Dialogue and distrust: on the predicament of Gulen-inspired organisations in the UK


Date posted: August 19, 2016

FRANCES SLEAP

Dialogue can be hard work. It is an indisputably good idea for there to be meaningful contact between people of different religious, ideological and cultural groups, but to make that happen where it hasn’t yet happened is no mean feat. Between 2010 and 2014 I worked at the Dialogue Society, with people putting a great deal of serious thought, energy, love, trial and error into this challenge. I have happy memories of sitting at our weekly meeting, armed with note pad and cup of tea, and mulling over various dilemmas. Where exactly should we send our Open Mosque Day and Community Fairs DIY manuals? How could we bring more collaboration out of Community Circles with people of different ethnicities? What projects would we assign Dialogue Studies MA students during their placements with us? What should we cover during a volunteer training day and what would we give them for lunch? Was there a way of getting the publication on the Islamic argument for intercultural respect into the hands of prisoners at risk of radicalisation?

The work goes on, but my friends and former colleagues have an alarming new set of challenges to face in addition to all the endless dialogical dilemmas. The Dialogue Society traces its primary inspiration to the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, who has motivated thousands of Turks to initiate education, dialogue and relief projects. (I had never heard of Gulen when I applied to work with the Dialogue Society. I came to think of him as responsible for something of the spirit of the organisation – that idea of having not just a chair for everyone in your heart, but a sofa, because a chair is insufficiently comfortable.) The movement he inspired, often called the ‘Gulen Movement’, although it participants prefer ‘Hizmet’ (‘service’), is the target of Turkish government’s crackdown following the attempted coup. The government accused the Movement of orchestrating that assault on democracy, and has since detained over 10,000 people. Amnesty International has raised grave concerns over reports of torture and rape. It was heartbreaking to hear about Gokhan Acikkollu, a diabetic forty-two year old teacher who died in custody after being denied access to the medical care he needed for six days. Sadly the accusations, division and persecution afflicting Turkey are having an impact here. Last month two people went into the Rumi Mosque in Edmonton shouting abuse and threats, and later five or six cars containing others shouting abused, and raised the Turkish flag outside before driving off. They threatened to burn down the mosque. Individuals have received threatening text messages claiming links to the Turkish authorities. Social media posts have called for boycotts of Hizmet organisations, labelled them traitors and terrorists and invited people to report sympathisers to a Presidency Report Hotline. The Centre for Hizmet Studies is trying to keep records of incidents in Europe since the coup attempt.

These events are really worrying. But I am also saddened that the current situation threatens the trust on which my friends’ work depends. I have seen friends in the Dialogue Society and its small, mainly volunteer-run regional branches pouring their time, talents and passion into the work of intercultural understanding and community building year after year. It must be soul-destroying to see the foundations of your work jeopardized by rumours and baseless accusations. I have discovered one more kind of privilege that I possess and hadn’t noticed – the privilege of being taken at face value. No one ever cast aspersions on my motives in working for a dialogue charity, just as no one ever verbally abused me on my way to work there on the basis of my clothing.

I do not know who is responsible for the coup in Turkey and I do not pretend to have a full overview of the tense and polarized politics of that country. I would be pretty astonished if it had anything whatever to do with an elderly preacher in America who consistently advocates democracy. What I know is what Hizmet people have been up to in the UK, because I spent the majority of my waking hours up to it with them between 2010 and 2014, and have remained a friend and occasional volunteer. I know, too, that the Rumi mosque is a model of openness and proactive intercultural community building. For years it has been hosting regular community breakfasts, steadily bringing in more diverse local people to get to know one another better. I saw its new Executive Director, at a Dialogue Society event earlier this year. Having previously met her while she was teaching I was genuinely excited to see her passion for working with the young people involved in the mosque. I find insinuations that UK Hizmet organisations could be connected with any kind of terrorism simultaneously utterly laughable and really upsetting.

If anyone’s reading this who has been led to believe that all Hizmet participants are coup supporters or worse, please consider the possibility that you have been misled, willfully or not. Please consider what the people you have heard being maligned actually do with their time.

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

Source: HIzmet Studies , Aug 11, 2016


Related News

From al-Qaeda to Amsterdam, from İstanbul to Pennsylvania

I guess a lawsuit that had its first hearing on Tuesday in İstanbul has garnered heightened interest, not just in Turkey, but also in Europe and the US.

Der Spiegel’s recent strange attack on the Hizmet (Gulen) Movement

Ihsan Yilmaz  August 9, 2012 Der Spiegel has published a piece about the Hizmet (Gülen) movement. Unfortunately, the piece does not look like a work of journalism. The wording, selection of so-called experts, and most importantly distortions, misleading points and false information make the piece very problematic. The piece starts with a claim that “Gülen […]

Is the March 30 referendum in danger?

It has become very evident that some businessmen who benefitted illegally in major state tenders acquired independent media, a person very close to Erdoğan was appointed as the editor-in-chief and that this media organ became a mouthpiece of Erdoğan. Independent civil society groups such as the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) and the Hizmet movement are constantly depicted as traitors and the puppets of international dark forces by Erdoğan.

Gülen’s Lawyer Albayrak: Evidence fabricated to lay psychological ground for legal case

The main goal of the black propaganda raised against Gülen is to fabricate evidence for a case against Gülen and members of the Hizmet movement. The ultimate goal, he further argues, is to ensure that the movement is classified as an organized crime syndicate. The black propaganda reports will be used as evidence to substantiate the allegations.

Eid-al-Adha – Neighborhood Generosity

Capping off this weekend’s Eid al-Adha celebration observed by nearly 2 billion people around the world, the Turkish Cultural Center of Queens (TCCQ), a local non-profit, is giving back locally.

Dialogue advocacy group ‘disturbed’ by Erdoğan’s harassment of Hizmet

NEW YORK The Alliance for Shared Values (AFSV), an advocacy body that serves as a voice for organizations affiliated with the Hizmet movement in the US, has said it is “deeply disturbed” by what it called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “politically motivated attempts” to crack down on law-abiding citizens.The group was protesting Erdoğan’s […]

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

‘We won’t stop the witch-hunt’ AKP parliamentary group deputy chair says

Turkey’s purges continue a year after failed coup

Turkey Should Protect All Prisoners from Pandemic

Another AK Party deputy, Muhammed Çetin, resigns in protest

Couple jailed for watching Fethullah Gülen videos at Internet cafe

An Experience of Co-Existence: Panel on the Example of Istanbul and Şanlıurfa

Kimse Yok Mu provides vocational training for Palestinian orphans

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News