Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar and peace activist, commented on an ever-growing systematic defamation campaign against him and the movement he inspires in a video podcast uploaded on Herkul.org last Monday. Gülen, currently living a semi-reclusive life in Pennsylvania, United States, is credited for inspiring a transnational, loosely connected, non-hierarchical group of people to engage in nondenominational education and intercultural dialogue around the world. Inspired by faith, yet geared towards serving all people regardless of faith, the movement upholds democracy, human rights and the separation of mosque and state.
At a time when you would imagine that the world would appreciate Gülen’s lifelong work of inclusiveness and dialogue, it is hard to believe the relentless character assassination under way against him and the movement. In Turkey and increasingly abroad, Gülen is being misrepresented as the mastermind of all evil and sedition. “They are everywhere”; “they have infiltrated everything” are the oft repeated claims –reminiscent of accusations made against the pre-Holocaust Jewish community- usually uttered in hushed tone for added effect. From mainstream media to marginal blogosphere, Gülen and the movement are being systematically demonised.
In his aforementioned talk, Gülen commented on what I call “Gülenophobia”. He explained that the size and scale of the machinery in place to oppress and misrepresent the movement is commensurate to the activities of the movement. He states that against such ruthless attacks “we can try to explain, correct and refute. If they insist, at the very most we can sue in a court of law to expose their lies.” And this, not for himself, but only for the sake of protecting the right of those whose names and efforts are blemished through these accusations. Even in this, Gülen is encouraging a selfless form of self-defence.
He quickly adds those inspired by him should never respond in kind to the attacks against them, or even harbour any degree of hatred or animosity against those who clearly hold such feelings towards him and the movement. In the past he has said “hate hatred, love love”. Today he says, “the more successful you become the more some will hate you. Your love for them must grow as does their hate for you”.
As you watch Gülen speak softly about what is a very serious issue, you get the sense that he is trying to keep a very fine and fragile balance. On the one hand, speaking up in defence of the work and effort of the countless volunteers across the globe; on the other, maintaining and encouraging the same spirit of love and acceptance throughout such difficult times. And then comes a caution to the movement: “If some react to your activities in the way that they do, if they question and attack that which you think good and sincere, then perhaps this is because you have taken some, albeit very small, credit for that which you have achieved instead of attributing all good to Him.”
Why there is such a smear campaign is the topic of another article. For now, let me end by saying that many are now aware of the good work and efforts of Gülen and the movement through personal experience and research. “You shall know them by their fruits” is a test against which no level of smear can stand. Those who have come to know and study the movement for themselves will know that Gülen is far too humble for the purposes of defending his name. It is not my place to say but only those from outside the movement can speak most effectively and convincingly about Gülen and the movement. Let us see if they have anything to say.
This article first appeared in Weekly Zaman, 12th May 2011.