From Islamophobia to ‘Hizmet-phobia’

Ekrem Dumanli is editor in chief of the Zaman daily newspaper in Turkey.
Ekrem Dumanli is editor in chief of the Zaman daily newspaper in Turkey.


Date posted: September 30, 2013

An important person who was praising an intellectual in Northwest Africa said, “I wish we [Turkey] had such scholars with far-reaching foresight.”
He was right, because the intellectual that he mentioned provides an excellent example for others in his works and lifestyle. But he was also wrong in a sense, because we have several scholars who contribute greatly to intellectual life.

Here’s another fact for the person complaining that we don’t have such scholars: The North African scholar in question closely follows developments in Turkey and learns from them. He is even inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen‘s ideas and attitudes and told his close circle that “Gülen’s works contain both knowledge and insight.” This is why he has chaired a conference on the Gülen movement in his country.

Unfortunately, we have failed to notice that the person we are seeking far away is right next to us. We can see him only if we leave our prejudices behind.

In a meeting held in Ankara’s Dedeman hotel İn 1994, Gülen said that “there is no return from democracy.” Gülen’s words were extremely revolutionary for Islamic movements, because at that time making positive comments about democracy was not to an Islamic scholar’s favor.

Similarly, many people were surprised when they read his interview with Nuriye Akman in 2004. When he said, “I hate Osama bin Laden because he has stained Islam’s luminous face,” many people were unaware of bin Laden’s terrorist activities. And in fact, some circles were presenting bin Laden as a hero. There are hundreds of examples of this. The importance of Gülen’s warnings — which were not understood at the time — has come to be accepted.

Nowadays, Gülen is making significant statements. He suggests living a simple life and not caring too much about the goods of this world or lusting for fame. And every individual who has been inspired by his teachings and speeches feels obliged to act more responsibly.

Listening to Cihan Radio, I have been able to figure out an issue that I, like many others, have contemplated for a long time without understanding. In a speech published on herkul.org, a website that frequently broadcasts his messages, he says, “Just as the West suffers from Islamophobia, some circles in Turkey suffer and spread ‘community-phobia.'”

Islamophobia is a new test for humanity.

Some, unfortunately, try to equate Islam, which invites all people to peace and brotherhood, with terrorism, which is a crime against humanity. The mud that is slung leaves a stain. Of course, Muslims have also played a role in shaping this misconception about Islam. The inability of sincere Muslims to develop a proper discourse to address today’s issues puts a great responsibility on our shoulders. Moreover, there are savage and ignorant groups who commit terrorist attacks and bombings and kill people in the name of Islam. Gülen says, “These people tarnish Islam’s prestige.” Is he wrong?

Community-phobia is the new test for Muslims.

We need to note with regret and shame that community-phobia spreads like a deadly virus. When you see that community-phobia is turned into madness through articles, columns, speeches and rumors targeting the Gülen community, you feel sorry and obliged to pray that brotherhood may be nurtured once again. “O God Who transforms all hearts, make my heart steady in Your religion.” Alas! But the carnal soul does not let its selfishness and egoism go.

At this point it would be helpful to explain some important points. Religious communities and orders are social realities in this country, and they derive their power from volunteers. No religious communities or orders fight against the state. The masses praying “May god protect our state” have never received financial support from the state. And they shouldn’t. If this unique structure were damaged, its millennia-old civilian and independent stance would be altered and the ties of love between communities and people would be broken.

The essence of all communities is human, and they welcome and should welcome all people regardless of their political and social background. If this unique unity is reduced to a political movement, its deep-rooted tradition will be damaged. The test some “Islamist columnists” face regarding the state is very hard. Those who shouted the slogan “the secular state will collapse eventually” consider themselves the representatives of the state. Shame on you! Shame on you!

The state is neither a devil nor a god! Just as demonizing the state was wrong in the past, so is worshiping the state. The state is noting but a tool to ensure the individual’s security, dispense justice and provide services to its citizens in an equal manner. Since the state provides services to the people, it is endowed with the authority to collect taxes. Columnists who sanctify the state and declare themselves “the real owners of the state” and present this attitude as Islamism are standing in the wrong place; thus, they do not understand religious communities and orders. They are fighting with their reflection in the mirror and hurting themselves.

We should know the value of scholars who work day and night to train good, devout people. Those who watered each seed with their tears would tolerate and forget the injustices done to them, but after a point the issue becomes not the rights of others but the right of Him. And without a doubt, He is the real owner of everything.

Source: Today's Zaman , September 29, 2013


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