Date posted: August 8, 2016
Dr. Paul Parker, Elmhurst College: As I look at the way the government in Turkey today has responded to the Hizmet Movement specifically, I’m disappointed. Frankly, I’m disappointed. And I’m surprised, too. I had not expected it.
What I would like to see is a return to greater democracy. We don’t want to see a country punishing its political dissidence. We want to see a country giving its political dissidence a platform because in democracies when we have disagreements, it makes democracy stronger. But there has to be freedom to disagree without being thrown in jail, without being maligned in the newspaper or on television.
When the Hizmet Movement or Hocaefendi are mentioned specifically by governmentally influenced press in Turkey, it harms Turkey. Yes, it harms Hocaefendi, but not nearly as much as it harms Turkey. Turkey is hurting itself today when it limits political discussion, when it maligns its political adversaries, when it uses political tools and economic tools to harm social services and educational institutions in Turkey. I don’t think this harm will last. I think the harm will pass away. But it’s a shame that it’s going on now.
Dr. Frances Hassencahl, Old Dominion University: As you’re going on the road to democracy, you start to see conspiracies and you also want to blame other people for your shortcomings or the things that you wish may have worked out differently. And, in some respects, I’m seeing this happening… and this has happened in our politics, this happens in other people’s politics too… the kind of scapegoating, blaming, trying to deck responsibility for bad decisions that you’d made…
People have to remember that the Gulen Movement is basically a civil society movement.
Dr. Muhammad Elahee, Quinnipiac University: It is so sad that in Turkey, from where Hizmet Movement originated, that the government is accusing Hizmet Movement of creating problems, of being spies of other countries. It is very unfortunate. There is a saying that, if you do good work you earn true enemies and false friends. And I think that is what happened with Hizmet Movement in Turkey.
Unfortunately, as I was mentioning a few minutes ago, in most Muslim countries we do not find any movement that provides service to the people; that promotes education; that promotes interfaith dialogue; that helps people in distress… Hizmet Movement was filling that gap. But I don’t know why Turkish government is perceiving Hizmet as a threat to their political goals. It is something that is completely inexplicable to me. And I think Turkish government is making a big mistake.
Rabbi Lawrence Seidman, California: It’s easy, apparently, in Turkey to stir up conspiracy theories. People seem to like conspiracy theories.
But I cannot understand how a responsible leader of a country criticizes Hizmet because everything I see are things the country should have.
If I think about the US analogy, if we had more support and better schools, if we had more opportunities for poor people to get out of their slum conditions and go to universities, if we had more opportunities and places to respond to natural disasters, these are all good things…
And I would think a responsible government would support all those things. I think there’s a fear… when we hear that the government of Turkey is expressing negative opinions about these, I can only think that there is not a future of democracy. The drive is to have a less educated electorate, a less sophisticated population, fewer educated people coming from minority groups—from the Kurdish population, from the other minorities—and that’s bad for the country and bad for the world.
So, I hope those things are wrong, and I hope those things stop and we can have a country where everybody can contribute to society in the best way possible.