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Bilici, m - Context, Identity and Representational Politics of Fethullah Gulen Movement in Turkey

Bilici, m - Context, Identity and Representational Politics of Fethullah Gulen Movement in Turkey

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Published by gamirov
Conference Paper about Gulen Movement
Conference Paper about Gulen Movement

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Published by: gamirov on Jul 14, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Georgetown University Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and Rumi

April 26-27, 2001
Georgetown University
Salaam Conference Center
7th Floor, Bunn Intercultural Center (ICC)

Mucahit Bilici

This paper is a critical examination of the Islamic movement led by Fethullah Gulen and aims at exploring its politics of representation in the Turkish politico-cultural setting which is under the influence of Orientalism and shaped by Kemalist cultural self-colonization. The paper focuses on \u201cThe Journalists\u2019 and Writers\u2019 Foundation (JWF)\u201d of the movement in order to investigate the ways in which Fethullah Gulen community constructs and manages its public image and the extent to which it forms a counter- hegemonic movement. Fethullah Gulen movement is a social movement that challenges two hegemonic constructions. It not only challenges the hegemony of \u201cessentialist\u201d Orientalist discourse produced at the global level but also it is an alter-native modernity to the Kemalist modernity which is a derivative discourse of Orientalist reading of Muslim self produced at the level of Turkish national identity.

Forging Identity: From \u201cClash of Civilizations\u201d to \u201cInterreligious
Since the time when Samuel Huntington\u2019s influential and provocative

article on \u201cClash of Civilizations\u201d1 appeared, the academic world has been discussing the controversial ideas introduced by Huntington. Yet, the question whether post-cold war landscape of world is going to be shaped by an intercivilizational conflict attracted a popular interest not only from intellectual or academic circles but also from the social groups identified as insiders of Huntington\u2019s antagonistic civilizational categories. Especially social movements who have invested their identity within the framework of globalization and politics of recognition developed arguments for and against Huntington\u2019s thesis of intercivilizational conflict. Despite some radical Islamist groups who enthusiastically welcomed what Huntington was suggesting, one year after Huntington triggered the debate, though not exclusively for this purpose but very much encouraged by it, a religio-social movement led by Fethullah Gulen in Turkey has launched a civil societal foundation which designed to challenge the discourse of conflict and to introduce the idea of \u201cdialogue and tolerance\u201d not only to Turkish socio-political agenda but also to a global audience. After long years of community building and as the leader of a large Nurcu community Fethullah Gulen was gaining visibility on media as the honorary president of \u201cThe Journalists\u2019 and Writers\u2019 Foundation.\u201d The launch meeting of the foundation took place in a hotel in Istanbul on June 29, 1994, with participation from a diversity of public figures and celebrities ranging from former ministers to journalists and artists. The occasion which gained a large media coverage was later expressed in a publication of the foundation with following statements:

\u201cWhile the communication facilities rapidly increased on one hand, some tried to flame up conflicts on the claim of \u2018The Conflict of Civilizations\u2019. They exploited our richness of varieties as conflicting

1 Samuel P. Huntington, Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York:
Touchstone, 1997). The article upon which the book is based initially appeared inForeign
Affairs in 1993.

factors. We stopped applauding the beauties and the just. Then The Journalists\u2019 and Writers\u2019 Foundation made its launch at a meeting embracing the social diversities. The echo of the message calling for tolerance and dialogue was greater than expected. Our true will is the

continuity of this positive start...\u201d2

Having made a positive start the foundation continued to organize meetings to which a large spectrum of elite people coming from different political, idelogical and confessional backgrounds participated. What was stressed in this meetings has been summarized in the foundation\u2019s mission statement:

\u201cThe modern world will be shaped by systems and approaches which cherish universal values which consider affection, tolerance, understanding and unification as basics; which consider Man as a universe and cherish Him accordingly; which see life only as a race of merits; which prefer to overcome all hostilities, hatred and wrath by friendship, tolerance and reconciliation; which undertake the mission of delivering culture and knowledge for the benefit of humanity; which can create a balance between the individual and the society without sacrificing one for the other; which have a great vision without falling into the trap of utopias and without leaving realities aside; which believe in the merit of keeping determinant factors such as religion, language, race free from any compulsory pressure; and which evaluate superiority as a sublimation to human merit. Where should our place be among those?

Our\u2019s is only a modest contribution but the peace of our hearts and
conscience depend on it\u2026\u201d \u2013The Journalists\u2019 and Writers\u2019 Foundation3
At a period when debates on fundamentalism and radical Islamism
were dominating the public agenda, The Journalists\u2019 and Writers\u2019 Foundation
2 See handbook of information and organizational chart published by the foundation,
(Istanbul: Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakf\u0131 Yay\u0131n\u0131, 1997) p.22
3 Handbook, ibid, p.2

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