The Hizmet movement, social democracy, the religious left

Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz


Date posted: December 12, 2015

I have been attending a conference on “Transnational Religious Movements, Dialogue and Economic Development: The Hizmet Movement in Comparative Perspective” at the University of Turin in Italy, organized by Professor Luca Ozzano.

The conference is funded by the University of Turin and the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation and co-sponsored by the “Religion and Politics” standing group of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), the IPSA RC 43 “Religion and Politics” research group and the Istituto Tevere, based in Rome.

The organizers announced that the conference would on the first day focus on “the Hizmet movement, inspired by the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, which is portrayed by many as an example of modern, ‘enlightened’ Islam, oriented towards dialogue and co-operation rather than conflict. In recent years the movement has been the focus of extensive international scholarship — both appreciative and critical — dealing with its founder and his teachings, its schools in Turkey and abroad, its relations with Turkish politics and society and the role of women therein. Although many interesting works exist about its development in countries other than Turkey, so far few coherent efforts have been made to understand its development at the transnational level. This is true particularly in relation to comparative works which can highlight the common points and the differences between the movement and other religious groups, either within Islam or belonging to other religious traditions.”

Several high-quality papers critically looked at the Hizmet movement from different angles and perspectives. The title of my presentation was “Hitchhiking Muslim-Secularist Social Capital and Hijacking it for Counter-Hegemony: AKP, Hizmet and the Abant Platform Case.” I will write about it later but now I want to focus another paper that I found very important: Dr. Fevzi Bilgin, president of the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Rethink, presented a paper titled “The Hizmet Movement and the Religious Left.”

I consider myself a Muslim social democrat and the paper’s topic matters for me personally, too. Here is what I wrote on July 1, 2105: “Islamic values are more in tune with social democracy, compared to right-wing ideologies. It is high time that practicing Muslims revisit their position vis-a-vis social democracy. One does not have to be a Marxist, communist or socialist to be a Muslim social democrat. Social democracy does not have to be monopolized by Marxists and practicing Muslims can also have social democratic claims.” Then I summarized the views of Professor Abdulkadir Yıldırım of Furman University on progressive Muslim religious parties.

I wrote that: Professor Yıldırım “states that progressive Muslim parties and political movements combine a progressive stance on key issues that deal with equality, gender and the environment while drawing inspiration from Muslim values. For some time, I have been stating on TV programs that I am a Muslim social democrat. When I consider my approach to all sorts of social and political issues, I find myself very distant from conservative, right-wing and even center-right ideologies. Because of the stigma that the left has had in the eyes of the practicing Muslims in Turkey for a long time, it is not easy to say that I am a practicing Muslim social democrat. But when we disregard the labels and look at the content, it is easier to see that practicing Muslims should prioritize social democracy.”

Similarly, Dr. Bilgin writes in his draft paper that “[t]he clash between the [Justice and Development Party] AKP and the Hizmet movement since the corruption scandal and the ensuing persecution of Hizmet by the government has accentuated the religious left credentials of Hizmet. In recent years, Hizmet has been able to frame its opposition to the AKP sometimes in religious terms but always in favor of democracy, freedoms, social justice and responsible foreign policy.” Dr. Bilgin concludes his paper by arguing that “[t]he Hizmet movement is unique in the sense that although it is originated from Turkey, it is now a global network that exclusively focuses on religious left values such as dialogue, education and charity. In this respect, it could potentially become an agent of the religious left not only in Turkey but also on a global scale.”

Of course, much thought, debate and discussion must take place on Hizmet vis-a-vis the religious left, progressives and social democrats. Nevertheless, it is nice to see that such an endeavor has already started within Hizmet that is moving away from being a Turkish-made transnational movement to being a global one with universal values.

Source: Today's Zaman , December 11, 2015


Related News

Dogan: Gulen earned sympathy among Alevis

Speaking of Gulen’s “mosques-cemevi project” proposal, Dogan said, “Gulen is an exceptional intellectual who can identify conspiracies against Alevis and Sunnis.” Cem Foundation President Prof. Izzettin Dogan gave noteworthy statements to the daily BUGUN concerning the recent issues ranging from Fethullah Gulen‘s remarks “Let’s not sacrifice all the bridges to build one. Mosques and cemevis should […]

Will Turkish corruption scandal lead to return of military to politics?

The tactics the government has developed to defend itself against the graft investigations and their implications have once again brought the role of the military, military tutelage and potential coup attempts back onto Turkey’s agenda.

Woman says husband abducted after losing job in post-coup crackdown

A recently established Twitter account claims in a series of tweets that Turgut Çapan was abducted in Turkey’s capital of Ankara. While the reason for the alleged abduction is yet to be known, earlier tips submitted to Turkey Purge as well as a number of other media articles reported on several mysterious incidents of abduction involving Gülen followers.

Irvine’s new arrivals — Turkish asylum seekers, after a failed coup and a sadly successful purge

The man, who ran a nonprofit that provided humanitarian aid, doesn’t want to be identified because he fears for the safety of the wife and two children he was forced to leave in Turkey. They are hidden in a different city, he said, not far from his hometown. They’ve thrown away their cellphones and erased their social media accounts for fear of being tracked down by a government that no longer welcomes them.

Turkish charity Kimse Yok Mu delivers aid to Afghani flood victims

Turkish Charity organization Kimse Yok Mu and Turkish Schools in Afghanistan delivered next party of aid consisting of food and other basic requirements for the Afghani families who lost their homes in Friday’s landslide in northeastern Badakshan province.

Turkish Olympiad raises hopes for world peace

İPEK ÜZÜM, İSTANBUL Students who have arrived in Turkey from countries around the world for the 11th International Turkish Olympiad, which is a festival that celebrates the Turkish language and has brought together 2,000 students from 140 different countries this year, are building strong ties and lasting friendships and in turn raising hopes for world […]

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

Coup attempt in Turkey puts Tulsa Turks in difficult position

Discussing identity, multiculturalism and peace-building in Indonesia

WaPo publishes editorial from Fethullah Gulen on the day Erdogan meets Trump

4th Legislative Reception in Richmond

Post-coup Turkey sliding into terror regime: Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk

As it happens:Turkey’s graft investigation and PM Erdoğan’s response

Angela Merkel, Meeting With Erdogan in Turkey, Emphasizes Free Speech

Copyright 2023 Hizmet News