It is necessary to agree on definitions first before studying the Gülen movement
Such a consensus will place the discussion on a more appropriate and objective foundation. A lexicon agreement of such kind is required first and foremost because of the recent claims and accusations—which are perhaps true, perhaps false, or perhaps half true, half false—laid against this very movement.
Here is what I am trying to say:
Do the large masses united around the spiritual and intellectual personality of the opinion leader residing in Pennsylvania feature a “religious” community, (cemaat) the buzzword frequently used? Or is “social community” (camia) a better fit? I believe the latter one is more accurate, and let me share my reasons.
As well-known, both words are derived from the verb “ijma,” which means to come together. I don’t know its evolution in Arabic, but in Turkish “cemaat” and “camia” have assumed different meanings over the course of time, although they come from the same root.
With the former one, we usually refer to the worshippers who place their foreheads on the ground in a mosque, who collectively listen to the Friday sermon, or those who attest their good will for the deceased at funeral.
Occasionally, we may use the same word (cemaat) in nonreligious context and figuratively. For instance, we call “cemaat” those minor and fanatical groups which have taken allegiance to an unqualified leader of a marginal communist fraction. We first draw boundaries in time and space when we use “cemaat.” Then we imply the existence of rules. And finally we narrow down the numbers and the circle. Nonetheless, we have a largely different definition for “camia.”
This is how it is. “Camia” as a word does not necessarily have a heavenly reference. Compared to “cemaat” it contains pluralism in quantities and multiplicity in diversity. We may address a group of workers in a small workshop as “workshop cemaat.” But we call “union community” (camia) those overarching organizations that unite larger proletarian groups. A better translation of the commonwealth of former English colonies or the federative description of Russia would be “camia.”
As numbers start growing and body enlarges, rigid and central rules that are peculiar to small communities (cemaat) become more flexible and decentralized, inevitably.
That is, after quantity reaches a certain amount, the difference of quality certainly imposes itself, and this is the point where we should start speaking of “camia.”
It is true that members of a “camia” also gather around the same denominator.
But when we refer to the community of a certain sports club or “camia of ecologists,” partnership in such communities is only limited to being a fan of a club or an environmentalist movement. Those who support the same club never vote for the same political party. Ecologists protest the same fish massacre, but some of them are deists, while others may be religious.
Then, larger masses of millions whose common denominator is to “spiritually” adopt Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi’s “spiritual” leadership, or perhaps only to sympathize with his peacemaking and reconciliatory discourse, cannot be identified as “cemaat” (religious community or brotherhood) today.
Gülen movement can only be referred to as a large camia, or social community, for with their virtues as well as weaknesses, they reflect all the social and organic features of one.
It is important to pin on this heterogeneous nature, i.e., to accept the fact that a religious, political, military, or cultural community (camia) that is free from differences, centrifugal elements, or nonconformist components, is simply not possible.
Next week, I will weigh how true or false the above-mentioned claims and accusations are.
*Hadi Uluengin is a columnist for Turkish Hürriyet newspaper. This article first appeared in Hürriyet.