Date posted: January 30, 2014
There is an ongoing discussion in the Hizmet-government row: “We thought the Hizmet movement was a religious movement. However, recent discussions and Fethullah Gülen‘s statements and interviews reveal that it is actually a political movement.”
This approach is, however, biased. First, it is not right to view the Hizmet movement as a purely religious movement. And secondly, it is also not proper to assume that politics is something only political parties can do.
True, the main reference of this movement is Islam. And yes, it is the grace and will of Allah which mobilizes and motivates its people. The Hizmet movement is a movement in which the people return to their origins and their spiritual resources. It is an attempt by which people agree on universal human values including love, dialogue, tolerance and reconciliation to attain peace.
And by this definition, the Hizmet movement is considered a civil society organization, an indispensable element in democratic societies. In democracies, elections truly matter. The will of voters is indisputably important. However, there is also another power, called public opinion. They influence the parties and administrations. Drafting and implementing policies against the will of the public is compared to swimming against the current. Civil society organizations play a role and function that consolidates and reinforces democracy by voicing their views, ideas and reactions within the boundaries of the law. Catholic civil society organization in Spain, Italy and Germany and Protestant organizations in the US are important interest groups in a democratic system. Religious and secular interest and pressure groups are not unusual in these countries. The only criterion in their activities is whether or not they take orders outside the state mechanism and apparatus.
In this sense, the Hizmet movement has always been involved in politics as a civil society organization. Gülen, who is on the board of trustees of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) and serves as the honorary chair of this foundation, made the following statement during the opening of the GYV in 1994, “There is no way back from democracy in Turkey and in the world.” This is not a religious discourse. On the contrary, it is a view voiced by an opinion leader who properly reads the world and Turkey and sees that Muslims would have no problem with democratic standards.
The GYV holds social and political, and not religious, activities. For instance, the Abant Platform has held 30 meetings so far. The main themes of these meetings include: Islam and Secularism; Culture, Identity and Religion in Turkey’s EU Accession Process; Turkey-France Discussions: Republic, Cultural Pluralism and Europe; Global Politics and the Future of the Middle East; New Constitution; The Kurdish Problem: Seeking Peace and a Future Together (the second was held in Arbil); Democratization: Political Parties from Sept. 12 to the European Union; Democracy and Tutelage; and Alevis and Sunnis: Searching for Peace and a Future Together.
And the Turkish schools active in 160 different countries in the world have attracted the attention of people from diverse backgrounds. None of these schools are religious. All comply with the laws and regulations of the country where they are active. Their common goal is to raise good and peaceful generations. And in the meantime, they also want to make the Turkish language a global means of communication.
For this reason, the negative propaganda suggests that the Hizmet movement is actually a political movement despite the fact that it has been argued that it was a religious movement. The subject of my next column will be whether or not the Hizmet movement should establish a political party.
Source: Todays Zaman , January 30, 2014