu de l’expérience historique des musulmans. Il est important de mener une analyse critique de l’expérience des musulmans et des principes qui en sont issus pour revenir vers les sources premières, afin de proposer un nouvel horizon aux musulmans du monde entier dans les domaines des droits de l’homme, de la démocratie et de la participation citoyenne.

« Lasouveraineté populaire ne veut pas dire que la souveraineté a été enlevée àDieu et qu’elle a été remise aux hommes »

Secundo, une autre erreur consiste à se fonder sur des traductions du Coran ou certains hadiths pour créer une légitimité à une idéologie. Or l’esprit du Coran et, si l’on peut dire, la « philosophie » qui innerve la vie du Prophète ne peuvent être perceptibles qu’avec une intention saine, une approche globale et la recherche de la volonté de Dieu.

Enfin, la troisième erreur postule une incompatibilité entre la religion et la démocratie, en arguant que la première se fonde sur la souveraineté de Dieu et la seconde sur celle du peuple. Aucun musulman ne doute qu’Allah est le maître de tout sur un plan cosmologique. Mais cela ne signifie pas que nous, Ses créatures, n’avons pas de volition, de penchant, de capacité à faire des choix. La souveraineté populaire ne veut pas dire que la souveraineté a été enlevée à Dieu et qu’elle a été remise aux hommes ; elle signifie qu’une question dont la compétence a été accordée aux hommes par Dieu ne saurait être hypothéquée par un dirigeant autoritaire ou une oligarchie.

En outre, ce qu’on appelle « Etat » n’est rien d’autre qu’un système que les hommes ont mis sur pied pour protéger leurs droits fondamentaux et leurs libertés ainsi qu’assurer la justice et la paix. L’Etat n’est pas un but en soi, c’est un moyen permettant aux hommes d’atteindre le bonheur, ici-bas et dans l’au-delà. Le terme même d’« Etat islamique » est en soi une contradiction. L’islam n’ayant pas établi de clergé, la théocratie est étrangère à son esprit. L’Etat, une construction issue d’un contrat social, est formé par des êtres humains, il ne peut donc être islamique ou sacré.

Erdogan a gâchéla démocratie jadis prometteuse de la Turquie

Les démocraties sont aussi nombreuses que variées. L’idéal qui sous-tend toutes ces formes, à savoir qu’aucun groupe ne domine les autres, est aussi un idéal islamique. Le principe d’égalité des citoyens repose sur le principe de la reconnaissance de la dignité de chaque être humain et du respect qui lui est dû en tant que création de Dieu. Une forme de gouvernance participative ou républicaine est beaucoup plus en résonance avec l’esprit islamique que d’autres formes de gouvernement, comme les monarchies et les oligarchies.

« EnTurquie, une vaste campagne d’arrestations fondée sur la culpabilité parassociation se poursuit »

Le tableau actuel des dirigeants de la Turquie ressemble plus à une oligarchie qu’à une démocratie. Comment en est-on arrivé là ?

Erdogan a gâché la démocratie jadis prometteuse de la Turquie, faisant main basse sur l’appareil d’Etat, confisquant des entreprises et récompensant ses affidés. Afin de resserrer les rangs derrière lui et d’approfondir son emprise au pouvoir, il m’a déclaré ennemi de l’Etat, m’accusant ainsi que mes sympathisants d’être la cause de tous les maux. Un exemple typique de la recherche du bouc émissaire. Le régime d’Erdogan m’a poursuivi ainsi que des centaines de milliers d’autres personnes – critiques de tous bords mais surtout du mouvement pacifique Hizmet. Des manifestants écologistes, des journalistes, des universitaires, des Kurdes, des alévis, des non-musulmans et certains groupes sunnites critiques d’Erdogan ont subi les contrecoups de son agenda politique. Des vies ont été ruinées par les détentions, les licenciements et d’autres injustices encore.

En raison de la persécution en cours, des milliers de volontaires du Hizmet ont demandé l’asile dans les pays européens, dont la France. En tant que nouveaux résidents, ils doivent respecter les lois de ces pays, aider à trouver des solutions aux problèmes de ces sociétés et mener une lutte active contre la propagation d’interprétations radicales de l’islam en Europe.

En Turquie, une vaste campagne d’arrestations fondée sur la culpabilité par association se poursuit. Plus de 150 000 Turcs ont perdu leur emploi, 200 000 ont été placés en garde à vue et 50 000 ont été envoyés en détention. Les personnes qui font l’objet de poursuites pour des motifs politiques et qui veulent quitter le pays sont privées de leur droit fondamental d’aller et venir, leur passeport étant annulé.

Erdogan entame la réputation acquise par la République turque sur la scène internationale depuis 1923, exploitant les relations diplomatiques et mobilisant le personnel et les ressources du gouvernement pour harceler et kidnapper les sympathisants du mouvement Hizmet dans le monde entier.

Les valeursdémocratiques n’ont jamais été enracinées dans la société turque

Ces dernières années, et face à de telles persécutions, les citoyens turcs sont restés passifs dans leurs revendications démocratiques face à leurs dirigeants. Le souci de la stabilité économique est l’une des raisons de ce comportement.

Mais il existe aussi une raison historique. Bien que la gouvernance démocratique ait été un idéal de la République turque, les valeurs démocratiques n’ont jamais été enracinées dans la société turque. L’obéissance à un dirigeant fort et à l’Etat a toujours été un thème récurrent dans les programmes scolaires.

Les coups d’Etat militaires, qui surgissent presque tous les dix ans, n’ont pas permis à la démocratie de s’enraciner ni de progresser. Les citoyens ont oublié que l’Etat existait pour le peuple, et non l’inverse. Erdogan a profité de cette psyché collective.

« Je croisfermement que la Turquie retrouvera un jour le chemin de la démocratie »

La démocratie turque est peut-être dans le coma à cause du régime actuel mais je reste optimiste. L’oppression ne dure jamais longtemps. Je crois fermement que la Turquie retrouvera un jour le chemin de la démocratie. Cependant, pour que la démocratie prenne racine et soit pérenne, plusieurs mesures doivent être prises.

Tout d’abord, les programmes scolaires doivent être révisés. Des sujets tels que l’égalité de tous les citoyens et la protection des droits et libertés fondamentaux de la personne humaine doivent être enseignés aux élèves dès les premières années, afin qu’ils puissent en être les gardiens lorsqu’ils grandiront.

Ensuite, il est nécessaire de rédiger une Constitution qui ne permette ni la domination de la minorité ni celle de la majorité et protège les droits fondamentaux de l’homme proclamés notamment par la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme. La société civile et la presse libre doivent être protégées par la Constitution afin qu’elles puissent faire contrepoids au pouvoir de l’Etat. Enfin, les leaders d’opinion doivent mettre l’accent sur les valeurs démocratiques dans leurs discours et leurs actions.

La Turquie a maintenant atteint un point où la démocratie et les droits de l’homme sont mis de côté. Elle a raté une occasion historique de parvenir à une démocratie à l’européenne avec une population majoritairement musulmane. Il y a seulement une décennie, cette perspective était considérée comme une possibilité réelle.

J’espère, et je prie, pour que la triste expérience vécue récemment par les pays à majorité musulmane conduise à un réveil de la conscience collective en vue de former des dirigeants animés d’un esprit démocratique qui défendent sincèrement les libertés fondamentales de l’homme. L’islam ne trouvera rien à redire.

Fethullah Gülen 

Fethullah Gülen, né en 1941, est un prédicateur et intellectuel musulman turc,fondateur du mouvement Hizmet (« le service »). Exilé aux Etats-Unisdepuis 1999, il est notamment accusé par Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dont il futproche, d’avoir voulu réaliser un coup d’Etat en 2016. Le président turc aémis un mandat d’arrêt contre lui.

Gulen on Le Monde: “Islam is Compatible with Democracy, Despite Turkey’s Recent Example”

Turkey was hailed as an example for a modern Muslim democracy during the early 2000s. The current ruling party that came to power in 2002 implemented reforms that were aligned with the European Union’s democratic standards and the country’s record in human rights began to improve.

Unfortunately, the democratic reforms were short lived. The process stalled only a few years later and then around 2011, following his third election victory, then-prime minister now president Erdogan made a complete U-turn. The slide into authoritarianism have made Turkey no longer an example for other Muslim-majority countries to aspire to.

Some may view the negative example Turkey presents under Erdogan as evidence of an incompatibility between democratic and Islamic values. But that would be an erroneous conclusion.

Despite the outward appearance of Islamic observance, Erdogan regime represents a complete betrayal of core Islamic values. These core values are not about a style of dressing or the use of religious slogans. They include respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, accountability for the rulers and the preservation of inalienable rights and freedoms of every citizen. The recent setback in the Turkish democratic experience is not because of adherence to these Islamic values, but rather because of their betrayal.

Turkish society remains remarkably heterogeneous. Sunni or Alevi, Turk, Kurd or other in ethnicity, Muslim or non-Muslim, and religiously observant or secular in lifestyle Turkish citizens adhere to many different ideologies, philosophies, and beliefs. In such a society, the effort to make everyone the same is both futile and disrespectful to humanity. Participatory or democratic form of governance where no group, majority or minority, dominates the others is the only viable form of governance for such a diverse population. The same can be said of Syria, Iraq and other neighboring countries in the region.

In Turkey or elsewhere, authoritarian rulers have exploited the differences within the society to polarize various groups against each other and maintain their stronghold in power. Whatever beliefs or worldviews they have, citizens should come together around universal human rights and freedoms and be able to democratically oppose those who violate these rights.

Expressing yourself against oppression is a democratic right, a civic duty, and a religious duty for believers. The Quran states that people should not remain silent against injustice: “O you who have believe! Be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives.” (4:135)

Living according to your beliefs or worldview with the condition that it does no harm to others, and exercising fundamental human freedoms, especially freedom of speech, makes a person truly a human. Liberty is a right given by the Compassionate God, and no one—and no leader—can take that away. A person deprived of his or her basic rights and freedoms cannot be said to live a truly human life.

In contrast to claims by political Islamists, Islam is not a political ideology, it is a religion. It does have some principles that pertain to governance, but these account for, at most, five percent of all Islamic principles. To reduce Islam to a political ideology is the greatest crime against its ethos.

In the past those who studied or spoke about the Islamic perspective of politics and state made three errors: First, they confused the historical experiences of Muslims with the foundational sources of Islamic tradition, the Qur’an and the authentic sayings and practices of the Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings of God). Historical experiences of Muslims and the verdicts of the jurists under these circumstances should be analyzed with a critical eye, and cannot be given the same status as the authentic sources of religion. Secondly, some cherry-picked verses of the Qur’an or the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) to legitimize their perspective and pursued to impose that perspective upon people. The spirit of the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition (Sunnah) can only be understood with a holistic view and with a sincere intention to seek out the will of God. Third, some concluded, wrongfully, that democracy is fundamentally against Islam because Islam declares God as the only sovereign whereas democracy is based upon the sovereignty of the people. No believer doubts that God is the sovereign of the universe, but this does not mean that human agency, including thought, inclinations and willpower do not exist or are excluded from God’s greater plan for humanity. Giving sovereignty to the people does not mean usurping it from God, but rather taking the right and duty to govern, which is endowed to humans by God, from a dictator or an oligarchy and giving it back to the people.

The “state” is a system formed by human beings in order to protect their basic rights and freedoms and maintain justice and peace. The “state” is not a goal by itself, but an agency that helps people pursue happiness in this world and in the afterworld. The alignment of the state with a set of principles and values is a sum of the alignment of the individuals who make up the system with those principles and values. Therefore, the phrase “Islamic state” is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. Similarly, since there is no clergy class in Islam, theocracy is alien to the spirit of Islam. A state is a result of a contract among humans, made up of humans, and it can neither be “Islamic” nor “holy”.

Democracies come in all shapes and sizes. The democratic ideal that underlies these forms, that no group has domination over the others, is also an Islamic ideal. The principle of equal citizenship is in alignment with acknowledging the dignity of every human being and respecting them as a work of art that was created by God. Participatory form of governance, whether it is called a democracy or republic, is much more in resonance with the Islamic spirit than other forms of government, including monarchies and oligarchies.

The present picture of Turkey’s leadership resembles an oligarchy rather than democracy. How did it go wrong?

President Erdogan has corrupted Turkey’s once-promising democracy, co-opting the state, seizing businesses and rewarding cronies. In order to consolidate enough of the public behind him to make his power grab, he has declared me and Hizmet movement participants the enemy of the state, blaming us for every negative incident in the country in the recent past. This is a textbook example of scapegoating.

The government under President Erdogan has pursued me and also hundreds of thousands of other people—critics of all stripes, but especially from the peaceful Hizmet movement. Environmental protesters, Journalists, Academics, Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslims, and some of the Sunni Muslim groups who have been critical of Erdogan’s actions have had their share of consequences of his political agenda. Lives have been ruined through sacking, confiscating, jailing, and torture.

Due to the ongoing persecution, thousands of Hizmet volunteers have sought asylum in around the Globe, including France. As new residents, they must abide by the laws of these countries, help find solutions to problems of those societies and lead an active struggle against the spread of radical interpretations of Islam in Europe.

Back in Turkey, a vast arrest campaign based on guilt by association is ongoing. The number of victims of this campaign of persecution keeps increasing, with over 150,000 losing jobs, over 200,000 detained and over 80,000 arrested and jailed. People who are targeted by politically-motivated prosecution and who want to leave are deprived of their fundamental right to leave the country as their passports are cancelled. Despite setbacks due to military coups, Turkish Republic has been on a path of continuous improvement in democracy since its beginning in 1923. Erdogan is draining the reputation that the Turkish Republic has gained in the international arena, pushing Turkey into the league of nations known for suffocating freedoms and jailing democratic dissenters. The ruling clique is exploiting diplomatic relations, mobilizing government personnel and resources to harass, haunt and abduct Hizmet movement volunteers all around the world.

In recent years, and in the face of such persecutions, Turkish citizens have remained relatively passive in conveying their democratic demands to their leaders. Concern for economic stability is one possible reason for this behavior. But if we backtrack from today, we can see that there is also a historic reason.

Despite the fact that democratic governance has been an ideal of Turkish Republic, democratic values have never been systematically ingrained into the Turkish society. Obedience to a strong leader and the state have always been a strong theme in educational curricula. The military coups, which happened almost every decade, did not give democracy a chance to take hold and progress. Citizens forgot that the state existed for the people and not vice versa. It can be argued that Erdogan took advantage of this collective psyche.

Turkish democracy may be in a coma due to the current leadership but I remain optimistic. Oppression does not last for too long. I believe that Turkey will one day return to the democratic path. However, for democracy to take root and be long lasting, several measures need to be taken.

First of all, the school curricula should be reevaluated. Topics such as equal rights for all citizens and fundamental human rights and freedoms should be taught to students in the first years of school so that they can be guardians of these rights when they grow up. Secondly, there is a need for a constitution that does not allow for either the minority or the majority’s domination and protects in every situation the fundamental human rights referred to in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Civil society and free press should be protected by the constitution to flourish and be part of the checks and balances against the state power. Thirdly, opinion leaders should emphasize democratic values in their rhetoric and action.

Turkey has now reached a point where democracy and human rights are put aside. It appears to have lost a historic opportunity to achieve a democracy by the standards of the European Union with  a majority Muslim population.

The leaders of a country are like the cream on top of a liquid. The cream is made of the same ingredients as the liquid underneath it. Leaders of a society, possibly with some level of inaccuracy or delay, reflect the beliefs and values of a society. I hope and pray that the recent sad experience of the Muslim majority countries lead to an awakening in the collective consciousness to produce democratically minded leaders and governments that uphold not only free an fair elections, but all fundamental human rights and freedoms.

Fethullah Gulen

The Gülen Community: Who to Believe – Politicians or Actions?

Thomas Michel

On July 15, 2016, while President Erdoğan was vacationing in the Mediterranean coastal town of Marmaris, Istanbul and Ankara were shaken by an attempted coup d’état carried out by certain members of the Turkish armed forces.

About seven years before that, in May 2009, I received an award at the International Turkish Olympiad. The festival was essentially a cultural event consisting of Turkish songs, dances, and poetry recitals performed by students from Turkish schools around the world. It took place in a modern convention hall in Ankara with thousands of spectators in attendance. The event was sponsored and organized by members of the Hizmet movement, a Muslim community inspired by the preaching and writings of Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen. When I, together with a handful of other recipients, mounted the stage to accept our awards, there to shake our hands was the smiling Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The incident underlines how less than a decade earlier relations between Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (known by its acronym, the AKP) and the Hizmet movement guided by Gülen’s teaching were characterized by cooperation and respect. Foreign observers in Ankara even referred to Hizmet as “the religious wing of the AKP.” Although inaccurate even in those days, such a characterization reflected a commonly held view among Turks and others that there was some kind of ideological link between the AKP and the followers of Gülen.

There is no doubt that the Gülen supporters had great influence in Turkey. They ran the best high schools and college prep institutions, and students from those schools, year after year, obtained the top scores in the standardized college entrance exams. Hizmet members published Zaman, the most widely circulated and highly regarded newspaper in Turkey, referred to by Erdoğan himself as “the guardian of democracy in Turkey.” Hizmet members published scores of professional journals and popular magazines. They established associations of medical professionals, teachers, and business leaders. They set up hospitals and clinics, and in Turkey’s highly polarized society they conducted national “dialogues” that brought together Turkish thinkers and leaders: Right and Left, Sunni and Alevi, Turk and Kurd, and Muslim, Jewish, and Christian.

However, storm clouds were gathering. Perceptive observers could see trouble ahead. In a prophetic column in the left-center Hurriyet newspaper on October 5, 2010, the late political commentator Mehmet Ali Birand noted:

“I don’t know whether they are aware of it, but a danger that needs to be taken very seriously awaits the Gülen movement. In the eyes of Turkish society, which believes conspiracy theories, the Gülen movement is mythicized beyond its real dimensions. The power and influence of the Gülen movement is being so exaggerated that if no precautions are taken, this imagined power will one day destroy it… If the current trend does not change, future politicians will go after this movement with a view to annihilating it.”

Birand, who claimed to be neither a member of Hizmet nor opposed to it, believed that, “The power attributed to the Gülen movement is enormously exaggerated. It does not reflect the truth but the winds of exaggeration…”

The first overt sign of tension between Gülen, who lives in retirement in the United States, and Erdoğan can be dated to the pro-democracy Gezi Park protests of June, 2013, when Gülen criticized the Turkish government’s heavy-handed suppression of the protests. The real break came later that year when investigators reportedly associated with Hizmet pursued charges of corruption leveled against the sons of various ministers of the Turkish government, implicating Erdoğan’s own son. Since then, Erdoğan (President of the Republic since 2014) has sought to destroy Hizmet and break its influence on Turkish society. After last summer’s failed coup, Erdoğan has accused Gülen of masterminding the coup and his followers of carrying it out. The government has undertaken a “McCarthyite” witch-hunt, resulting in the dismissal and arrest of university presidents, police chiefs, military officers, and newspaper editors, and the imprisonment of an estimated 60,000 Turkish citizens.

Erdoğan’s anti-Hizmet campaign has even affected U.S.-Turkish relations. The Turkish government has demanded Gülen’s extradition to Turkey, while Secretary of State under President Obama, John Kerry, noted that the United States does not extradite residents on the basis of unsubstantiated requests, even those made by Heads of State. He noted that the process of extradition must begin with the presentation of hard evidence of wrongdoing and that no evidence of the involvement of Gülen or Hizmet associates in the failed coup attempt has been forthcoming.

Unsatisfied with the Obama administration’s refusal to bow under pressure, the Turkish government looked to the future: they discussed, with retired US Army General Michael Flynn, ways that judicial processes might be bypassed in order that Mr. Gülen might be “removed” from the United States and sent to Turkey. The fact that such actions could violate U.S. laws does not seem to have been a deterrent either to Flynn or to the Turkish authorities concerned. Flynn was at the time an advisor to presidential candidate Donald Trump, and he later briefly served as National Security Advisor to President Trump before being fired for lying about his relations with Russian officials. It is evident that the Turkish government was willing to engage in underhanded and apparently illegal activities to get Gülen extradited from the United States.

Guilty or not guilty?

For those who know Mr. Gülen personally or have had contact with the open-hearted and idealistic members of the Hizmet movement, claims of subversive “terrorism,” (in Erdoğan’s words) seem incongruous. I have known Mr. Gülen for over 20 years and find the retired, soft-spoken Qur’an-teacher to be preaching and living a particularly attractive interpretation of Islamic faith. His bedrock concept is that of ikhlas, which means doing everything, no matter how modest or unassuming, wholly for God’s pleasure. This spiritual principle, which is hardly original or unique to Islam, has motivated Gülen’s followers to commit themselves to administering and teaching in schools in places as diverse as Phnom Penh, Brussels, Accra, and inner-city Milwaukee and Cleveland. They are digging wells in Somalia and Mali, running clinics in Kenya, and establishing interreligious dialogue programs in more than 200 locations in the United States.

Many Americans have come to know the Hizmet movement personally through the well-organized cultural trips to Turkey sponsored by these local dialogue associations. For many non-Muslims, the trips are their first direct encounter with an Islamic community devoted to peacebuilding and being a living expression of God’s compassion and mercy.

I greatly admire these Hizmet members, of whom I know hundreds, and many of whom I count among my personal friends. I have been to their annual retreats, where they encourage one another to live up to their lofty Islamic ideals. I have heard the testimony of Catholic leaders in Turkey and Turkish Jews that the Gülen followers are their partners and allies in striving to build a truly inclusive Turkish society. I have talked to Christian students from Mozambique and the Philippines, graduates of Hizmet schools, who are grateful for the excellent educational foundation they received. Could all this good work simply be public posturing, a façade to hide a conspiracy aimed at achieving domination and power? I suppose that it’s possible, but it seems pretty far-fetched and unlikely.

One might say that an outside observer’s positive opinion of the Hizmet movement begs the question of whether members of the movement, with Fethullah Gülen as mastermind, were in fact behind the July 2016 coup. Despite all his bluster, threats, and posturing, Erdoğan has not been able to produce any credible evidence linking the coup attempt to a Hizmet plot. The most he has been able to offer are a few statements by implicated generals, obtained under duress, which could be interpreted as suggesting a tenuous link with Gülen. For his part, Mr. Gülen has categorically denied any involvement in the coup, which he condemned, and called for an international impartial investigation into the coup and its background, a suggestion which Mr. Erdoğan has summarily rejected. One must ask which of the two would like to see the truth come out, and which is trying to keep the facts from coming to light.

I originally published a version of this article in Commonweal magazine in November 2016. Since then, Mr. Erdoğan has continued to make unsubstantiated claims about Hizmet involvement in the coup. He is not talking about the possible sympathy of one or another military officer toward Fethullah Gülen, but a centralized, organized effort conceived and directed by Gülen and carried out through the institutions and networking of Hizmet members. This scenario has been investigated with the professional expertise of the intelligence services of the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and NATO, who have clearly expressed their views of who they believe to have been behind the coup. None of them has been convinced by Erdoğan’s noisy but empty accusations.

I am not alone in asking Mr. Erdoğan, “Please produce evidence, if you have any, for your claims. Otherwise, why should anyone take your word for what appears to be a slander of this conscientious religious leader and a community that is doing much good in the world? Could your anti-Hizmet campaign be an act of revenge for the whistle-blowing against your family members, or a distraction aimed at preventing a continuing investigation of the corruption charges?”

The Turkey I No Longer Know

Fethullah Gulen

Turkey that I once knew as a hope-inspiring country on its way to consolidating its democracy and a moderate form of secularism has become the dominion of a president who is doing everything he can to amass power and subjugate dissent. Turkey, my homeland, is in need of help from the world to return to a democratic path.

Since July 15, 2016, following a deplorable coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has systematically persecuted innocent people — arresting, detaining, firing and otherwise ruining the lives of more than 300,000 Turkish citizens, be they Kurds, Alevis, secularists, leftists, journalists, academics or participants of Hizmet, the peaceful humanitarian movement with which I am associated.

As the coup attempt unfolded, I fiercely denounced it and denied any involvement. Furthermore, I said that anyone who participated in the putsch betrayed my ideals. Nevertheless, and without evidence, Erdogan immediately accused me of orchestrating it from 5,000 miles away.

The next day, the government produced lists of thousands of individuals whom they tied to Hizmet — for opening a bank account, teaching at a school or reporting for a newspaper — and treated such an affiliation as a crime and began destroying their lives. The lists included people who had been dead for months and people who had been serving at NATO’s European headquarters at the time. International watchdogs have reported numerous abductions, in addition to torture and deaths in detention. The government pursued innocent people outside Turkey, pressuring Malaysia, for instance, to deport three Hizmet sympathizers in May 2017, including a school principal who has lived there for more than a decade, to face certain imprisonment and likely torture.

In April, the president won a narrow referendum victory— amid allegations of serious fraud — to form an “executive presidency” without checks and balances, enabling him to control all three branches of the government. To be sure, through purges and corruption, much of this power was already in his hands. I fear for the Turkish people as they enter this new stage of authoritarianism.

It didn’t start this way. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2002 by promising democratic reforms in pursuit of European Union membership. But as time went on, Erdogan became increasingly intolerant of dissent. He facilitated the transfer of many media outlets to his cronies through government regulatory agencies. In June of 2013, he crushed the Gezi Park protesters. In December of that year, when his cabinet members were implicated in a massive graft probe, he responded by subjugating the judiciary and the media. The “temporary” state of emergency declared after last July 15 is still in effect. According to Amnesty International, one-third of all imprisoned journalists in the world are in Turkish prisons.

Erdogan’s persecution of his people is not simply a domestic matter. The ongoing pursuit of civil society, journalists, academics and Kurds in Turkey is threatening the long-term stability of the country. The Turkish population already is strongly polarized on the AKP regime. A Turkey under a dictatorial regime, providing haven to violent radicals and pushing its Kurdish citizens into desperation, would be a nightmare for Middle East security.

The people of Turkey need the support of their allies around the world to restore their democracy.

Two measures are critical to reversing the democratic regression in Turkey.

First, a new civilian constitution should be drafted through a democratic process involving the input of all segments of society and that is on par with international legal and humanitarian norms, and drawing lessons from the success of long-term democracies in the West.

Second, a school curriculum that emphasizes democratic and pluralistic values and encourages critical thinking must be developed. Every student must learn the importance of balancing state powers with individual rights, the separation of powers, judicial independence and press freedom, and the dangers of extreme nationalism, politicization of religion and veneration of the state or any leader.

Before either of those things can happen, however, the Turkish government must stop the repression of its people and redress the rights of individuals who have been wronged by Erdogan without due process.

I probably will not live to see Turkey become an exemplary democracy, but I pray that the downward authoritarian drift can be stopped before it is too late.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/the-turkey-i-no-longer-know

Erdoǧan’s Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children

by Sophia Pandya

Human rights violations in Turkey have increased exponentially in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 attempted coup. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan blamed the plot on the Hizmet (Gülen) movement, and seized the opportunity to throw many of those he considered as opposition in jail. In all, over a hundred thousand people have been arrested, despite a lack of evidence against the vast majority of those detained. The UK Foreign Affairs Committee states there is a lack of credible evidence the movement was behind the coup, and Fethullah Gülen, Hizmet’s founding figure, flatly denies involvement.

Nonetheless, since July 15, women have been subjected to an uptick of a variety of intimidation strategies, including rape, the threat of rape, harassment, and other forms of violence—not only by Erdoǧan’s AKP-led (Justice and Development) government, but also by civilians emboldened by the new climate in which macho, hyper-masculinity and misogyny have become widespread. Many women whose families are affiliated with the groups currently targeted by the crackdown (i.e. Hizmet participants, Kurds, Alevis) have reported experiencing psychological trauma. Unsurprisingly, the political turmoil has also negatively affected children in a myriad of
ways.

Declaring a “state of emergency” (still in place for an indefinite period of time), and abandoning the European Convention for Human Rights, Erdoǧan has also fired thousands of educators, police, judges, prosecutors, journalists, and shut down (or taken over) schools, universities, businesses, and media outlets. On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the attempted coup, he sacked 7,000 more in a single day. This unprecedented onslaught is widely termed the “purge,” and the Turkish president appears willing to refashion the very fabric of society through oppression and violence. Internationally considered a populist authoritarian, Erdoǧan has also incited attacks against those he opposes. Recently, he called for the reinstatement of the death penalty and the beheading of those he deems responsible for the coup.

The Turkish president is also no feminist: he has stated that women who have not chosen to bear at least three children are “deficient” and “incomplete,” and that women have a “delicate nature” and are “unequal” to men. Not long after the putsch attempt, feminists noted an increase in attacks and harassment on the street. Journalist Pinar Ersoy writes that women have been “silenced” during the purge, and that women’s groups have been targeted. A soccer club executive actually tweeted that the wives of any coup plotters should be considered “spoils of war.” The lack of women during street protests also speaks to the heightened climate of fear.

During and after political conflict in general, women and children are the ones most severely afflicted by hardships such as poverty, displacement, insecurity, and sexual and domestic violence. In the aftermath, men tend to attempt to reinstate patriarchal “order,” sometimes through violent means. During the purge in Turkey, women from a variety of marginalized communities (Kurdish, Alevi, Hizmet-affiliated) have been particularly affected by financial difficulties, violence, rape, and demeaning treatment, even during and after childbirth. A forty year-old lawyer, Frank brought his family to the US despite his wife’s reluctance to leave Turkey, when he realized that the government was even “jailing mothers with ten day-old children.” He added, “I couldn’t take this risk.”

An estimated 16,000 to 20,000 women are currently held in prison; in some cases, they’re being used as hostages to coerce their male relatives to return to Turkey from abroad, and as an intimidation technique intended to silence dissent among their families. Tarik, a fifty year-old man in the construction business from eastern Turkey, fled his homeland but worried about his family being arrested in his place as he is affiliated with the Hizmet movement. He stated, “They also started putting wives in jail if they can’t find their husbands. So, my family came to the US in January.” In prison, women report being subjected to systematic humiliation, including naked searches by male guards. In a Muslim patriarchal society, a violation of a women’s body is a dishonor to her entire family, especially for her male kinfolk who are traditionally responsible for protecting her. An acquaintance in his twenties, affiliated with the Hizmet movement, told me that his fiancé abruptly broke off their engagement after her trauma of spending time in jail.

For many women not jailed or physically hurt, the psychological effects of the purge are nevertheless damaging. Fatma, a forty-two-year-old housewife from Erzurum, was briefly detained and interrogated about her husband’s Hizmet-related activities. After her release, she began having problems with her mental health. She confided, “Because my psychological state was so bad, I took medications. I’m still under this medication.” Her eighteen-year-old daughter, Hatice, also suffered from the stigma when her classmates found out about the allegations against her father, and they socially ostracized her.

Children exposed to political conflict are also in danger of suffering from PTSD or anxiety. Currently, over 500 children are being raised in jail by those mothers who are among the imprisoned, or left behind when their mothers are suddenly detained, in one case in a parking lot. Fatma’s younger daughter, Elif, 17, expressed frustration with being displaced by the coup. Now attending school in California, she said, “I feel stupid, because I don’t speak English. Yes, I cried when I left Turkey, because we were living with our grandparents. I miss all my family members. After we left, our grandmother got paralyzed because of these events.”

Tarik also spoke to me about the effect the purge had on his children. He explained, “My kids’ psychological well-being was disturbed because every time my car stopped, they worried that the police had stopped us. Police officers with rifles were coming to their schools during school hours, like SWAT teams.” When his younger daughter finally arrived in the US, she didn’t leave her room for the first two weeks.

Many children affected by the coup also found their education disrupted. A sixteen-year-old boy was stuck in Seattle, having arrived on a trip with friends, right before the events of July 15th. He said that the government had shut his old school down, and that if he returned, he would be assigned to a random public school. He was unsure about whether or not he would seek asylum in the US, or return, but he was most distressed about his family still in Turkey. He explained, “I’m sad about my family and their future, and what might happen to them. I’m concerned about their security.” Over two thousand educational institutes in Turkey have been closed, and tens of thousands of teachers and professors were fired. Due to the instability caused both by the purge and attacks by the Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), intellectuals are fleeing the country, leading to a Turkish “brain drain.”

Women and children are the unseen victims of Erdoǧan’s purge, and the effects will doubtless reverberate through Turkish society for decades. Those thousands of women jailed are acutely vulnerable to physical (including sexual), emotional, and psychological abuse. If they have young children, these children are either left behind, or they find themselves also behind bars. Those women at home whose male relatives are incarcerated risk financial hardship, displacement, and lack of physical security. The children at risk face the disruption of their education, as well as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. According to psychologist Jack Saul, survivors of collective trauma may also experience a sense of betrayal and insecurity, shattered relationships, and the inability for adults to effectively care for their children. For the most vulnerable victims, weaving lives back together again, and moving towards healing, will be an immense challenge.

Source: https://www.fountainmagazine.com/Issue/detail/erdoans-most-vulnerable-victims-women-and-children

Fethullah Gülen’s Statement of Condemnation on the Bombing in Manchester

I am deeply saddened by the bombing that took place at a concert at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England on May 22. I condemn this brutal assault in the strongest terms, and extend my deepest condolences to the 22 victims – some of whom, unthinkably, are innocent children – who lost their lives and the 59 others who were injured, as well as their families and loved ones. The Islamic State claimed credit for the attack and continues to be a scourge on our society, propagating senseless, appalling violence and terrorism.

It is heartbreaking that a concert, a joyful event meant to bring people together to enjoy music and friendship, so quickly devolved into a scene of violence, chaos and terror. As I have said before, any attack on the sanctity of human life is an attack against humanity. There is no justification for such an atrocity and I will continue to denounce without hesitation any use of violence to promote an agenda – whether religious, political or ideological.

As disturbed as I am by this vicious act, I pray to God, the Most Compassionate, for the quick recovery of those injured and that he may lead the victims of this tragedy, and indeed our global community, to a place of peace and harmony.

About Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate, whose decades‐long commitment to education, interfaith dialogue and altruism has inspired millions in Turkey and around the world. Gülen is the honorary chairman of the Rumi Forum, Washington, DC and the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Brussels, Belgium.

17,000 women, 515 babies in Turkish prisons: new report revealed

Thousands of women in Turkey, many with small children, have been jailed in an unprecedented crackdown and subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention centers and prisons as part of the government’s systematic campaign of intimidation and persecution of critics and opponents, a new report titled “Jailing Women In Turkey: Systematic Campaign of Persecution and Fear” released by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed.

The motivation behind Turkey’s deliberate policy of imprisoning women who, in some cases, have just given birth or are pregnant, appears to be creating a chill factor in Turkish society and muzzling dissenting and critical voices, SCF said.

In several cases SCF has identified, women were detained in the hospital immediately after the delivery of her baby and before they had a chance to recover. Many women were jailed as they were visiting their imprisoned husbands, leaving the children stranded in the ensuing chaos in the criminal justice system that was abused by the government to punish critics.

In one case, a woman lost her sanity under torture while in police detention, yet she was thrown back into prison, despite a diagnosis to that effect. Another woman was jailed because her husband, a journalist, remained at large. In many cases, the government has jailed the wives of businessmen who are seen as supporting the opposition to Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in addition to seizing all their businesses and personal assets.

“This practice of deliberate targeting of women sends a warning message across the board that nobody will be safe from the wrath of President Erdoğan and his government,” Abdullah Bozkurt, the president of SCF, has said.

“This is clearly in breach of Turkish law as well as rules and regulations that Turkey has committed itself to complying with as a member of various intergovernmental organizations,” he added.

The shameful practice of jailing of women from judges to journalists, from teachers to doctors, in big numbers has added a new dimension to the massive government witch-hunt that has been launched against critics, mainly targeting members of civic group the Gülen movement.

None of the women has any criminal record but now face criminal charges just because the government declared them to be terrorists and coup plotters overnight. They are not yet convicted, and in most cases, not even indicted, but have been put in pre-trial detention as punishment.

In many cases SCF documented, the women’s physical and mental health deteriorated rapidly after they went through abuse, isolation, poor diet and hygiene, lack of access to health care and the psychological trauma of incarceration. The arbitrary detention of women in big numbers has taken a toll not only on jailed women but also on their children and family members.

SCF said the cases represented in its report are only a tip of the iceberg as many cases are not reported because of the fear of further persecution on the part of victims or their family members. Even the cases that have been uncovered so far, some identified with full names and others only by initials to protect their identities, are enough to tell the horrifying picture in Turkey, said SCF.

“President Erdoğan, who leads this witch-hunt campaign and his associates in the government must be held accountable for this appalling practice that result in a devastating impact on the well-being of women and their children in Turkey,” added the organization.

The SCF report can be accessed at http://stockholmcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Jailing-women-in-Turkey.pdf.

Fethullah Gulen’s Video Message for International Women’s Day

VIDEO LINK

I expressed my views on women’s rights in an interview to the Muslim World journal shortly after arriving in the United States.
[00:16] I view woman and man as the two sides of a unity. I view them as two different sides of a whole. Indeed, God has created them as such.

But in different periods she has been limited to a life at home closed to the outer World. Sometimes tyrannical leaders have isolated them and prevented them from participating actively in social life. Hence, they experienced various forms of deprivation.

[00:48] A balance should be sought. That aspect of life has a place and this aspect of life has a place. She has a home. She sometimes will spend time withe her children but there is no obstacle to her participating in social life. She can assume any role.

[01:06] But the World has not yet realized this reality. Leaving reality aside, perhaps they have not even thought about it properly. How many woman chiefs of general staff are there in the World? How many presidents?

In England’s tradition, there is Queen Elizabeth but that is something she inherited from her father.

[01:37] Question: What can be done to ensure that women can have the status they deserve in our society?

This matter should be promoted Worldwide. In Brussels, in Washington D.C., in New York, at the African Union. Events should be organized to express this matter in a universal language around the World. Qualified experts should be brought together, people from among Muslims, Christians, Jews, Budhists, Shintoists and others, should be brought together without excluding anybody to discuss this matter.

This matter should be integrated into school curricula at an age when the children’s subconscious is still developing. Some pedagogists say that is the 0 to 7 years old period.

But experience suggests that the development of a person’s subconscious mind, the development of their neurons, their pituitary gland, thalamus gland, and memory center continues up until the age of 15. This corresponds to the period of high school.

[03:04] This matter [women’s rights] should be made part of the school curricula so that the students will learn them early on. This is the only way to make the desired attitudes on women’s rights to be internalized. Otherwise, if the matter is enforced upon people there can be a reaction. It could lead to a negative, reactionary response. People need to digest and internalize these things. They should make this attitude a part of their character. They need to internalize it. Education is the path to achieve that.

[03:42] As a side note the reason your friends have focused on education is that it is a way to address multiple problems at once. To grant every human being their deserved status goes through education. Elimination of poverty goes through education. Achieving social harmony and cooperation, and the prevention of conflicts go through education. Bringing people together and reconciliation, enabling them to go arm in arm goes through education.

Education is an important factor but it needs a solid foundation in the form of a curriculum. Psychologists and pedagogists should be brought together. I don’t think in our World matters have been analyzed from a pedagogical and psychological viewpoints in the light of our beliefs.

I believe that there is a serious need for a solid study of the philosophy of Prophet’s life by experts in the field based on the lives of Prophets, the Qur’an, the authentic accounts of Prophet’s life. I don’t think something like this has been done yet.

[05:05] If the issue [women’s rights] is integrated into school curricula starting at elementary school, then in middle school and high school, then when a person starts his or her career they will be imbued with the respect for women’s rights.

There can be exceptions but the attitudes of the vast majority of people can be shaped through education and this could be a lasting solution to the issue.

[05:37] Question: Could you comment on education rights of women?

Among the members of the family, if the woman is not at the same level of education as her husband or children, if they don’t understand each other…

[05:58] Rumi has a beautiful saying: Not the ones speaking the same language, but the ones sharing the same feeling understand each other. İf the woman’s level of education doesn’t match other members of the family, a kind of a hidden cast system can emerge within the family without anybody noticing it.

It is very important for people to understand each other, to be able to share the topic of discussion. Women’s education rights should be viewed from this angle.

[06:28] If we consider a family like a molecule, we can view the society as an organism. Members of the society should be able to understand each other as well. They should be able to understand each other’s speech and delve into a topic together. They should be able to share a vision.

Looking at this from another angle, we can consider on the one hand the religious knowledge and the spiritual life and on the other the study of the creation, the study of the universe, the main topics of the positive sciences. Members of a society should be educated at least at the level of high school to be able to communicate with each other. So that when they come together and someone is speaking on these topics the others will not remain at loss.

[07:38] Therefore, if the members of a family differ significantly then a form of social strata like a cast system can form within the family and the society without anybody recognizing it.

These were practices and attitudes during times of Egypt’s pharaohs and the Indian cast system in Ganj valley. Unfortunately, we are still living these partially.

[08:19] Question: Do you have a special message for the International Women’s Day?

Human beings are alive as long as their hopes are alive. I believe the intellectuals of the future will solve these problems and perhaps women will get what they have been yearning for.

I hope that the intellectuals of the future will find a way to grant everybody’s rights without causing a reaction. I hope that there will be a social system where women will be satisfied as well, there will be a world where women will be able to breath, God willing.

In the globalized world, this may happen more easily. Now you can reach the other side of the world by touching a button. You don’t need to get on a horse or mule as in the past. You are able to convey a message to India or Pakistan whenever you want.

[09:30] But we need to start somewhere. If it is started now, it can be realized within a quarter century. Contemporary means of communication and transportation may help realize these goals faster. With the help of God women can be hopeful about the future. As the poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy says, “the dawn promised by God to you is near, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps even earlier.”

Debate on “The Future of Gulen Movement in Europe”

Roundtable Lunch Discussion

The Future of Gülen Movement in Europe: Influence of Turkish Politics After the Coup Attempt

With  Prof. Johan Leman, KU Leuven University

Prof. Thijl Sunier, VU University Amsterdam

Tuesday, 7 February 2017 

WATCH FULL VIDEO HERE

Beginning as a grassroots community in Turkey in the 1970s, Hizmet (a.k.a. Gülen movement)  is a transnational social initiative active in education, interfaith dialogue and humanitarian aid over 180 countries including Europe.

Accused by president Erdogan for overthrowing his government first in 2013 after the corruption scandal and then failed coup attempt in July 2016, Gülen movement has been declared as terrorist organisation by the Turkish state and all of media, schools, universities, dormitories, associations and foundations affiliated with Gülen movement shut down by decree of law. Tens of thousands of people from the movement are in jail now and their private properties/companies are confiscated. The conflict between Erdoğan’s Turkey and Hizmet is extended and spilled into overseas. In some countries such as in Pakistan, Somalia; Erdoğan’s efforts to close down Hizmet schools were successful.

Facing the challenges coming from Turkey, the crucial question is to understand how the post-coup process is shaping the future of the movement, especially in Europe? Could movement sustain its activities outside Turkey?

Anthropologist Prof Sunier and Prof Leman have made the following presentations at the event:

Prof Sunier thinks that Hizmet Movement differs from other Islamic movements rooting to mystical tradition of Said Nursi. Nursi rejected himself being defined as Sheik (or master) and rather try to to balance the positive knowledge and religion. Fethullah Gulen is however not an exact follower of Sait Nursi. He managed to develop his own way formation on the route of faith.

Gulen Movement is not against the system nor in struggle to defeat it, but in favour of contributing to fix its moral building. According to the movement being a good Muslim is not enough. You should be successful in life as well. This recalls the active engagement in this world of Weber.

The coup in 1980 is milestone in Turkey’s economic development. Before 80s, Turkey suffered a weaker economy and was an insignificant country, however the economic development after 80s made it a part of world economy. Societal development is not unrelated to this economic development and Gulen Movement is part of this. Gulen Movement tried to engage with politics rather than opposing the developing system. Islam is known to be in the rural life which is backward. Cities traditionally belong to nearly only seculars. 80s economic developments and migration to the cities created new urban middle class bringing people to cities. Both AKP and Gulen Movement are part of this social development.

After 80s, Religious Muslims engaged in bureaucracy which belongs exclusively to non-religious before 80s. The followers of Gulen got positions everywhere in police, judiciary, academics, hospitals, army, schools and other state institutions etc. This is not infiltration but normal change in the course of socio economic development. This socio economical extended to Europe, causing similar impacts among the Turks in Europe.

Gulen people established institutions across Europe and this change was interpreted differently by European countries. Some welcomed this but some others didn’t. Until a few years ago German government was very happy with the developments in this respect. However Dutch government was always cautious. Two models of Islam in Europe being one the Mosque the other dialogue and education. Dutch Government prefers The Mosque model.

Prof Leman is in favour of dialogue and education as he thinks the Mosque is closed and incommunicable where dialogue and education is open to communication. Other social dynamics that will shape the future of current trend of social change in Europe include economic situation of Turks. Most Turks and Moroccans living in the West Europe lost their connection with their home lands as being already third generation immigrants. This caused gap between Turkey and local context.

The second is with the development of technology they can commute easier with their homeland ie planes etc. Local dynamics of Western Europe influence the religious life of Muslims in European context which creates differences the understanding in their homeland.

Prof Leman thinks that the Hizmet movement has certainly come a future but they need to be engaged in its core. He argues that even before the coup there were some challenges of Hizmet Movement. Leman says that whether they are good Muslims or not they are civilised. The other thing, dialogue and education are their pillars. Leman knows the movement and its founder well.

In May, two months before the coup, he was in the US have met with Fethullah Gulen. At the meeting in May 2016, Leman asked Gülen what should remain in the movement after his death. Fethullah Gulen’s answer was “the schools and interreligious dialogue”. According to Leman that’s also one that exhibits Hizmet must focus outside Turkey. “If you’re doing that, the Belgian and other Western governments will not adversely treat you”. He also said “there should be a way of communication with Muslims. You can’t communicate the Muslims in the mosque because they are closed but yes you can communicate with Muslims in schools through dialogue. If you can’t go into mosque system, stick to dialogue and education”.

Leman also quoted from journalist Nedim Sener who is hardcore anti-Gulen movement . He said “Sener divides Hizmet people into 3 categories: 1) Sympathizers. These are not necessarily in the movement actively, they observe and appreciate activities undertaken. He adds “I should be in this category” 2) Core people. Hizmet people support the movement actively, financially, mentally etc. 3) Hidden imams. These are people allegedly managing the movement who I never saw one. He also added this has been a tired as repeated for long time but there is no ground and evidence for this. If these do not exist stop saying that.

“Gülen himself is not responsible for the coup” is the opinion of Leman. “Just physically he was not able to do that.” He suspects earlier that “the coup was the work of a disgruntled, pluralistic grouping of Kemalists, among others, soldiers and, yes, some Gulenists. There were unavoidably Gulenists involved. There is no other way when you are in many positions in all sectors of society.”

Leman stressed that to be a multi-religious world movement, the Gulen movement must stay away from domestic Turkish politics and advised to the movement to stick to the core values.

Leman put some critics to the movement for not being more transparent mentioning the schools in Belgium not declaring its affiliation publicly. Furthermore “Hizmet behaves sometimes vague, almost mysterious, for example when it comes to the number of sympathizers they can’t give exact figures. When Dutch government asked the number of mosques in the Nederland the figures are clear but when you asked the GM institutions unclear. Do not do that. Be open. Trust the future of democracy. Otherwise, it would look like a sect.”

The event has continued with an hour question and answer session after the presentations as above.