SEASON OF PEACE: Moderate Islam has a voice if you listen

Gülen movement is an Islamic-inspired civic movement that is neither political nor religious per se
Gülen movement is an Islamic-inspired civic movement that is neither political nor religious per se


Date posted: September 21, 2015

HELEN ROSE EBAUGH

On 9/11, I dismissed my usual 8:30 a.m. Sociology of World Religions class to accompany the students to the student center to watch the historic events on CNN. But before we left, I told them that it may well be a Muslim terrorist group that was responsible, but I reminded them that, even if it turned out to be true, to remember that it did not mean all Muslims are terrorists. We had three veiled women among the 30 students in the class and I did not want them, as well as other peaceful Muslims, ostracized because of the evil acts of a few individuals who might call themselves Muslim. We saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

Unfortunately, this event introduced Islam to many Americans who knew very little about the religion before that fateful day and lead to enormous Islamophobia in our country in the days and weeks following. By Thursday’s class, the three veiled women had visits from the FBI either in their immediate or extended families. Within weeks, several mosques had been burned and a number of Muslims had been killed by those who put all Muslims in the terrorist camp and blamed them for the actions of 19 crazed individuals who identified as Muslim.

I was puzzled by the fact that I was not hearing the voice of moderate Muslim scholars and public figures condemning the terrorist acts, in contrast to all the anti-Muslim sentiments that were voiced on television and in the news media. Where were the so-called moderate voices of Muslims who supposedly represented the bulk of Muslims in our country and around the world? Then on Sept. 21, I opened The Wall Street Journal and saw an editorial strongly condemning the attacks and arguing that the terrorists could not be true Muslims because Mohammed condemns violence and promotes peaceful coexistence among all peoples. It was signed, “M. Fethullah Gulen, scholar and imam.” His name stuck in my mind as one of the few moderate Muslim voices in the media.

Within a few years, we admitted several graduate students into our sociology department at the University of Houston who identified with the Gulen Movement. Advising them on papers and eventually master’s theses that analyzed the movement from a sociological perspective, I came to know more about the movement and the people in it and to learn that it represents a strong contrast to the so-called Muslim terrorist groups. It is a moderate Islamic movement dedicated to peaceful coexistence, dialogue, education and providing social services to the needy.

The movement started in Turkey in the 1970s when a preacher, Fetullah Gulen, began preaching from street corners, mosques, coffee shops and anywhere people would listen the importance of tolerance, respect, interfaith dialogue and creating bridges between peoples of the world. He insisted on the necessity of creating scientific and technological advances in the Muslim world, achieved by means of education. He preached that education was essential to bringing Turkey into the modern world and that Turkey needed not more mosques but quality schools that would focus on science, math, human values and technological innovation for its youth. Groups of wealthy businessmen became interested in his ideas and eventually provided the funds to begin tutoring centers, summer camps and finally private schools throughout Turkey. These schools have multiplied and are regarded among the best schools not only in Turkey but throughout the world as they have spread from Turkey to about 180 countries across the world, on every continent. There are 43 of these Gulen-inspired schools within Texas with about 28,000 students and a waiting list of over 30,000. They are known for their emphasis upon science and math and have state-of-the-art technology as well as dedicated teachers who often work overtime and spend time visiting the students’ homes and working with parents on their children’s educations

Interfaith dialogue is another hallmark of the movement. In Houston, the Gulen Movement is one of two or three active players in bringing people together from different faith traditions and providing opportunities for dialogue and interaction. In addition, the group is dedicated to social outreach to those in need. The film that we will show in San Angelo on Sept. 19 at San Angelo State University, LOVE IS A VERB, depicts the social service activities of members of the movement in various countries in the world, including Bosnia, Iraq and Somalia. Not only do members in the group preach social action, they put it into action in dramatic ways, hence the title indicating that their preaching of love is rooted in action.

In addition to researching the movement in Turkey and writing the first book on the movement for a Western audience, I had the opportunity of working with the film director, Tracy Spencer, a three-time Emmy-award winner, in being interviewed and also in helping to edit the film. The film has won a number of awards at international film festivals and is being acclaimed both in the United States and other countries for presenting another side of Islam to the world, one which opposes terrorism and emphasizes peace, dialogue and joining together for the betterment of humanity.


Helen Rose Ebaugh is a Professor Emeritus for the University of Houston’s department of sociology. She is an author and lecturer on world religions and the moderate voice of Muslims. For the past 20 years, she has been involved in interfaith work in Houston and internationally.

Source: Standard-Times , Sepember 19, 2015


Related News

Turkish Imam: Enjoy the properties of Gulen Movement as ‘spoils’

One of famous imams of Ismailaga Group of Nakshbendi Tarikah, Metin Balkanlioglu made a speech at a “Democracy Rally” against coups in July 22, 2916 in Istanbul. He told the crowd to enjoy properties of Gulen Movement as spoils.

Former football star, İstanbul deputy says he is subject to hate crime

AK Party government used the Hizmet movement, its human resources, intellectual muscle and power in the international arena and at home until it became stronger [than the movement].

Cuba wins Kimse Yok Mu cartoon competition

Aristides Esteban Hernandez Guerrero from Cuba has won the international cartoon competition titled “Refugees,” which was organized by the Turkish charity organization Kimse Yok Mu.

Avni: New plot under way to blame Gülen movement for PKK attacks

A whistleblower who tweets under the pseudonym Fuat Avni has claimed that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his accomplices have devised a new plot against the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, in which they will place blame for the recent increasing violence across Turkey on the movement.

Rumi Fellowship Program 2016

Rumi Forum is inviting eligible individuals on a study fellowship that incorporates trips to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand and Cambodia with the mission of exploring social, economic, cultural, security and political issues in these countries and their wider regions in 2016.

Prosecutors conducting ‘terror’ probe of prominent Turkish charity

A statement recently sent to the charity organization Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There) by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has revealed that the prosecutor’s office has been conducting an investigation against the charity on the charges of “terrorism.”

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

French editor says Gülen’s messages on anti-terrorism revolutionary

Kosovo President: Arrest of Gulenists was wrong

‘Hizmet’s solution against radicalism should be announced to world’

Terrorist investigation against Kimse Yok Mu draws strong reactions

Municipality illegally demolishes building in İstanbul

Hizmet really has expanded my understanding of what it means to be human.

Headlines or weapons of mass destruction?

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News