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.
The honorary president of Dialogue Platform, Mr Fethullah Gülen penned an opinion-editorial titled as “ The Turkey I no longer know” published in The Washington Post.
In the opinion piece, Mr Gülen made a call on the West to help Turkey return to a democratic path. He said the presidents’ meeting, and next week’s Nato summit should be used as an opportunity to advance this effort.
To reverse the “democratic regression” in Turkey, he wrote that 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, Mr Gulen wrote that school curriculum that emphasises democratic and pluralistic values and encourages critical thinking must be developed.
Here is the full text of the article:
15 May 2017, SAYLORSBURG, Pa.
As the presidents of the United States and Turkey meet at the White House on Tuesday, the leader of the country I have called home for almost two decades comes face to face with the leader of my homeland. The two countries have a lot at stake, including the fight against the Islamic State, the future of Syria and the refugee crisis.
But the 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.
The West must help Turkey return to a democratic path. Tuesday’s meeting, and the NATO summit next week, should be used as an opportunity to advance this effort.
Since July 15, 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 last week, 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 European allies and the United States to restore their democracy. Turkey initiated true multiparty elections in 1950 to join NATO. As a requirement of its membership, NATO can and should demand that Turkey honor its commitment to the alliance’s democratic norms.
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.
Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate.
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.
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.”
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
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.