Society, not community!

Ekrem Dumanli
Ekrem Dumanli

Date posted: February 20, 2012

Considering that the issue of “the Community” has been discussed extensively, I would like to make a humble contribution to this matter. Most of the arguments raised on this matter have been wrong or unfair. Those who raise these arguments have little knowledge of the cultural atmosphere and the emotions of the members of this society. In this case, even people familiar with the issue may be tempted by these false interpretations.

EKREM DUMANLI 19 February 2012, Sunday

It is unfair to call the people who are dedicated to a society (camia) inspired by Fethullah Gülen and who extend material or spiritual support to this society as members of a community (cemaat). Such a description restricts the scope of this society and also ignores the unity of hearts existent in all layers of the society. It is wrong to label these people as a community. They should be considered part of a society. If I am not mistaken, it was Hadi Uluengin from the Hürriyet daily who first used the notion of a society. It was a proper approach. Let me present some of the features of a society and why this type of description should be used for the “Hizmet” society.*

Editor’s note: Dumanli’s original article is in Turkish. If you want to read it in Turkish, please click here.

In his article Ekrem Dumanli is trying to explain two Turkish words, Cemaat and Camia, which are used about Hizmet movement (aka Gulen movement) in Turkey and in Turkish media. Some people or groups call Hizmet movement a cemaat (community), while many intellectuals and social scientist call it a civic society movement. Dumanli prefers to use the word camia (society). Some of those who use the word “community” mean that Hizmet movement is closed to participation from outsiders, not open to new ideas, not pluralist, train single type of individuals and they try to marginalize the movement. Dumanli on the other hand argues that Hizmet movement is a “society” that attracts overall support within a society, open to everybody, respectful to all opinions and supportive of social change and transformation.

1. The Hizmet society, also called a society of volunteers, is not a restricted community that is closed to participation from outsiders. It is Turkish society itself. Unfortunately, those who try to marginalize these volunteers as members of a community constitute a restricted group which better fits this description. A society is a structure that attracts overall support within a society. For this reason, it attracts support from each political group or social entity. A group of people who have maintained dialogue with not only Turkey but also with all cultures in the world and attracted the attention and affinity of all social groups should be called a society because of its embracive and inclusive character rather than a community; and the base of this society is the conscience of the people. Those who remain aloof to this conscience seek the power of the community far away. This is a useless pursuit.

2. The group of people referred to as the Gülen community comprises well educated individuals from all backgrounds in Turkey, including doctors, engineers, military servicemen, journalists, teachers, businessmen, prosecutors and traders. The fact that all these people pay attention to the Hizmet society and care about this society does not make them members of a community; the community or the society does not have any role or influence in their decisions they make in performance of their duties. The area of activity of this Hizmet society that does not follow a command chain reaches out to a vast horizon. There is no procedure of forced membership in this society, and it is not possible to part ways with a letter of resignation. There is no limit to the unity of hearts and there will never be any such limit.

3. A society is open to everybody. It is even possible to say that the active supporters of society will not hesitate to communicate with those who have been hostile to them for years. The society is sincere. It does not resort to dialogue out of opportunistic considerations. It already acknowledges that people may have some constructive criticisms. And the members of a society even hold that they may be responsible for some misunderstandings. They consider the criticisms and review it through common sense. They do not fear of looking at the mirror, and despite enmities, they do not block the channels of communication with others and their opponents. If you treat this group of people, who have extensive sphere of tolerance as a marginal group by calling them a community, society will not think you are credible.

4. A society is respectful for all political groups. The principles and values it promotes include more democracy, greater freedoms and greater transparency. Like a civil society, society stands against all anti-democratic initiatives. This is not an absolute engagement; rather, it is a natural outcome of agreement to guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms. Even when it gets closer to a party, there will be no integration with a certain structure. And for this reason, it attracts the support of people from all political parties (while the number of supporters from each party may vary.

5. The philosophy of the society is to act constructively. Society holds no feeling of anger against others. It does not consider taking any revenge. It respects the law; it is the strongest supporter of democracy. It does not adopt an approach through which it inflicts harm and retaliate. Its opposition is not based on the destructive, separatist and harmful dissidence of the Cold War era. It deserves attention and respect from all circles because of its constructive style and method, saying:  “It would be better if this is done,” or “it would be appropriate to act in this way.”

6. The society is the conscience of social change and transformation. And for this reason, it has been aligned with the social tendencies all the time. The reason that the status quo is not comfortable with it is that the society always sides with change and transformation. However, it believes that the process of change should take place without social upheaval and turmoil. No matter what, instead of radically shaking the established order, it desires natural and reasonable change and transformation. It has civilized relations with all sides involved in that process and it never forgets that the course of events should seek a more participatory and democratic outcome. For this reason, it has many friends and supporters from different circles focusing on different goals. In an attempt to make sure that even this broad alliance does not generate opposition, it underlines social peace and harmony all the time.

7. What has taken society to the current stage are universal values, as well as its sincerity, altruism and dedication. Members of the Hizmet society do not hold any worldly expectations. Those who travel to a remote country for attainment of Hizmet goals, as well as those who serve as the representatives of the society, do not seek to acquire property or material gain. They are not against wealth; and for this reason, the activities of the society attract the attention and support of many traders and businessmen. Despite this attention, members of the society remain indifferent to money, fame or influential positions; for this reason, the society leaves imprints in the hearts of the people. The sincere atmosphere based on the idea that whoever lives for himself cannot live for others has been tested many times; and those who are committed to the Hizmet ideal have passed this test all the time.

8. Another reason that the society’s activities are appreciated so strongly by the masses is that the individuals attached to it, as well as its institutions do not seek material gain and they jealously preserve their independence. Independence is mostly very costly. The pro-guardianship circles that want to see a society representative of large masses not submitting to their demands (this is reflected in the international arena most of the time) would not like this state of independence. And they are even uncomfortable with it. However, reliance on a certain center of power would not only undermine the independence of society but also destroy the alliance of support from outside. A society remains as a society because it does not allow this [to lose its independence] to happen. Those who are uncomfortable with it would offer contradicting arguments and accusations. However, these accusations hit the conscience of society and become meaningless.

9. It is true that a community may train single-type people; however, society does not have this luxury. The growing acceptance of a group of well-educated people by large masses indicates that these people have destroyed the limits of a community and become a society. A society may involve people from different backgrounds and worldviews. The appearance of people with diverse views and backgrounds within a society is attributable to the efforts and activities of that society all around the globe. Without such an embracive and constructive approach, diverse groups of people from different backgrounds cannot appear within a single society.

10. Under no circumstances, does society justify violence. The reason it reaches out to the hearts is that it abstains from retaliation against its enemies. Those who try to negate this reality by conspiracy theories fail to offer a single piece of concrete evidence; instead, they make extreme accusations and allegations. With its peaceful and civilian structure, the society speaks to the hearts of the people. It respects the positions of all; and it does not waiver in its position even in extraordinary situations. These people who are committed to the principle “You shall not hurt others even if you are hurt” leave the matter to Allah if they are persecuted and brutalized (sometimes, such cases have taken place). People of conscience should avoid this type of situation that can trigger a Divine response. Presenting a group of people that are so far from a culture of conflict, respectful of diversity and difference and committed to social harmony and peace as a marginal structure is the outcome of insufficient knowledge, if not a deliberate attitude.

11. The society is strongly and deeply committed to a set of values. It prefers confrontation with its age over involvement and engagement in current events. It relies on analyses and synthesis when stating this preference. Borrowing from Mawlana, it fixes one end of the compass on its resources whereas it travels the world with the other. In other words, from one perspective, it is local; from another, it is universal. Structures that do not compromise their values may sometimes interpret their holy symbols through a restricted framework. In such a case, it may appeal to a small portion of society. In addition, trying to sustain these symbols may turn into a marginal and stronger discourse. However, this society proves that it is dedicated to sustaining its own values and symbols and respecting the symbols and values of others. By so doing, it does not marginalize itself and submit to the policy of isolation pursued by those who see it as an opponent.

In conclusion, the value of the masses is measured by the imprint they leave in hearts and consciences. Fethullah Gülen and those who respect and support his philosophy of service (Hizmet) are carrying out their activities all over the world without expecting anything in return. Referring to a group of people who have attracted a great deal of attention and support within such a broad spectrum of people as a vicious entity because of paranoia entails a historical responsibility. Those who do this deliberately will be embarrassed in the face of history, as well as in the Afterlife. However, the society actually consists of individuals who pray from the heart that such a state of embarrassment will never take place.

Source: Today’s Zaman


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