Hizmet, Gaza and the 14-year-old boy

Date posted: August 4, 2014


I cannot say, “I feel,” as feeling is required, but neither can I deny my God-given nature of being deeply moved by the suffering, injustice and pain of others. Years ago there used to be a rickety “Islamic” video store opposite Turnpike Lane mosque on Whiteman Road, North London. I would go there from time to time to browse the VHS videos on sale. Interestingly, the store also allowed for people to watch videos, with no obligation to purchase thereafter, at the back end of the store divided by thick curtains.

I will never forget the footage I watched showing the grim and ghastly images from the Bosnia war: burning flesh, destitute women, dead children… Islam makes a demand on people. It asks, “Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tried?” (Qur’an, 29:2), reminding us of the universal responsibility that ensues from being human – a trust from which the “the heavens, earth and mountains” shrank with fear when offered (Qur’an, 33:72). The Bosnia war helped project that message by making a demand on all of us, by asking, “What are you doing as this tragedy unfolds?” Some responded to that call by joining reactionary or even violent extremist groups to vent their anger and rage.

In my case, as a 14-year-old from North London, my response was to pledge my life to something greater than myself, my whims or my personal priorities. It took me a few years to find the most appropriate channel through which to do so. A few groups and many books later I eventually connected with the teachings of Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet movement he inspires. While my initial emotional response to the Bosnia war was not dissimilar to those who went down a reactionary, revolutionary and rejectionist approach, the method and channel I chose through which to achieve ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ in my life could not have been more dissimilar. My contribution began in the form of organising religious circles (sohbets), mentoring and tutoring, managing hostels and – many years and various roles later – heading the London-based Dialogue Society.

None of my own Hizmet work was or is directly related to ending wars or relieving resultant human suffering. Rather, it has been focused around education, empowerment, dialogue and community relations. That said, my passion, commitment and drive to do the Hizmet work I do originates, in part, from the urge to relieve human suffering caused by humans. What is more, the connection is not historic but active; I believe, rightly or wrongly, that the collective goodwill and social capital that ensues from the type of charitable work that I and many millions do, be it through Hizmet or otherwise, has the potential to address and resolve some of the most intractable problems playing out in the world today. In fact, the very nature of intractable problems often requires a more comprehensive, holistic and collective approach and will, rather than knee-jerk and shortsighted reactions.

My response to the Bosnia war suffering was Hizmet. Hizmet teaches that I am responsible for everything unless I do something; something for which I am best suited and most needed. My something was not to go to Bosnia and die for Islam but to remain in London and live for and by Islam by serving others. When I see human suffering today (and suffering has no religion, ethnicity or culture), it makes a claim on me. It asks, “Ozcan, what are you doing?” Each time, my response is Hizmet. I am most genuine in this. You may judge it to be naïve (or even hypocritical), but you cannot judge it to be untrue. If that internal response to the demand made on me by human suffering ever changes, then so shall the external manifestation of how I seek to respond to that demand and honour my boyhood pledge.

I have gone to some length to explain what Hizmet means for me because in recent days there is a human tragedy unfolding in Gaza as well as other places. Alongside this, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has initiated stage two of his war against Hizmet in Turkey – to frame, prosecute and criminalize it in order to justify his draconian measures to unlawfully disrupt and prevent judicial investigations into government corruption. I have written and tweeted about the latter much more than the former. That is not because Hizmet’s suffering and persecution is in the least bit comparable to the loss of innocent lives around the world. But because, an effort to frame and criminalize Hizmet in Turkey has a negative impact on my work in the UK as it does on Hizmet all over the world. And as explained above, for me Hizmet embodies a meaning, a response far greater than its immediate local impact.

In speaking up for Hizmet against clear and open aggression, I am defending more than myself, my group or my work; I am defending my longstanding response to the question, “Ozcan, what are you doing!” bellowing out from the depths of human suffering around the world; I am defending that 14-year-old boy’s pledge not to remain silent, not to forget, not to restrict his response to seasonal protest but to do something meaningful, long-lasting and constructive. Put differently and more succinctly, by speaking up for Hizmet against this relentless persecution I am in fact speaking up for my response to human suffering around the world regardless of the cause of suffering or the background of the sufferer. If you have a similar cause upon which you have sincerely based such meaning and purpose, then so too speak up for it when required, not for its own sake but for the sake of what it means for you and humanity. If no one else, I will understand.

*Özcan Keleş is a barrister based in the UK.

Source: Today's Zaman , August 04, 2014

Related News

Erdogan’s purges reach heart of Europe as Gulenists in Germany say they are being spied on

With its leafy playing fields and historic buildings on the site of a former British army barracks, the Wilhelmsdtadt School in the Berlin suburb of Spandau could easily be mistaken for a English boarding school.

Kimse Yok Mu providing assistance to Ebola victims in Guinea

Turkish aid organization Kimse Yok Mu has been supplying medical aid to Guinea since March, when the lethal Ebola virus struck the West African country, claiming 122 lives to date.

Erdoğan, Hizmet, assassins

Former Interior Minister Idris Naim Şahin stated that “the government is run by a small oligarchic elite in a way that excludes broad segments of the party constituency and the Turkish people” is very explanatory vis-à-vis Mr. Erdoğan’s shockingly undemocratic and increasingly authoritarian performance over the last two years, since he received 50 per cent of the vote in the 2011 general elections.

[Cafe Capital] Excessive attempts to manipulate people’s perceptions to backfire

The tension caused by a Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) bill that is designed to restructure the HSYJ, the witch-hunts against police officers, teachers and other public employees who have been profiled as members of the Hizmet community (Gülen movement) and the victimization of tens of thousands of people have created unease among the general public. People started reacting negatively to the accusations and slander, which went far beyond the limits of criticism against the Hizmet community, and started saying: “This is too much!

European court says Turkey’s Ergenekon arrests legal

EMRE DEMİR, STRASBOURG Europe’s top court has said the arrest of chief Ergenekon defendant Tuncay Özkan is legal, rejecting the plaintiff’s complaint that he was deprived of his right to a fair trial. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) accepted Özkan v. Turkey despite the fact that Özkan had not exhausted all domestic judicial […]

Does the Gülen movement securitize the Kurdish question?

Turkey’s highly polarized political climate is flooded with conspiracy theories on any given topic. Hence, facts are often lost amid speculations. Recently, a frequent target not only in Turkey but also the West has been the Gülen (Hizmet) movement. Ali Halit Aslan, Friday March 2, 2012 One of the most repeated speculations nowadays is that […]

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Turkey needs a new constitution to save its democracy

Erdogan advisor likens Turkey purge to Aborigine, Native American, Armenian cases

Fethullah Gulen, the man rushing to put out the fire

Saudi Scholar al-Qarni: Gulen serves with wisdom

Shutting down prep schools against free enterprise, analysts say

Condemnation and condolence message on occasion of the terror attack against a school bus in Mogadishu, Somalia

Kimse Yok Mu extends helping hand to Kyrgyz orphans

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News