Fuller on the Gulen Movement
Released on 2013-11-15 00:00 GMT
Fuller on the Gulen Movement
Graham E. Fuller on the Gulen Movement
Source: The New Turkish Republic, Turkey as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World
Despite the radical break of the Turkish State from its historical and religious ties, Turkish Turkey has produced two political Islam currents: AKP and Gulen movement.
Gulen Movement stems from the Nur Movement, which itself emerged from political and social turmoil in the last century of the Ottoman Empire. The founder of the Nur Movement, Said-i Nursi is a prominent Islamist intellectual whose ideas are not only important for Turkish Islamism but also for Muslims in other countries to help them in order to understand twentieth century.
Gulen movement is more moderate and influential than any other Islamic movement in Turkey. The Gulen movement has the largest and most powerful infrastructure and financial resources of any movement in the country.
The Gulen movement is characterized by its particular fusing of Islam with a sense of nation. Unlike most other Islamic movements, it has been highly accommodationist toward the state, even when repressed by it, and it is supportive of the broad goals of Turkish foreign policy. The movement is decentralized and communitarian in focus.
The Gulen movement offers a modernist understanding of the world even while emphasizing the centrality of Islamic belief to traditional community values. It seeks to build a community of educated and prosperous believers who actively engaged in worldly life – making it almost Calvinist in character.
Education is probably to most important part of the Gulen movement. The schools are popular because of their quality of education. Drawn mostly from within the Gulen community, the closely monitored instructors teach Islam in accordance with the Islamic studies directives if the Turkish State education curricula.
The movement opposes to political parties that mixes religion and politics which will end up with damaging the position of the religion within society. Followers of Gulen are comfortable with living within the secular system, as long as the system does not suppress the piteous citizens. Is Gulen movement totally apolitical? It is hard to argue that such an influential organization does not aim at transforming the society through transforming the individual but the means that are wielded cannot be defined as political instruments.
The Gulen movement consciously acts within the context of Turkish society and not as part of a pan-Islamic movement. It views the Turkish nationalism as compatible with the values of the movement as long as the state operates within the framework of tolerance and intellectual and religious freedom.
F. Gulen constantly refers to Ottoman Empire and role of Turks in spreading Islam. There is such a thing as Turkish expression of Islam. This is related to the development of Islam in Turkish geopolitics. Since Turkish Islam has never been under an imperial order of Europe (unlike other Muslim Countries), Islam had the possibility to freely express itself, until Kemalist era. Its development within the multi-ethnic and multireligious Ottoman context has made it more tolerant and open to other religions as well as to other Islamic schools of thought. The Gulen vision of the Turkish experience represents a belief in the compatibility of the state, faith and modernity. While the Gulen movement itself is unhappy with the discrimination that it suffers from the antireligious secularists within the state, the movement in principle fully accepts the legitimacy of the Turkish state and only seeks to develop greater religious freedom within it.
Gulen & AKP
The Gulen movement was long at odds event with Turkey’s Islamist political parties, particularly with the succession of Erbakan parties and even initially with AKP. Gulen sees danger itself when Islamists engage in politics.
Since AKP came to power, however, and its adoption of a highly moderate, pragmatic and productive political platform, the Gulen movement greatly reduced criticism of it. The relations between the two are much better. Many members of the Gulen community have now joined AKP, not as an alternative to the Gulen movement but as a political complement to it.
The Islamists represent the most creative intellectual force in the country on conceptual questions. While Turkey will almost certainly remain a ‘secular’ state, the meaning of secularism within Turkey is already evolving and the country is slowly developing a new and more comfortable relationship with its own Ottoman past and cultural and religious traditions. The joint phenomena of AKP and the Gulen movement are emblematic of this fact and demonstrate the emergence of a creative and vibrant Islmaist community within Turkey.