Gulen Movement: Is it a reasonable fear?

The Gulen MovementSome individuals in Turkey and other countries of the world fear that Gulen Movement is some kind of malicious organization. Some portrait it as a sort of clandestine radical organization which utilizes religious values to achieve political goals. Others, mostly in Turkey, see it as a group of radical people focusing only on political Islam and wanting to overthrow democracy and establish Islamic political system. There are even people who think that it has links with terrorist groups.  Are these fears reasonable?

First of all, let us focus on what constitutes the goals and of ideas of Gulen Movement.  The movement, which is based on ideas of Fethullah Gulen, aims to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue, democracy, peace, tolerance, human rights and education. In general, the official pillars of the Gulen movement have very positive and constructive nature which runs contrary to the abovementioned fears. Moreover, the movement has a high degree of transparency since thousands of books and journal articles have been published in order to explain the aims and actions of the Gulen Movement.The fact that Fethullah Gulen‘s ideas are open and even widely discussed on academic level throughout the world contradicts to the fear that the movement is a sort of secret network with a malicious hidden agenda. Gulen Movement even established some academic institutions such as the Gulen Institute which is engaged in explaining and presenting the ideas and aims of the movement. This points at the very high degree of the movement’s transparency and desire to exchange knowledge.

As you can understand from above, the theoretical framework of Gulen Movement has a positive and constructive nature. But is there any inconsistency between the theory and its practical implementation? The movement shows its activity in many spheres such as education, humanitarian assistance, interreligious dialogue, intercultural exchange and many others. In all spheres where Gulen Movement is active, it has earned appreciation and trust from people. Throughout several decades of its activity in Turkey and later in many other countries, there were no recorded evidences, criminal charges and other factors proving any kind of relationship of Gulen Movement with radical terrorist groups. On the contrary, the movement openly and severely condemns any kind of terrorist activity.

What about the radical label? Of course the degree of somebody’s being radical is mostly based on the one’s subjective perception and interpretation of such concept. Yet conventional wisdom could describe a religious radical as a person who is extremely conservative regarding his belief, reluctant towards dialogue and who will not hesitate to use extreme methods, including violence, to act on behalf of his or her religion.  Looking to the merits of the Gulen Movement such as improving dialogue; fostering cooperation and mutual understanding; promoting peace, tolerance and mutual respect – I leave it to your consideration whether it fits in your description of radicalism.

In many cases, however, most of critical opinions targeting Gulen Movement are not based on its real activities and values; rather, they are creating imaginary scenarios by asking question “what if?” However, these “critical” opinions don’t give any constructive alternatives or useful suggestion on how to provide better service to society. Moreover, they segregate the society by creating negative stereotypes and injecting baseless fears through imaginary scenarios. Paradoxically, what these people fear (for example, radicalism, terrorism, social injustice) are the same things that Gulen Movement opposes. Therefore, to eliminate these fears, cooperation would be much more fruitful approach.