Thursday, July 26, 2012

What is Fethullah Gülen’s understanding of democracy?

Fethullah Gülen directly criticizes Islamist political thought in his many books and articles and argues in favor of democracy and the modernization and consolidation of democratic institutions in order to build a society where individual rights are respected and protected. He carefully makes clear his position that some forms of democracy are preferable to others and is cautiously optimistic about its development:

“Democracy has developed over time. Just as it has gone through many different stages, it will continue to evolve and improve in the future. Along the way, it will be shaped into a more humane and just system, one based on righteousness and reality. If human beings are considered as a whole, without disregarding the spiritual dimension of their existence and their spiritual needs, and without forgetting that human life is not limited to this mortal life and that all people have a great craving for eternity, democracy could reach the peak of perfection and bring even more happiness to humanity. Islamic principles of equality, tolerance, and justice can help it do just this."

Is Fethullah Gülen in favor of the principles of liberal democracy?

Fethullah Gülen has always been in favor of democratic institutions, free elections and other principles at the core of liberal democracy today. He maintains that the Qur’an addresses the whole community and assigns to it almost all the duties entrusted to modern democratic systems; he says that people ought to co-operate by sharing these duties and establishing the essential foundations necessary to discharge them, and that government is composed of all of these basic elements. He says, “Islam recommends a government based on a social contract. People elect the administrators and establish a council to debate common issues. Also, the society as a whole participates in auditing the administration.”

What is Fethullah Gülen’s attitude to the democratic initiatives in Turkey since 2000?

Rather than leave Turkey to remain a closed society, Fethullah Gülen has long supported initiatives for a democratic, pluralistic and free society. He states that the role of individual morality is pivotal in this perspective to build, strengthen, and preserve a just political order. In the same vein, he has supported ties to the West – on the basis that Turkish society has much to gain from the achievements of rational knowledge there – whereas many from both the religious circles and the dominant secularist elite have been opposed to such rapprochement. Fethullah Gülen was among the first and strongest supporters of full European membership and integration, although some Islamist political groups criticized his remarks and opposed such membership. To them, the European Union is a Christian club and a threat to Turkish national and Muslim identity.

Fethullah Gülen was gradually able to bring about changes in the public mentality and attitude in Turkey. He supports democracy and tolerance as the best way to govern and supports membership in the European Union as the best way of achieving economic prosperity. In addition, he has highlighted the need for peace, tolerance, and dialogue with ethno-religious minorities within the Turkish community and between nations as an integral part of Islam and Turkish

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