The “Who’s Who” of the Muslim World (Part–1)
Fethullah Gulen, an important thinker and writer from Turkey, is among the most effective activists in twentieth-century Turkey. The Gulen movement is one of the best-connected and, therefore, one of the most powerful networks competing to influence Muslims around the globe.
Fethullah Gülen is a preacher, thinker and educator, who having assumed the leadership of the Nurcu religious movement—started by Said Nursî (1878–1960 CE)—has gone on to become a phenomenon in his own right. His popularity and authority in Turkey have been the driving force of the movement that is widely thought to have brought about the social and, eventually, political, changes of which politician Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been the ultimate heir—that is the enfranchisement of Muslim politics in Turkey. Despite his peaceful means of preaching and community organization, Gülen is viewed with antagonism by the secularist establishment in Turkey and has been living in the US since 1999.
Gulen and his followers have devoted considerable energy in recent years on interreligious dialogue with tens of interfaith centres in Europe and the US being opened to foster better relations between faiths. Gulen is also the head of a series of socially oriented philanthropic efforts. His teaching emphasizes that there are no material shortages in the world, and that there is no justification for starvation. Gulen has established many charities to distribute wealth to the needy.
Catalyst for Educational Change
When Gulen began preaching in Izmir—in his youth—a network of pupils began to unite around his teachings—as a ‘social movement’ inspired by Gulen’s example. This movement has culminated in the development of around 300 schools in Turkey and hundreds more worldwide (including the largest network of Charter Schools in the USA). Graduates from these private schools around the world are coached in ethics and philosophy that are inspired by Gulen’s teachings, and continue to take top honours in university placement tests.
Influence in the Media
The Gulen movement has opened hospitals and charities, a TV and radio station, as well as a bank—Asya Finans—that operates on Islamic principles. Gulen also has two major mass circulation daily Turkish newspapers that are affiliated with his movement: Zaman and the English-language Today’s Zaman. The Gulen network has also initiated a Journalists and Writers Foundation and a Teachers Foundation—providing an umbrella organization for a host of dialogue groups and charitable organizations.
Gulen is one of the most important thinkers and writers from Turkey, and among the most effective activists in twentieth-century Turkey. The Gulen movement is one of the best connected and, therefore, one of the most powerful networks competing to influence Muslims around the globe, making it likely to have an enduring impact on the modernization of Islam and its engagement with Western ideas.
Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven established a ‘Fethullah Gulen Chair’ (for Intellectual Studies). In 2008, Gulen topped the list of ‘The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals’ by the magazines, Foreign Policy and Prospect. He gave a rare interview to The Atlantic in August 2013.
[Source: The Muslim 500, 2013-2014]