Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Gülen Movement, Ahmet Kuru

The Gülen Movement
The Gülen movement developed a pro-globalization view in the 1990s. If my two hypotheses are correct, this movement should first, have benefited from international opportunity structures shaped by globalization, and second, have had a tolerant normative framework open to cross-cultural interactions.
The Gülen movement emerged in the late 1960s as a local group around I zmir. In the mid-1980s, it began to open educational institutions and spread to other parts of Turkey. As it spread geographically, it transformed from a local group into a nationwide social movement. Ties became more impersonal, and abstract principles prevailed instead of communitarian customs. In the 1990s, the Gülen movement experienced its second transformation. It changed from a national social movement into a transnational one by opening institutions internationally and gathering sympathizers from several nationalities.[36]
Throughout the 1990s, the Gülen movement benefited from the international opportunity structures shaped by globalization in three main ways. First, globalization has weakened the state monopoly on sociocultural and economic life in many countries. This has allowed the institutional diffusion of the Gülen movement in more than fifty countries. Second, the movement has taken advantage of the conceptual and legal framework of transnational movements and nongovernmental organizations. It has primarily benefited from the transnational Turkish diaspora, in addition to its sympathizers from different nationalities.
Finally, it has employed international opportunities to balance the repression of the Turkish state. The initiator of the movement, Fethullah Gülen, has lived in the United States since 1999 because of the repressive political atmosphere of Turkey, in addition to some personal health problems.
Particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Gülen movement opened institutions in the former communist countries. Later on, it extended its education, media, and business networks to more than fifty countries. The movement has been active in a wide geographic area, from North America to East Asia. Currently, private companies and foundations affiliated with the Gülen movement operate hundreds of dormitories, preparatory schools, and high schools, in addition to six universities in Turkey and abroad.[37] They also operate a media network, including Samanyolu, a television channel with a global satellite outreach; several local and national radio stations; Zaman, a newspaper published in twelve different countries; Aksiyon, a news magazine; The Fountain, an international magazine in English; and about ten other magazines, which cover issues ranging from ecology, literature, and theology to popular science.
Do the opportunity structures have an independent impact on the Gülen movement's international expansion? We can answer this by analyzing the cases of failure for the movement's spread. The movement's schools and media outlets were officially closed in two countries-Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. In the early 1990s, opportunity structures helped the movement to open institutions in these countries. However, the emergence of authoritarianism in Uzbekistan and the Taliban rule in Afghanistan withered the opportunities for the movement, particularly through the state monopolies in education and the media.
These two regimes resisted the impact of globalization and did not respect the legitimacy of international nongovernmental organizations. In sum, the end of the opportunity structures in these two countries meant the official closure of the Gülen movement's schools and media outlets.
Two resources have helped the Gülen movement to benefit from international opportunity structures. First, the movement has been very successful in English instruction, which has been in high demand in many countries, for example, the former Soviet republics.[38] The students of the movement's schools have won several medals in the International Scientific Olympics, in addition to achieving the top scores in nationwide university entrance examinations in Turkey. The movement has reproduced this success in many other countries.
The second resource of the movement is that it has created a synergy based on cooperation between educators and businesspeople. The sympathizers of the Gülen movement have been powerful enough to establish an interest-free bank and insurance company. Without the financial donations of business, the movement's schools could not afford to operate.
The second variable that shapes the attitudes of Islamic movements toward globalization is their normative frameworks. The Gülen movement has had a tolerant normative framework that has been open to cross-cultural interactions.
This has affected the movement's pro-globalization stand. Gülen's thinking has been very much influenced by the writings of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi (1876-1960)[39]Nursi's Risale-i Nur, a collection of approximately 120 pamphlets, is an interpretation of the Qur'an and is widely read among the Gülen movement's sympathizers. Nursi opposed violence and the politization of Islam.[40] He encouraged interfaith dialogue and appreciated globalization as early as the 1910s: "The world became a single city with the improvement of the transportation facilities. Communication facilities, such as print and the telegraph, also made the world population into a population of a single place."[41]
In the late Ottoman era, Nursi defended the idea that Christians could hold administrative positions in the Empire.[42] He specifically encouraged Muslim-Christian cooperation in the struggle against materialism and atheism. During the Second World War, he was concerned about the non-Muslim war victims in Europe and held that the non-Muslim children became martyrs and the innocent adults might have gained salvation.[43] Because of Nursi's influence, the Gülen movement has always respected human dignity, and it has never regarded Christians and Jews as the "enemy." When the movement began to construct its positive discourse on globalization and the West, Nursi's influence became more visible.
Until the 1990s, the Gülen movement had focused on the spread of religious messages and had been isolated from political life. For that reason, it did not have a definitive view of globalization. In the 1990s, it became visible in the public sphere in Turkey[44] and opened institutions abroad with the help of international opportunity structures. In this period, the movement developed a positive attitude toward globalization, with an emphasis on religious tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and democracy.[45] In 1994, the movement founded the Foundation of Journalists and Writers (FJW) to organize public meetings aimed at promoting tolerance and dialogue. These two concepts became the mottos of the movement, which has interacted with different cultures and governments all around the world, and has, therefore, needed a language of engagement.[46]The FJW's meetings have regularly brought together academics, intellectuals, and religious leaders. In 1997, the FJW organized the Inter-Civilization Dialogue Congress as a reaction to the "clash of civilizations" thesis. In 1998, the FJW initiated the Eurasian Meetings that have annually brought together intellectuals from several Eurasian countries. In 2000, the FJW coordinated the meeting of the representatives of the three "Abrahamic" religions in Turkey.
The FJW has also organized the annual Abant Workshops, which have involved approximately fifty Turkish intellectuals from different ideological backgrounds. The first workshop, held in 1988, primarily discussed Islam and secularism. Its press declaration stressed that God's ontological sovereignty is compatible with the political sovereignty of the people.[47] The second workshop examined the relationships among religion, state, and society.[48] The third meeting was devoted to democracy and the rule of law. Its final declaration stressed that Islam was not a barrier to democracy.[49] The fourth workshop explored the issue of pluralism, and the fifth discussed globalization.
Since the mid-1990s, Gülen has made positive statements about globalization. He has argued that the globalization process might become an opportunity for Muslims if they would proactively contribute to this process. In his own words: "Modern means of communication and transportation have transformed the world into a large, global village. . . . This time is a period of interactive relations. Nations and peoples are more in need of and dependent on each other, which causes closeness in mutual relations."[50] Gülen has also claimed a relationship between globalization and democracy; as a result of globalization, "the individual comes to the fore, making it inevitable that democratic governments that respect personal rights will replace oppressive regimes."[51] According to Gülen, there is a strong connection between globalization and the necessity of tolerance:
Although the world increasingly resembles a global village, different belief systems, races, and customs will continue to survive. Each individual is a unique being; therefore it is a utopian idea to standardize people. The harmony and peace of the global village are based on the recognition and respect of this diversity. . . . In other words, it depends on a global tolerance and dialogue. Otherwise, the world will result in its own end through fighting and wars.[52]
Following the 1990s, Gülen has primarily devoted his speeches, writings, and media interviews to religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. He has met with religious leaders, including Pope John Paul II, the Panahriot Greek Patriarch Bartholomeos, and Israeli Sephardic Head Rabbi Eliyahu B. Doron.[53] Gü- len's relations with Christians and Jews have been criticized by some Islamists. The Ibda-C, the fundamentalist terrorist group, reportedly plotted assassination attempts against Gülen. In fact, Gülen is very critical of terrorism. He strongly condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, where he has lived for six years. In his statement in the Washington Post, on 21 September 2001, Gülen emphasized, "Islam abhors such acts of terror. A religion that professes, 'He who unjustly kills one man kills the whole of humanity' cannot condone senseless killing of thousands."
Gülen has also frequently referred to democracy and the West in a positive manner. In 1994, he made his first public speech on democracy, in which he stressed that it was impossible to retreat from democracy in Turkey.[54] Although some Islamists strongly criticized this speech, Gülen has continued to emphasize the importance of democracy. By the same token, in an interview in 1995, he opposed anti-Western feelings: "Anti-Westernism would force us out of civilization."[55] He also acknowledged that Muslims had many things to learn from the West[56] and stated that Turkey's integration into the EU would not result in cultural assimilation for Turkish society.[57] In 2000, in a written response to questions from the New York Times, Gülen referred to the Western democracies as a political model for Turkey: "Standards of justice and democracy [in Turkey] must be elevated to the level of our contemporaries in the West."[58]
Gülen sees democracy as a developing and irreversible process that has not yet reached its final point. In his view, an ideal democracy should also take into consideration human concerns, even about the hereafter.[59] In his article published in SAIS Review in 2001, he argued that Islam and democracy are compatible.
He also rejected the ideology of political Islamism: "Islam does not propose a certain unchangeable form of government or attempt to shape it. Instead, Islam establishes fundamental principles that orient a government's general character, leaving it to the people to choose the type and form of government according to time and circumstances."[60] According to Gülen, Islam does not legitimize totalitarian regimes: "Islam considers a society to be composed of conscious individuals equipped with free will."[61]
In sum, the analysis of the Gülen movement supports my two hypotheses. The movement has constructed a pro-globalization and pro-Western attitude as a result of its interaction with international opportunity structures and its tolerant normative framework. In the next section, I will test my hypotheses in a different case and search for an answer to the following question: Why does an Islamic movement become antiglobalization?

[36] The author's personal interviews and observations in Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the United States in the Gülen movement's institutions.
[37] See M. Hakan Yavuz, "Towards an Islamic Liberalism? The Nurcu Movement and Fethullah Gülen," The Middle East Journal 53 (Autumn 1999): 599; See also ElisabethÖzdalga, "Worldly Asceticism in Islamic Casting: Fethullah Gülen's Inspired Piety and Activism," Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies 17 (Fall 2000): 83-104.
[38] See Ahmet T. Kuru, "Between the State and Cultural Zones: Nation-Building in Turkmenistan," Central Asian Survey 21 (March 2002): 83-84.
[39] See the special issue of The Muslim World 89 (July-October 1999), edited by M. Hakan Yavuz. See also Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, ed., Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuüzzaman Said Nursi (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2003).
[40] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, "Mektubat [The Letters]" in Risale-i Nur Külliyatı [The Epistles of Light] (Istanbul: Nesil Yayııcılık, 1996), 366-368.
[41] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, "Muhakemat [The Reasoning]" [Istanbul, 1912] in Risale-i Nur Külliyatı, 1997.
[42] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, "Münazarat [The Debates]" in Risale-i Nur Külliyatı, 1945. See also Zeki Saritoprak, "Said Nursi's Teachings on the People of the Book: A Case Study of Islamic Social Policy in the Early Twentieth Century," Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 11 (October 2000): 321-332.
[43] Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, "Kastamonu Lahikası [The Kastamonu Letters]" in Risale-i Nur Killiyatı, 1615.
[44] Ugur Kömeçoglu, "Kutsal ile Kamusal: Fethullah Gülen Cemaat Hareketi [The Sacred and the Public: The Fethullah Gülen Communal Movement]" in Nilüfer Göle, ed.,Islamın Yeni Kamusal Yüzleri [Islam's New Public Faces] (Istanbul: Metis, 2000), 148-194.
[45] Hüseyin Gülerce, "Yeni Dinamikler [New Dynamics]," Zaman, 19 June 2001.
[46] See Bekim Agai, "The Gülen Movement's Islamic Ethic of Education" in M. Hakan Yavuz and John L. Esposito, eds., Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gülen Movement (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003), 48-68.
[47] I slam ve Laiklik [Islam and Secularism] (Istanbul: Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfı, 1998).
[48] Din, Devlet, Toplum [Religion, State, and Society] (Istanbul: Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfı, 1999).
[49] Demokratik Hukuk Devleti [Democratic State and the Rule of Law] (Istanbul: Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfı, 2000).
[50] Fethullah Gülen, "At the Threshold of the New Millennium," The Fountain 3 (January-March 2000): 7.
[51] Ibid., 8.
[52] Quoted in Nevval Sevindi, Fethullah Gülen ile Global Hosgörü ve New York Sohbeti [Global Tolerance and the New York Interview with Fethullah Gülen] (Istanbul: Timas, 2002), 42.
[53] See Ali Ünal and Alphonse Williams, eds., Advocate of Dialogue: Fethullah Gülen (Fairfax: The Fountain, 2001).
[54] Eyüp Can, Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi ile Ufuk Turu [The Tour d'Horizon with Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi] (Istanbul: Milliyet Yayınları, 1996), 129.
[55] Ibid., 43.
[56] For Gülen's views on Western modernity, see Ahmet T. Kuru, "Fethullah Gülen's Search for a Middle Way between Modernity and Muslim Tradition" in Yavuz and Esposito, eds., Turkish Islam and the Secular State, 115-130.
[57] Can, Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi, 43. For Gülen's ideas on the EU, see Hasan Kösebalaban, "The Making of Enemy and Friend: Fethullah Gülen's National-Security Identity" in Yavuz and Esposito, eds., Turkish Islam and the Secular State, 170-183.
[58] Douglas Frantz, "Turkey Assails a Revered Islamic Moderate," New York Times, 25 August 2000.
[59] Nevval Sevindi, Fethullah Gülen ile New York Sohbeti (Istanbul: Sabah Kitapları, 1997), 78.
[60] Fethullah Gülen, "A Comparative Approach to Islam and Democracy," translated by Elvan Ceylan, SAIS Review 21 (Summer-Fall 2001): 134.
[61] Ibid., 135.
by Ahmet Kuru  Source

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