Date posted: January 17, 2011
“Ignorance, fear, hatred, and lies beyond reality” seems to be a common pattern of many accusations in our world. The pattern well explains the motif of the statement, “Fethullah Gülen infiltrates the United States through our charter schools.” It seems to me that the only truth of the statement is that it aims to disturb people by using an irritating word as “infiltration.”
First of all, the statement lightly disregards the fact that the charter schools that are referred to are completely public institutions and not to be operated by such a reclusive person as Fethullah Gülen, who declares in an interview that appeared in USA Today that he has no relation with any institution in the form of ownership, board membership, or any similar kind. Calling these charter schools as Gulen charter schools is totally wrong. He maintains: “For many decades, I have expressed my ideas and opinions about social issues facing humanity. Many people have listened to my speeches and read my works. I do not approve that those who are familiar with and share these ideas and opinions to any extent, or the institutions they work at, should be viewed as connected with my person.”
A Texas Monthly article by William Martin, Rice University professor, supports what Fethullah Gülen declares. Martin clearly shows that the relation of Mr. Gülen with a group of U.S. charter schools is a natural one, that is, there are Gülen-inspired educators who legally work there. The reality can also be seen at my personal interview with a group of educators working at public schools in Texas. There a physical educator says that, coming from Turkey, it would be impossible for him not to know about Fethullah Gülen and the social movement he has inspired. The educator assumes that the majority of Turkish nation sympathize or support Fethullah Gülen’s humanitarian ideals.
Fethullah Gülen is well known with his apolitical way of service to society and his stance against proselytizing people to Islam. He defends the idea that religious people should represent their values with their attitudes and let others choose to regard or not those values (Gülen 2004: 38, 115). Professor Scott Appleby, Director of Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, testifies this commonly known fact in his recent article at OpenDemocracy:
Gülen has his critics. His endorsement of robust religious pluralism, reluctance to proselytise publicly, and insistence that his followers build schools not mosques, has led some Islamists to conclude that Gülen preaches an “Islam-less Islam”—a fuzzy ecumenism that refuses to take seriously the supposedly absolutist claims of religion.
Professor Appleby teaches courses in American religious history and comparative religious movements at the University of Notre Dame. He examines the roots of religious violence and the potential of religious peace-building. Appleby also co-chaired the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Task Force on Religion and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy, which released the influential report “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy.” In regard to the accusations of “infiltration,” “Islamization,” etc., Dr. Appleby says, “If a tree is known by its fruits, however, thus far the Gülen people give no evidence of deserving these accusations.” What is more, Dr. Appleby points out to the Gülen-inspired movement as one that the U.S. universities and youth movements, foundations and businesses should engage.