Mr. Fethullah Gülen is an authoritative mainstream Turkish Muslim scholar, thinker, author, poet, opinion leader and educational activist who supports interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, democracy and spirituality and opposes violence and turnin religion into a political ideology. Gülen promotes cooperation of civilizations toward a peaceful world, as opposed to a clash. Gülen and the civil society movement inspired by his views, which is known as the Gülen movement, are significant and deserve attention for the following reasons:
1. Gülen’s Authority and Impact: Mr. Gülen is known and respected among Turkish Muslims as well as Muslims from around the world as an authoritative mainstream Muslim scholar of the Sunni tradition, to which 87–90% of the world’s Muslim population belongs. He is also a thinker, a poet, a prolific author, an educational activist and an opinion leader. His
readership in Turkey is estimated at several million. His influence outside Turkey is growing daily as his works are translated into many languages including English, Arabic, Russian, German, Spanish, Urdu, Bosnian, Albanian, Malay and Indonesian. In addition to printed publications, his ideas are accessible to an ever increasing world population through private radio and television networks sympathetic to his views.
2. Public Stance against Violence, Terror and Suicide Attacks: Gülen has been recognized for his consistent stance against the combination of violence and religious rhetoric. More specifically,
• He was the first Muslim scholar to publicly condemn the attacks of 9/11 (in an advertisement in the Washington Post).
• He helped publish a scholarly book on the Islamic perspective on terror and suicide attacks, condemning such acts on
humanitarian and religious grounds.
• He did not express these views only to Western readers but voiced them in mosque sermons with congregations of
thousands of Muslims. He unequivocally rejects suicide attacks.
• He has given interviews to Turkish, Japanese, Kenyan and American newspapers in which he categorically condemned the use of political, ideological and religious reasons to justify acts of terror. He has appeared on numerous national television shows publicly condemning such acts.
3. Pioneer in Interfaith Dialogue: Gülen has been actively promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue for over a decade,
starting long before the tragedy of 9/11. In Turkey, he has been credited with bringing about a positive atmosphere in relationships between the majority Muslim population and the various religious minorities such as Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Catholic, and Jewish communities. Outside Turkey, his ideal on interfaith dialogue have inspired many to establish organizations engaging in dialogue with the same objectives of mutual understanding, empathetic acceptance, peaceful coexistence, and cooperation. His efforts for dialogue and tolerance were recognized by a personal audience with the late Pope John Paul II and an invitation from the chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, as well as meetings with the leaders of various Christian denominations.
4. For Cooperation of Civilizations: Gülen promotes the cooperation of civilizations as opposed to clash, through dialogue, mutual understanding and gathering around shared values. As a civil society opinion leader he supports Turkish efforts toward joining the European Union and says that this relationship will benefit both parties.
5. Emphasis on the Spiritual Dimension of Faith: Owing in part to his early education in the spiritual discipline, Gülen is known for his emphasis on Islamic spirituality (known in the West as Sufism), and the embracing atitude towards fellow human beings that this emphasis brings. Due to his representation of love, compassion and an open-hearted approach to all issues concerning humanity, he is known by some as a “modern-day Rumi.” Gülen’s own two-volume book on Sufism is used as a textbook for universit courses on the spiritual traditions of the world.
6. Science and Faith in Harmony: Gülen sees science and faith as not only compatible but complementary. He therefore encourages scientific research and technological advancement for the good of all humanity.
7. Intellectual Dimension: He is well-versed in the leading thinkers of the Western tradition and can converse with them comfortably through his writings and addresses.
8. Pro–Democracy: Gülen recognizes democracy as the only viable political sistem of governance. He denounces turning religjion into a political ideology, while encouraging all citizens to take an informed and responsible part in political life of their country. He stresses the flexibilities in the Islamic principles relating to governance and their compatibility with a true democracy.
9. Solutions to Social Problems Working on the Ground: The most striking feature of Gülen’s life is the fact that his vision and ideas have not remained rhetorical but instead have been realized globally as civic projects. By some estimates, several hundred educational organizations such as K-12 schools, universities, and language schools have been established around the world inspired by Gülen and sponsored by local entrepreneurs, altruistic educators and dedicated parents. Notable examples of such schools include those in southeast Turkey, Central Asia, several countries in Africa, the Far East and
Eastern Europe Regardless of their location, these schools are symbols of harmonious interfaith and intercultural relationships, successful unification of faith and reason, and dedication to the service of humanity. Especially in conflict-ridden regions such as the Philippines, southeast Turkey and Afghanistan, these institutions help reduce poverty and increase educational opportunities, which in turn decrease the appeal of terrorist groups with exclusivist agendas operating in these countries. In addition to contributing to social harmony, these schools produce winners in international science and math competitions.
10. Other Civil Society Projects: Other civil projects inspired by Gülen’s ideas and encouragement include relief organizations, sustainable development organizations, media organizations, professional associations, and medical institutions.
Born in Erzurum, in eastern Turkey, in 1941, M. Fethullah Gülen is an Islamic scholar and thinker, and a prolific writer and poet. He was trained in the religious sciences by several celebrated Muslim scholars and spiritual masters. Gülen also studied the principles and theories of modern social and physical sciences. He travelled around the provinces in Anatolia and lectured not only in mosques, but also at town meetings and corner coffee houses. This enabled him to reach a more reprezentative cross-section of the population and to attract the attention of the academic community, especially the student body. The subject matter of his speeches, whether formal or informal, was not restricted explicitly to religious questions; he also talked about education, science, philosophy and social issues. It was the depth and quality of his speeches on such a wide range of topics that most impressed the academic community, and won their attention and respect.
He is regarded as the initiator and inspirer of the worldwide social movement of human values known as the Gülen Movement. He is respected by his readers and listeners as a living model of high values like wisdom, faith, love, ardor, respect, sincerity, piety, sensitivity, and service to humanity. Gülen is considered among the most influential intellectuals not only of the modern Turkey but also of the entire globe. In July 2008, he was listed among the top hundred public intellectuals by Foreign Policy magazine.
Despite the high regard millions hold for him, Gulen considers himself only one of the volunteers of the civil society movement he helped generate and denounces being its leader. He spends most of his time reading, writing, editing, worshiping, and receiving medical care. “Living to let others live” is the core principle of his understanding of service. His position of dialogue, empathic acceptance, and harmonious coexistence can best be reflected in a comparison with that of Rumi, one of his sources of inspiration. While the latter calls, whirling, “Come, come, whoever you are; ours is not the caravan of despair,” Gülen announces, walking, “I am coming, whoever you are; is not ours the journey of hope?”
The Gülen movement has emerged as a significant phenomenon in Turkey and now globally so that this community inspired by Islamic preacher and teacher Fethullah Gülen now comprises around few million followers. Beginning with a small circle of members of his mosque congregation in Izmir that crystallized around Gülen the late 1970s, the movement now focuses on globalized service projects, especially in the fields of education, interfaith & intercultural dialogue as well as humanitarin aids.
Gülen is extremely sensitive towards the protection of human life, irrespective of faith, race or culture. “He not only felt great sorrow during the Gulf War when many innocent Muslims lost their lives, he also felt deep sorrow when he heard that missiles were fired by Saddam Hussein upon innocent Israeli children,” explains Aymaz. “He always stood on the side of those who were innocent, and he always implored his community to do the same.”
His teachings have inspired, and continuous to inspire, thousands of people work for global education, peace, and the spread of tolerance. They share common humanistic values, ideals and passion Mr. Gulen has become a role model for millions of people living in different countries. Followers of Gulen have engaged in hundreds of civil society projects and opened more than 800 schools around the globe. These schools offer a curriculum compatible with the highest local standards. The educational trusts inspired by Gulen have established countless non-profit voluntary organizations, foundations and associations in Turkey and abroad which support many scholarships.
These people are professionals or volunteers working in educational and non-profit organizations. However, they experience spirituality deeply, intensively and centrally in their lives and work. It draws much of its support from young urban men, with special appeal to teachers, academics, and ther professionals. It has grown in part by sponsorin student dormitories, summer camps, colleges, universities, language schools, cultural facilities, interfaith dialog organizations and NGOs. Mr.
Gulen regularly visited and received leading international religious figures including Patriarchs, Rabbis and Pope John Paul II. Until Gulen started meeting with these leaders and representatives, it had been something very unusual for a Muslim to get into dialogue with a Christian or Jew in Turkey. Gulen Network is a unique case of global social innovation based on spirituality in a number of respects. Owing to the principles of diversity, love and dialogue, Gulen enjoys voluntary participation of young people from different backgrounds, ideologies, nations, classes, races and faiths throughout the world. Gulen Network proposes a model of spiritual partnership and networking based on shared passion and idealism, and a multidimensional view of universal common values and spirituality. What makes Gulen unique is that he has successfully persuaded and mobilized many young people around the world to establish educational and civil institutions and put into practice his discourse on global values/spirituality and realize his ideal of raising a “golden generation” and achieving global peace.