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Georgetown University Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and Rumi Forum April 26-27, 2001 Georgetown University Salaam Conference Center 7th Floor, Bunn Intercultural Center (ICC)
CONTEXT, IDENTITY AND REPRESENTATIONAL POLITICS OF FETHULLAH GULEN MOVEMENT IN TURKEY
Introduction 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 “The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation (JWF)” 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 counterhegemonic movement. Fethullah Gulen movement is a social movement that challenges two hegemonic constructions. It not only challenges the hegemony of “essentialist” 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 “Clash of Civilizations” to “Interreligious Dialogue” Since the time when Samuel Huntington’s influential and provocative article on “Clash of Civilizations” 1 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’s 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’s 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 “dialogue and tolerance” 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 “The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation.” 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: “While the communication facilities rapidly increased on one hand, some tried to flame up conflicts on the claim of ‘The Conflict of Civilizations’. 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 in Foreign Affairs in 1993.
factors. We stopped applauding the beauties and the just. Then The Journalists’ and Writers’ 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...” 2 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’s mission statement: “The 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’s is only a modest contribution but the peace of our hearts and conscience depend on it…” –The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation 3 At a period when debates on fundamentalism and radical Islamism were dominating the public agenda, The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation
2 See handbook of information and organizational chart published by the foundation, (Istanbul: Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfı Yayını, 1997) p.22 3 Handbook, ibid, p.2
was an attempt to construct a new image for Muslim identity. After an invitation for a Ramadan dinner arranged at Istanbul Hilton Hotel on January 27, 1997, the foundation once again became the center of the media attention. As it is introduced by the foundation this occasion was disclosing the “richness of differences” because “The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation succeeded to gather the representatives of different social groups around a common table under its umbrella of ‘tolerance and affection’. The gathering of men of arts and literature, politicians, journalists, the representatives of Vatican, the Orthodox Patriarchate and the Syriac Catholic Church gave an obvious message: ‘We are all on a common ground.’” 4 Several other meetings and organizations continued to encode a new image for Fethullah Gulen and his followers in Turkey. Muslim identity in general and the members of the community in particular were re-presented as the agents of tolerance and affection. The echo of these meetings found its most interesting form in a newspaper headline. An Istanbul-based paper with a relatively large circulation made a large coverage of the event and defined the Fethullah Gulen community as “Fundamentalists of Tolerance” 5 The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation have been operating not only as the terrain of a process of articulation of a new national identity defined with reference to Islam but also as the site of an alternative image for Islamic identity. The rest of this paper comprises three sections. I begin with a discussion of THE context within which movements wages politics and the theoretical tools by which the politics of Fethullah Gulen movement can be grasped best. The second section attempts to provide an account of the historical and formative forces behind the movement and its transformation. The last section focuses on the Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation of the movement and embarks upon a concise discussion of the movement’s regulation of its public image.
4 Handbook, ibid, p.5 5 Şeref Oğuz, “Kökten Hoşgörücüler,” Milliyet, April 30, 1997
(I) (IMPERIAL) POWER AND (ORIENTAL) KNOWLEDGE: THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF UNDERSTANDING ISLAM Since Michel Foucault, we know that “power and knowledge directly imply one another, that there is no power relations without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.” 6 Foucault’s analysis of power can illuminate any debate about how power can be exercised in and through the mass media and other tools of representation. Foucault’s central thesis that power is everywhere expressed in many ways of individual discourses offers freedom from the inevitability of a determinate power and allows us to see, for instance, the mass media as not only the site of exercise of power but also as the site of resistance to it. It is through the exercise and effects of certain techniques that forms of hegemony have been constituted and it is around the same techniques that have emerged forms of struggle and resistance which may in turn become the basis of counterhegemonic strategies. 7 The fact that any knowledge constitutes power relations has been highlighted by Edward Said’s deconstruction of Orientalism as an imperial Western knowledge of the subordinate East. Orientalism, according to Said, is a style of thought based upon ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident.’ 8 The underlying theme of Orientalism is the affiliation of knowledge with power. 9 Hegemony is a key concept introduced by Antonio Gramsci in understanding of the ideological struggles or the social movements in modern
6 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, The Birth of the Prison (London: Penguin Books, 1997) p.27 Also see Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interview and Other Writings 1972-1977, (ed.) by C. Gordon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980) 7 Barry Smart, “The Politics of Truth and the Problem of Hegemony” in Foucault: A Critical Reader, Ed. By David Couzens Hoy, (Blackwell, 1996) p.170 8 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Penguin Books, 1978) p.2 9 Edward Said, Covering Islam, How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (New York: Vintage Books, 1997) p.xlix
societies. 10 Introduction of Gramscian concept of hegemony to the Marxist literature and politics have led to a transition from revolutionary and therefore “destructive” mode of ideological struggle to a “transformative” one. 11 According to Gramsci, hegemony is the political, intellectual and moral leadership in a collectivity. The political aspect of this definition consists of the capacity of a group or identity to articulate the interests of other groups to its own interests, thereby becoming the leading element of a collective will. 12 A hegemonic ideology is the one which is able to articulate to its hegemonic principle the majority of the important ideological elements of a given society through ideological struggle. However, it is important to detach the explanatory capacity of the concept of hegemony from Gramsci’s own ideological concerns, that’s, Marxism. Thus, just like how hegemony is not a strategy exclusively of the bourgeoisie the subordinate groups or victims of any other forms of domination can develop counter-hegemonic strategies. Hegemony is established through the “consent.” Consent is a concept of paramount importance to the understanding of hegemony. Consensual control arises when individuals voluntarily assimilate the world view of the dominant group (that is, the hegemonic group). The concept of civil society is arguably very important in Gramscian analysis of domination and resistance because consent which is needed for hegemony is achieved through the ‘so-called private organizations like the Church, the trade unions, the schools etc.’ 13 The media are also important and they are the instruments of expression and perpetuation of the dominant ideology. From Gramscian perspective the hegemonic apparatus like the mass media have to be interpreted as an instrument to spread and reinforce the dominant hegemony. Also those who want to spread counter-hegemonic ideas too could use them. According to Dominic Strinati, “pop culture and the mass media are subject to the production, reproduction and transformation of
10 Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, trans. and (ed.) by Q. Hoare and G. N. Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971) 11See, Chantal Mouffe, (ed.) Gramsci and Marxist Theory, (London: Routledge, 1980) and Mouffe, “Hegemony and State in Gramsci” in (ed.) by G. Bridges and R. Brunt, Silver Linings: Some Strategies for the Eighties, (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1981) pp.167-87 12 Mouffe, “Hegemony and State in Gramsci”, ibid, p.172 13 Gramsci, Ibid, p.56
hegemony through the institutions of civil society which cover the areas of cultural production and consumption. Hegemony operates culturally and ideologically through the institutions of civil society which characterizes mature, liberal-democratic, capitalist societies these institutions include education, the family, the church, the mass media, popular culture, etc.” 14 Civil society is the terrain of the “war of positions” and to achieve hegemony the “conquest of civil society” 15 is necessary. Hence, for counterhegemonic discourses the objective cannot be the destruction of the opposing conceptions of the world but the disarticulation or transformation of them. Consequently, the ideological struggle in a given society should be a process of first disarticulation and then rearticulation. The site of the production of consent is “civil society”. Gramsci, in his definition of the integral state includes not only political society but also civil society. According to Mouffe, Gramsci’s aim is not to statize the civil society but to indicate the profoundly political character of civil society as the terrain of the struggle for hegemony. 16 Such a conception of civil society highlights how political are the cultural and the social. In fact once you accept that politics is the very activity through which social relations are constituted, as shown by Said in the case of Orientalism, then it is evident that everything in society is political. This is what Foucault implies in saying that the power is everywhere. Yet, for Raymond Williams, “however dominant a social system may be the very meaning of its domination involves a limitation or selection of activities it covers, so that by definition it cannot exhaust all social experience, which therefore always potentially contains space for alternative acts and alternative intentions which are not yet articulated as a social institution or even project.” 17
14 Dominic Strinati, An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 1995) p.168 15 Said, “Foucault and the Imagination of Power” … p.154 16 Mouffe, Ibid, p.178 17 Raymond Williams, Politics and Letters: Interview with New Left Review (London: New Left Books, 1973) p.252 quoted in Said, “Foucault and the Imagination of Power”… p.154
From Orientalism to Post-Colonialism: Insistence and Resistance The construction of Western images of Islam and the scholarly literature on Oriental societies cannot be understood unless they are linked to the colonial enterprises of Western societies. The products of Orientalism are a set of typologies and stereotypes organized around binary oppositions such as the rational Westerner versus the irrational/religious Oriental. Orientalism has also produced several “essentialist” attributes for Islam (e.g., Islam is a religion which lacks civil society and/or it is the most political religion). The complexities of Muslim societies (as that of any other society) have been reduced to several misrepresenting caricatures throughout the course of Orientalist writing. Orientalism bases itself on an ontological and epistemological distinction made between the West and the Orient. It has been essential to Orientalism to account for the differences thereby creating “the other” for the Western self. The problem gets more complicated when this representation is adopted as the basis by a class of elites for native reform on the one hand, and when it is internalized by the very identity it attempts to ‘otherize’ on the other. Orientalism in its description of Islam presents Muslim societies as products of an anachronism according to which the unproductive and uncreative Orient’s “present” is nothing but a recurring “past.” The pervasiveness of certain patterns and clichés of explanation elucidates the extent to which the construction of Islam is power-laden. Essentialist approaches to Islam also defines Muslim societies in terms of primacy of religion over all other social, economic or political factors. Michael Gilsenan, in his Recognizing Islam, draws our attention to the orientalist “notion that religion is the key to the ‘Arab mind’ or, at a wider level, that something called the ‘Muslim mind’ or ‘Islamic civilization,’ explains a whole series of events and structures that are otherwise totally baffling and alarming. Islam is seen as the key to the secret and as part of the nature and essence of these people. The Iranian revolution is one of the most startling phenomena that
have catalyzed and continue to stimulate this sense of Islam as a total and threatening mysterious presence.” 18 The idea of “Islamization of Muslim self” is one of the most successful offer made by Orientalism and accepted, to a certain extent, by the political Islam. Therefore, the representation of Muslim self as embodiment of Islam, and also the representation of Islam as the sole all-encompassing determining element of Muslim self are the very assumptions by which Orientalist discourse establishes its domination. Orientalist writing not only describes Islam as the essence of Muslim identity but also frames Islam as a transgression of past into the present. “Islamism” refers to a representation constructed very much by the Orientalist “otherization” based on the contrast between the West and the Muslim world, and its internalization through the course of appropriation of this representation by an excluded identity. Formulations based on construction of Muslim identity as “Islamist” (which is directly equated to radical and fundamentalist) are indeed operational for the very sources of exclusion of that identity. As a self-fulfilling prophecy, “Islamisticization” of Muslim identity by the hegemonic discourses legitimates the coercive practices over the civil society. The exclusion of Muslim identity from civil society is ironically justified by a claim that Islam is authoritarian. This claim remains undiscarded to the extent that Muslim identity is not given (civil societal) space to see and more importantly to show the degree of commonalities between identifications made with reference to Islam and those without. I would argue that the Orientalist representation of Muslim self is “homo Islamicus” which is defined in complete difference (and, in fact, contrast if not antagonism) to the Western “homo economicus.” Yet, the history and current practices of Muslim societies negate this juxtaposition. The more so-called Islamist movements and groups participate and experience the contact with the so-called secular, western space, the more
18 Michael Gilsenan, Recognizing Islam: Religion and Society in the Modern Middle East (London: I. B. Tauris, 1992) p.19
they see and become able to make others see that there is no counterpart of that Orientalist representation (or abstraction) of Muslim identity as a totally different and alien entity. Nilufer Gole’s influential work on veil and the meaning of young Muslim women’s participation to the public sphere shows the extent to which Islam (or rather its meaning for Muslim women, mahrem) and modernity have been interpenetrating. 19 What has been interesting, of course, is the internalization of construction of “homo Islamicus” by what is called political Islam as a departure for self-definition and by Kemalist elite in Turkey as a departure for native reform. For the case of Fethullah Gulen movement, I would argue that, there is a clash of following representations: the construction and dissemination of Muslim identity as Oriental “homo Islamicus” by both global Western media and local self-colonizing (Kemalist) elite and the counterconstruction of Muslim identity as a “Muslim homo economicus” by Fethullah Gulen movement. This distinction is very important since the first one leaves the Muslim identity outside the domain of rationalism and modernity by elevating Islam to a location where it is the sole (all-encompassing) element of the Muslim identity while the second one stresses the commonalities in terms of rationalism and modernity by rendering Islam as only one dimension of entire Muslim identity. Moreover, while the dichotomy between Western “homo economicus” and Eastern “homo Islamicus” reinforces the monistic conception of modernity as a western product based on unilinearity, the substitution of “homo Islamicus” with “Muslim homo economicus” implies a multiplicity of modernities and the existence of commonalities that might enable more interaction and cooperation rather than conflict between these two identities. Said underlines the fact that the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison to all the non-European peoples and cultures is central to
19 Nilüfer Göle, Modern Mahrem: Medeniyet ve Örtünme (Istanbul: Metis, 1991) pp. 20-2. This book, which explores the overlapping spaces of Islam and modernity by focusing on young Muslim women attending universities with their headscarves, is entitled as Modern Mahrem. The book was translated into English as The Forbidden Modern which is by no means a correct translation but a more orientalistic title. See. Nilufer Gole, The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veil (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996)
Orientalist discourse. The post-colonial theorists have argued that analytical binaries like civilization/decay that are used for self-diagnosis in non-Western societies are not objective representations which can be transferred into the projects of “native reform” but they are shaped by a teleology of Western “superiority”. 20 Yet from the vantage point of Kemalist modernizers, modernization or native reform was nothing but emulation of western culture. Hence, elimination of differences without loss of authenticity is the delicate balance they sought to achieve. In this process of translation, certain categories came out to be very problematic. Religion is an issue that Kemalist modernizers failed to solve as a problem. They would either eliminate or convert it. Since, they neither could make an wholesale abandonment of Islam nor could they be truly western as far as their Muslimness is concerned they “disciplined” Islam in such a way that it would look like Christianity. This very attempt would also make secularism a failed project in Turkey because of state's control over Islam and the very production of Islam. It is also due to this unsettled problem that Islam is legitimate to the extent that it corresponds to the “ambiguous location” it was assigned by the Kemalist elite. Hence, the avenues of legitimacy for Islam (or Islamic identifications) are limited to those in which Islam is merely part of Turkish “national” identity. It is this particular limitation that elevates “conservatism” in Turkey to an indispensable coidentity for Islamic groups. Self-Colonizing Mission: “White Kemalists’ Burden” According to Kevin Robins, the new republican elite, who imagined and strived for an official Turkey, committed itself to eradicate the real Turkey that seemed to perpetuate the old ways and stand in the way of the new. “Its endeavors were damaging in a number of respects, inhibiting the vitality and
20 H. K. Kalkat, “Perspectives on Postcolonial Theory” JOUVERT-web journal on Postcolonial studies, v2i2, http://social.chass.ncsu.edu/jouvert
creativity necessary to sustain a democratic culture.” 21 As a consequence, the very attempt of modernization emerged, in the Turkish context, as a process of mass nativization basically due to the desire to civilize people in spite of themselves. The forms of cultural domination embedded in the “modernization theory” not only legitimized Eurocentrism as a global discourse but also entailed power relations within the modernizing societies. The Kemalist elite’s involvement of “native reform” was a simultaneous process of 'making natives.' Therefore, Kemalism can be defined as an “import substitution Orientalism”. Following Orientalist description of their own identity Kemalist elite became the actors of self-colonization. Therefore, Turkish public space has been shaped by a relationship of domination between the Kemalist panoptican 22 and the Muslim deviant. The relatively long history of Turkish democracy (1950-2000) has been marked by cyclical interruptions of military interventions. Starting from the first military coup after ten years of democratic experience in 1960, there have been three more interventions at the end of each decade. The last military intervention is publicly known as the “postmodern coup” 23 (28 February 1997) in Turkey. In this civil-disguised, that is, seemingly popularly welcomed indirect intervention the military used intensively the mass media and public relations technologies in order to undermine the incumbent politicians and to legitimize the coup. Globalization and increasing access of society to the forms of resistance and consolidation of civil society in the post-1980 Turkey, created the conditions from which Turkish military drew the conclusion that the society is once again deviating from the official ideology and they resorted to intervention. The government
21 Kevin Robins, “Interrupting Identities: Turkey/Europe” in Questions of Cultural Identity Ed. By Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay (London: Sage, 1996). p.69. 22 Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p.195. 23 Even one of the generals (Erol Ozkasnak) who organized the coup publicly “defined” it as a postmodern coup. See, “28 Subat Posmodern Darbedir” Milliyet, January 15,2001.
resigned and a shadow government that is currently in power in Turkey was formed. 24
Globalization, Kemalism and Islam Kemalist idea of rupture with the tradition was part of the enterprise of modernity. However, it paved the way for an authoritarian state. Therefore, unlike “detraditionalization” Kemalist attitude towards traditon was a will to create a tabula rasa, a society without traditions. According to the authors of Reflexive Modernization, “to speak of detraditionalization, however, is not to talk of a society without traditions-far from it. Rather the concept refers to a social order in which tradition changes its status. In a context of global cosmopolitanism traditions are today called upon to defend themselves: they are routinely subject to interrogation.” 25 The Kemalist project is currently in a crisis of legitimacy because of its self-paralyzing character. The participation of masses into the politics which started with the transition to a multi-party system in 1946-1950 period challenged the Kemalist ideology in the sense that the colonized elements in Turkish society began to shape the electoral politics. However, the post-1980 global integration of Turkey and the emergence of new subjectivities in Turkish society make it difficult for Kemalist ideology to reproduce itself democratically. The loss of consensual hegemony pushed the Kemalist (in most of the cases military) elite to resort to coercive measures as seen in the case of 28 February Process of military surveillance over the political sphere through the institution of “National Security Council” which is a legacy of the previous coup in 1980. Yet after each military intervention which happen to be the invasion of politics and civil society, the transition to democracy paves the
24 For a recent study on the last coup in Turkey known as “28 February Process” see Hakan Yavuz, “Cleansing Islam from the Public Sphere” Journal of International Studies, Fall 2000, No. 54, p.21. 25 Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens, Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization (London: Polity Press, 1995) p.vi
way for autonomization 26 of politics and civil society and also the rise of colonized identities. The globalization and the postmodernization of Turkish society put the Kemalist elite in a precarious situation where they lose their monopoly over the claim to the only possible form of modernity and therefore the superiority they have been enjoying. What Turkish society has been experiencing during 1980’s and 1990’s is a process in which the “disciplined” elements of Turkish society are getting out of the colonized space and by using the opportunities created by the process of globalization they pose a challenge for the official ideology. The increasing elusiveness of the hegemony for the Kemalist elite and challenge of “disciplined” subjects in Turkish society creates, what I would call Colonized Native Deficiency Syndrome for the self-colonizing ideology. To a large extent due to Turgut Ozal’s economic policy of openning up of the market forces and the integration of Turkey into the global economy through export-oriented industrialization, the existing Kemalist (state) elite is no longer the exclusive source of modernity in Turkey.
26 Nilüfer Göle, “Toward an Autonomization of Politics and Civil Society in Turkey” Politics in the Third Turkish Republic: A Case Study in Transition to Democracy, Metin Heper ve Ahmet Evin, ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993)
(II) THE DYNAMICS OF FETHULLAH GULEN MOVEMENT In this section of the paper, I shall elaborate on several constitutive elements of the identity of Fethullah Gulen movement. The constraints and opportunities created by “conservatism” in Turkey, the impact of nationalism, the implications of a central concept and a root-paradigm called “hizmet,” the legacy of Said Nursi, and the celebration of Ottoman state are the several themes by which I would attempt to map out the formative forces that have been forging the identity of this movement. Ideology of Sustainable Change: Conservatism as Homeostasis From the whole set of attempts to save the Ottoman state to the processes that led to the formation of Turkish Republic the basic aim was to modernize the state and thus the society. Among the three competing ideologies that were appealing during the Tanzimat Period, namely “Ottomanism, Islamism and Turkism,” 27 it was Turkism that became the dominant one and the only “savior ideology.” With the triumph of nationalism as the modernizing ideology, Ottomanism disappeared in a process accompanied by the demise of the Ottoman state whereas Islamism persisted despite its subordination to Turkism. The bulk of the spectrum of Turkish political orientations can be explicated with reference to the diverse number of combinations/compromises of these two categories. Hence, conservatism emerges, in this context, as the set of positions that have discursive immunity within the range of these combinations. Conservatism can be considered as “the immune zone” in Turkish politics and therefore as the basic determinant of the extent to which Islam(ism) and nationalism can merge. Tanil Bora underlines the convertible and permissive character of nationalism, conservatism and Islamism as the three different “states” of the same “matter”. 28 Unlike his treatment of conservatism as a distinct ideology, I would argue that it is rather a strategy of generating legitimacy before the
27 Yusuf Akcura, Uc Tarz-i Siyaset (Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu Yayinlari, 1976). 28 Tanil Bora, Turk Saginin Uc Hali: Milliyetcilik, Muhafazakarlik, Islamcilik (Istanbul: Birikim Yayinlari, 1998).
Turkish state. In other words, conservatism in Turkey, functions as a corridor between Islamism and nationalism. Members of any of these two ideologies can shelter in this corridor where there is immunity due to logistics provided by multiplicity of loyalties. Any of the loyalties, depending on the needs, can be employed against the other ones in order to attain a formula for selfjustification. As an amorphous position in terms of identification, conservatism creates a vacuum of definiton and provides the security deriving from ambiguity. The pervasiveness of Turkish conservatism, shapes to a large extent, state-society relations in Turkey. The primacy of state over society in the Turkish case is not a consequence of a “mere superiority” but a necessity of a mission waged by the state. I shall argue that this mission, the content of which is changeable from case (the Empire) to case (the Republic) is hizmet (rendering service); a term which has a sacred aura around it in Turkish culture 29 . Hizmet is a form of legitimation for a variety of activities. Çağdaşlaşma (modernization) replaced the Ottoman ideal of İ’la-yi Kelimetullah (that is, upholding God’s name and conquering new territories for the sake of Islam) as the form of hizmet. Each and every military intervention in Turkey has been legitimised with reference to the “mission of protection” of Kemalist principles. Members of Turkish nationalist (Ülkücü) movement in Turkey identify themselves as “mabed bekçisi” (the guardians of mosque). Fethullah Gulen community movement identifies itself with a mission of “iman hizmeti” (service of faith) rather than a mere interest group. Individualism in Turkey is considered as selfishness and hence liberalism as a corrupt ideology. Any form of work or struggle should have a mission (a form of hizmet or a message) in order to be legitimate in the Turkish public sphere.
29 It is noteworthy to indicate that “hizmet” as a conceptual tool to analyse a particular religious community is the very name by which the community in question makes selfidentification. The use of “iman hizmeti” exists almost in all Nurcu groups however, Gulen community due to its more conservative (i.e. ambiguous) nature omits “iman” in order to be able to make use of different implications of the word.
HİZMET: A Root Paradigm in Turkish Society The legitimising ideology of Ottoman state was Islam. The justification of Ottoman expansionism was İ’la-yı Kelimetullah. The idea of conquest has been central to the Ottoman-Turkish society throughout history. Those who were taking part in the process of conquest are called as “gazi” and their activity as “gaza.” Serif Mardin considers “gazi” as a representative example of “root paradigm.” Root paradigm is a term used by Victor Turner 30 to
characterize clusters of meaning which serve as cultural “maps” for individuals; they enable persons to find a path in their own culture. Such paradigms affect the form, timing and style of behavior of those who bear them. The gazi-gaza cluster makes up a cultural constellation which is still active in contemporary Turkey and which shapes social behavior in important issues. 31 Cihad, ecdad, fetih and hizmet are some other examples of root paradigms that frame the cultural map of Turkish-Muslim society. An interesting study 32 on the use of hizmet in the Turkish historical narratives shows the deep-seated location and the durable character of this particular root-paradigm. Etienne Copeaux emphasizes the resilience of the concept since “the word itself is helpful to fit the Turks in with ‘otherness’, in the way of showing them in a good light in history. With regard to this notion, according to the narrative, wide groups of ‘others’ often take advantage of the existence of the Turks: the whole mankind, the ‘free world’, or the Muslim World, according to the time when the discourse was formulated.” 33
30 Victor Turner, Dramas, Fields and Metaphors (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974) p.67 quoted in Serif Mardin, Religion and Social Change-The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (New York: SUNY Press, 1989) p.3. 31 Ibid., p.4. 32 Etienne Copeaux, “HİZMET: A Keyword in The Turkish Historical Narrative,” New Perspectives on Turkey, no.14, 1996. 33 Ibid, p.97.
Concentric Circles of “Hizmet”: Humanity, the Muslim World, and the Turkish Nation Turkish nationalism, the bulk of which is defined within conservatism, is not a nationalism per se but a “guardian nationalism” which does not claim direct superiority (in terms of either ethnicity or culture) but has a claim over serving best to something which is by definition considered sacred. For instance, ‘if the Turks had not existed, Islam could not have been saved or the European Renaissance could not have taken place’. The popular idea that Turks accepted Islam without any resistance is another version of this line of thought in Turkish nationalism. Depending on the level of inclusion of Islam into the definition of Turkish national identity by the state, the address to which Turks render service changes, e.g., mankind or Muslim world. The basic assumption in the claims of the Turkish nationalism is not a direct superiority that Turks have, instead it is an “altruistic superiority” which I would argue has very much to do with the conception of the self in Muslim societies. Devotion or service to God, ümmet, nation, mankind or any other supraindividualistic category is perceived as legitimate but the one to the “self” is considered as immoral.
Continuity and Change: From (territorial) GAZA to (ideological and economic) HİZMET Transition to the Republic meant a parallel change in the legitimising ideology of the Turkish state. Turkish nationalism replaced Islamism as the legitimising ideology. Turkish nationalism did not have a colonial character. It did not take an anti-western position. 34 For the version of Turkish nationalism developed in the early years of the Republic “the other” was the Ottoman and Islam, and thus the new identity was constructed very much on the idea of rupture with the past. However, that does not mean that the republic has very
34 Caglar Keyder, “The Dilemma of Cultural Identity on the Margin of Europe,” Review, Vol.16, No.1, 1993, p.24.
little to do with the Ottoman tradition. Most of Serif Mardin’s works shed light on the relationship of continuity between the two. The idea of umma as a collective identity is an idea which travels across the historical borders between the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. Beyond similarities between Şeyhulislam and Diyanet İsleri Başkanlığı (Directorate of Religious Affairs) or müsadere (confiscation) policies of Ottoman state and the early Republican policy of Varlık Vergisi (a form of taxation imposed on NonMuslim Turkish citizens), there is arguably a convertibility between Battal Gazi (a historical hero) and the Mehmetçik (the Turkish Tommy) or translatability between umma solidarity and national solidarity. Both the corporatism of single party period and, for example, the idea propagated by KADRO movement which claimed that the Turkish society can never be subject to class differentiation are exemplary cases attesting to the survival of the concept of umma. 35 Gaza, as the Ottoman form of “hizmet,” is replaced by the new ones in the Republic. For Islamic identity, ideological/religious (and economic) service is the only available form of hizmet since territorial gaza is neither possible nor reasonable anymore. With the shift from gaza to hizmet, Islamic identities not only perpetuate the Islamic mission (dawa) but also experience a process of democratization which is best exemplified in the words of Said Nursi in which he argues that a success in a modern society is possible with consent and persuasion but not coercion. 36 The concept of hizmet emerges as a point of intersection and interpenetration of Islam and Turkish nationalism. A proper understanding of Fethullah Gulen movement requires a focus on the interaction between Islam and Turkish nationalism. From Said Nursi to Fethullah Gulen Fethullah Gulen owes most of his intellectual background to the teachings of Said Nursi (1876-1960) 37 who is one of the most prominent
35 Serif Mardin, İdeoloji (İstanbul: İletisim Yayinlari, 1992) p.138. 36 For the original expression see: “Medenilere glabe calmak ikna iledir, soz anlamayan vahsiler gibi icbar ile degildir.” Said Nursi, Divan-i Harb-i Orfi, (Istanbul: Sozler Publications, 1989) p.49. 37 For biographies of Said Nursi see Tarihçe-i Hayat (Istanbul: Sözler Yayinevi, 1990), Necmettin Şahiner, Bilinmeyen Taraflariyle Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (Istanbul: Yeni Asya
religious leader and Muslim intellectual in modern Turkey. The followers of Said Nursi who constitute one of the largest Islamic communities in Turkey are called Nurcu. To give a short outline of his biography, his lifespan can be divided into three periods: The first period is, what he calls Eski Said (Old Said). This period coincides with the abundance of empire-wide search and endeavors to save the Ottoman state from disintegration against the waves of ethnic nationalism and to save Islam against critical reason of Western modernity. In this period the Ottoman state is still attributed the holy mission of Islam: İ’la-yi Kelimetullah. Although Said Nursi is involved in politics in this period his primary concern was to articulate a language that will accommodate modernity and make Islam consistent with modern reason and vice versa. 38 As Old Said he was at the same time a political activist. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Ottoman constitutionalism. 39 The years that saw transition from Ottoman state to the Republic also saw the transition from Eski Said (Old Said) to Yeni Said (New Said). 40 The Old Said was directly involved in politics and was an Islamist in the modern sense of the word. However, the shift to New Said meant a change in the assumptions of the Old Said for whom the state and traditional forms of Islamic formations were still central. The shift to New Said was recognition of the fact that existing tools were no longer able to reproduce Islam because the challenge was neither political nor military but ideological. It was the impact of modernization on the late Ottoman and the early Turkish societies that brought about part of the incentives for Nursi for a profound transformation in the construction of Muslim identity and in the reproduction of Islam. For the New Said the point was to raise people’s “consciousness”. This is what he defined as a shift from “taklidi iman” (blind faith) to “tahkiki iman”
Yayinlari, 1976), Sukran Vahide, The Author of the Risale-i Nur: Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 1992). 38 Said Nursi, Münazarat (Istanbul: Yeni Asya Yayınları, 1991) p.127 39 Ibid. pp.22-26 40 In 1922, Nursi was invited to Grand National Assembly. After his disappointment he issued a declaration to the MPs and took the train for Van. This experience appears as a turning point for Nursi and his enterprise of a paradigmatic shift from Eski Said to Yeni Said. See Sukran Vahide, ibid., pp.180-184.
(the faith with certainty or the faith based on deliberation). 41 He started to publish books and booklets on Islamic faith. His writings were unconventional narratives or reinterpretation of Qur’an (Tafsir in Arabic).The collection of his publications is called Risale-i Nur Külliyatı. 42 Nursi has not been considered only as a theologian but also as an intellectual who in addition to his other concerns also attempted to bridge the gap between Islamic identity and modernity. According to Serif Mardin, “Said Nursi’s contribution was a reaffirmation of the norms set by the Qur’an in such a way as to re-introduce the traditional Muslim idiom of conduct and of personal relations into an emerging society of industry and mass communications.” 43 Despite the Eurocentric and reductionist flaws of this perspective, it helps us partially to understand why the majority of New Said’s audience were young students having a background of secular education. The followers of Nursi (Nurcus) are still being known for their extensive use of and eagerness to employ modern technology, especially mass media and the science. The third period in Nursi’s life coincides with the transition to multiparty system and the rise of Democrat Party (DP) in Turkish politics. In this period Said Nursi starts to get interested in political participation. He overtly supported liberal-democratic ideas in politics until his death in Urfa in1960. Said Nursi distinguished his movement from traditional Sufi orders (tariqat). 44 He was not called as shaikh. The community was a text-oriented community. The followers/readers of his books come together in collectively owned apartments which are informal public sites of gathering known as dershane. These are the places where Risale-i Nur is read and discussed. Very few of his followers are familiar with Arabic script. Yet the texts are written in Ottoman Turkish which consists of plenty of concepts from various Muslim languages such as Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish. This transhistoric vocabulary creates space for interpretation and hence the multiplicity
41 Said Nursi, Sözler (Istanbul: Sözler Yayinevi, 1991) p.272 42 Said Nursi, Risale-i Nur Külliyatı I&II (Istanbul: Nesil Yayıncılık, 1996) 43 Serif Mardin, Religion and Social Change-The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (New York: SUNY Press, 1989) p.13 44 Said Nursi, Risale-i Nur Külliyatı I&II (İstanbul: Nesil Yayıncılık, 1996) p.561
of meanings. Risale-i Nur Collection is an interpretation (exegesis) of Qur’an even though neither all verses are interpreted nor those mentioned follow the order in Qur’an. Said Nursi called his efforts and works as “iman hizmeti” (service for faith). After his death his followers (talebe) split into different groups. Said Nursi’s long life, which consisted of different inclinations and experiences, was made subject to a selective reading. For instance, some of his followers (known as “scribists”, Yazıcı) 45 institutionalized the writing of risales in Ottoman script as a permanent ritual. The frequent fragmentation of Nurcu community led to a diversity of groups with Nurcu identification. During 1970s, the time when “the danger of Communism” was the dominant discourse, Nurcu movement moved towards the right of Turkish political/ideological spectrum. The influence of former anti-communist activists such as Bekir Berk contributed to the construction of Nurcu identity as a nationalist/rightist conservative identity. The popular identification of that time was “milliyetçimukaddesatçı” (nationalist-moralist). Another turning point in the transformation of Nurcu movement is the emergence of the first Islamist political party: Milli Nizam Partisi (National Order Party-MNP) set up by Necmettin Erbakan in 1970. Despite the orthodox inclination of Nurcu groups to support Democrat Party, Nurcus were divided into parties about whether they should support the Islamist party. Politics has been the basic axis of division in the fragmentation of Nurcu groups. After Said Nursi, some of his disciples created their own communities (cemaat) in their own local centers. In addition to those like Mustafa Sungur who remained supra-communitarian to all groups, Mehmet Kırkıncı ‘Hoca’ later emerged in Erzurum as a local leader. Fethullah Gulen (formerly Hocaefendi) who had a medrese background decided to go in his own way and started to build his own community in the city of Izmir. Today the most populous and the most influential Nurcu group is
under the leadership of Fethullah Gulen. The group, nowadays, is known as
45 Yazıcı group is the only Nurcu sub-community which keeps to write and read Nursi’s texts in Ottoman script. All of the other Nurcu groups print and read Risale-i Nur books in Latin alphabet.
Fethullah Gulen Cemaati. The group is known with the name of its leader. Nurcu groups can be classified into two groups with respect to their insititutional organization. There are both text-oriented, impersonalized communities and those shaped by the personality cult of their leaders. Relatively more nationalist and centralist groups have leader orientation and they have classical medrese origin in their formative periods. The most known examples are those led by Fethullah Gulen (Hoca) and Mehmet Kırkıncı (Hoca). These two figures used to preach at mosques and have a background of formal religious education. Another group identified with the name of its leader is Mustafa Sungur Cemaati. The examples of the impersonalized/instution-identified groups are Yeni Asya community and Yeni Nesilciler. These groups are labelled with reference to the dailies they publish and the publication houses they own. It should be noted this list is not an exhaustive list of all Nurcu groups since not all of them are equally vocal in the media. Fethullah Gulen community is currently the biggest, the most institutionalized Nurcu group in Turkey. Yet, both because of the initial name that his followers have been labelled and because of the persisting and increasing centralism of his community, his group is still identified with his own name. The periods of military interventions are also the periods when, for instance, Nurculuk tends to get incorporated into nationalist discourse of the state. The frequency of the rise of nationalist tendencies in Nurcu movement are synchronical with the advent of coup d’etat. Throughout the years of leftright polarization that dominated Turkish politics from 1960 until 1980, Nurcu movement joined the right-wing nationalist camp. This influence later on became an integral part of Nurcu identity especially in the case of Fethullah Gulen movement. Gulen’s Ambiguous Identity: Between State and Religion Gulen positions his identity at the heart of conservatism which is a corridor between nationalism and Islam. The ambiguous nature of
conservatism determines very much the discourse of Fethullah Gulen. He is always deliberate and enjoys very much the use of concepts that can be subject to different interpretations by different audiences. Awareness about the type of audience has certain effect on the type of issues raised. Fethullah Gulen’s identity is constructed as an identity which stands, to use a metaphor, on two life-boats (Islam and nationalism) which are the terms of a zero-sumgame, namely, the possibility of the loss (of the legitimacy) of one of them should be compensated with a shift to the other one. Therefore, it is a hesitant but rational and non-contentious but strategically well-calculated identity. This is an overall assessment of the identity politics that Fethullah Gulen carries out. In this respect Fethullah Gulen is the most developed, rational and sophisticated Nurcu group. Gulen build his identity on the conservative corridor from which there are exits both to Islam and to nationalism. Due to this in-betweennes, Gulen has successfully disabled Turkish state’s exclusionary policies toward him by manipulating the very categories used against him and his community. However, the elements that are salient and common in these two categories have clear-cut definitions and figure boldly in Gulen’s discourse. In such cases the element in question gets radicalised due to its assured security in terms of legitimacy. The best example is Fethullah Gulen’s deep commitment to “statism.” 46 The impact of 1980 military coup on Fethullah Gulen is a subject that should be explored both in terms of his personal perception of state (his personal psyche) and the ideological consequences that the coup brought about. It is noteworthy that post-1980 increase in the visibility of Islam cannot be simply explained with the sympathy of 1980 coup for Islam. Instead, this intimacy, which looks like sympathy, is the product of the search for an anticommunist formula. The possibility that a relatively pure nationalism (Ülkücülük) could reinforce the existing polarization may have led the Turkish military forces to find an in-between, that is, conservative solution to the problem. In fact, that is what makes 1980 coup, among others, the most conservative and Islam-inclusive one.
46 For Fethullah Gulen, “the worst state is better than the absence of state”. See Eyüp Can, Fethullah Gulen Hocaefendi ile Ufuk Turu (Istanbul: AD Yayıncılık, 1995)
Therefore, 1980 coup stands at the very conservative corridor, where Fethullah Gulen stands. The overlap between these two positionings explains both Fethullah Gulen’s explicit support for the coup (despite criticism of the most of other Nurcu groups) and the growth of his community during 1980s. The impact of conservative ambiguity upon the identity of Islamist political party discloses similar patterns of behavior. The name of a book on Refah Party reflects very much the ambiguous and in-between character of conservatism that exists in the form of an Islamist political party: Ne Şeriat Ne Demokrasi 47 (Neither Sharia Nor Democracy). Fethullah Gulen movement constructs its identity at the intersection point between state discourse of Turkish national identity and Islamic discourse of Turkish national identity. This point is where Turkish-Islam Synthesis emerges as a dominant characteristic for state-oriented religious politics. In post-1980 period the Turkish nation is precisely inserted into a Muslim whole rather than the mankind. But in this period (1985-1990) the role of the Turks as saviors of Islam is emphasized more than in previous periods in textbooks. 48 An Ottoman in Modern Times Fethullah Gulen’s mental map is to a large extent an Ottoman one in terms of its vocabulary. The conformist character of his community vis-a-vis Turkish state just like Ottoman subjects’ idea of ulu’l emre itaat are conducive to such a conclusion. The terms that have a high frequency of appearance in Gulen’s speeches and sermons such as ecdad (ancestors) highlight the link to and sentimentality about the heyday of Ottoman rule. The transition from Ottoman state to the Republican Turkey makes very little erosion in the holy (sacred) attributes of the state for Fethullah Gulen. Personal background of Fethullah Gulen contributes to his perception of the state because Gulen has lived in cities like Erzurum, Edirne and Izmir. All these cities are located on the borders between Muslim Turks and “the other”
47 Ruşen Çakır, Ne Şeriat Ne Demokrasi-Refah Partisini Anlamak (İstanbul: Metis Yayinlari, 1994) 48 Etienne Copeaux, ibid. p.108
states. These cities, which have been exposed to invasion and turmoils, create a precarious Islamic identity which tends to believe that the Turkish state is not only indispensable for a peaceful Islamic life but also it has priority over Islam. 49 The two key figures to whom frequent references are made in Turkish Islamic discourse are Mehmet Akif (the poet who wrote the Turkish national anthem) and Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Sultan Muhammed the Conqueror). Mehmet Akif is known for his modernism which was dominant in some other parts of the Islamic world at his time. In fact, Mehmet Akif has been influenced by Jamaladdin Afghani who was suggesting a technological modernization that would be accompanied by a cultural “authenticity”. Fethullah Gulen may be considered as a realization of the dreams that Mehmet Akif developed in his poems (Asım’ın Nesli). 50 Fethullah Gulen has been preaching about a project of “Golden Generation” (Altın Nesil) which is similar to the one mentioned by Akif. Both Mehmet Akif and Fatih Sultan Mehmet are referential points in Fethullah Gulen’s discourse. Fethullah Gulen can be distinguished from all other Nurcu groups in terms of his epistemological background. Fethullah Gulen’s conception of Said Nursi is different in several respects. First of all, unlike other groups for whom Said Nursi is the first and the only source of religious knowledge, for Fethullah Gulen, Nursi is not the exclusive source of discourse. 51 The differences between Nursi and Gulen, which can be interpreted either as deviation or enrichment, creates a controversial situation regarding the position of Gulen vis-à-vis orthodox Nurculuk. Gulen’s followers are much more organized than any other Nurcu or Islamic groups in Turkey. Educational, business and media networks are the foundations of a project of Golden Generation and a mission of putting Turkey in a status of hegemonic country among Islamic but more precisely over Turkic states. It is the project of a Muslim society with a powerful state. Ottoman state is the stereotype for
49 Hakan Yavuz, “Türkiye’de İslam çoğulcu”, Milliyet, 18 September 1996. 50 Mehmet Akif, Safahat, (Ankara: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Yayınları, 1990) 51 There have been debates whether Gulen is Nurcu. For such an example see “Fethullah Gulen Ne Kadar Nurcu?” Artıhaber Dergisi, no.1 pp.22-23
this project. Yet current conditions are completely different from that of the Ottoman period. So the attempts to revitalize a Muslim society can be successful not only through modern tools but also with the modernity is the very context out of which the movement constitutes itself. A Democratic ‘Reconquesta’ A distinguishing characteristic of Fethullah Gulen community is its “elitism.” Gulen community’s elitism is linked to the idea of “hizmet.” According to the communal narrative, there is the urgent need for “hizmet”. Hence, a resource mobilization is required. The answer to the question of “what is to be done?” leads the movement towards a designation of community development based on social engineering. Elitism of the movement has to do with its commitment to social engineering. In order to generate maximum success within the minimum time and with the limited resources the “intelligent” students, the wealthy businessmen and celebrities should be primary targets. 52 The entire discourse of the community is based on growth and expansionism. The best way to expand is to do it through democracy and market economy. In fact, this is a strong motor force for the reproduction of society. It is the level of commitment to the ideal of expansion and growth that distinguishes Fethullah Gulen from other Nurcu groups because it is this priority that makes the movement more in need of legitimacy and consequently more susceptible to the transformation. Three important turning points can be identified in the transformation of the movement through the course of recent past. The first upheaval that had a transformative impact on Fethullah Gulen movement is the collapse of Communist Bloc and the emergence of Central Asian Turkic Republics. This has both domestic and external consequences. At the domestic level, Turkish nationalists (ülkücüler) who owed their identity and legitimacy to a constant threat from Communism are now out of the market of “ideologies”. On the one
52 For the criticisms of elitist and nationalist attitudes of the movement see Ahmet İnsel, “Altın Nesil eşittir Beyaz Türkler mi?” Yeni Yüzyıl, 4 May 1997 or Ömer Laçiner, “Seçkinci Bir Gelenek: Fethullah Gulen Cemaati” Birikim no. 77, 1995, pp.3-10
hand they were relatively losing their function due to the loss of enemy, and on the other a community which was not difficult to assimilate into in terms of its ideology was about to realize the Turkish nationalistic ideal of a “united Turkish states” (Turan). Therefore, for the Turkish nationalists (ülkücüler), conditions for incorporation into the community of Fethullah Gulen were sufficiently seductive. Fethullah Gulen’s expansionist policies overlapped with Turkish nationalist expectations and this explains the increasing level of nationalism in Gulen’s discourse. Hence, the movement became more nationalistic due to the efforts of integration of former nationalists. 53 At the international level, the collapse of the USSR meant the opening of the gates of a whole national space that was then open to the community to render service to both Islam and Turkishness. Community members could take part in the re-construction of these newly established republics through educational institutions and trade networks. 54 Both of the effects made the movement more nationalistic. It is the contact with these newly established Turkic republics that led Fethullah Gulen to refer more and more to religious figures who are the founders of Sufi orders both in Central Asia and in Anatolia. Yunus Emre, Ahmet Yesevi are the two representative examples of such figures. In addition to Gulen’s original sufi inputs, an increase in the amount of Sufism articulated within the movement can easily be discerned. The three fields which are used by the movement as the terrain of power-generation are 1) education, 2) business and 3) the media. The community has the ownership of more than 200 colleges all over the world but especially in former USSR territories in addition to its numerous colleges, and dormitories in the country. The second important upheaval is related to the first one and corresponds to early 1990s. That is, nationalization of the community and overlapping religious mission of the community and the national one of Turkish ministry of foreign affairs led the movement toward a more stateoriented discourse of service. It is within this period of integration between the Turkish state and Fethullah Gulen community which wage a mission that
53 A good example of this type of ex-nationalist followers of Fethullah Gulen is Hüseyin Gülerce who is currently the editor of daily Zaman. 54 For the importance of the timing of this entering issue see Eyüp Can, ibid., p.17, p.29
state fail to accomplish, that Kemalism became part of the communal identity. Increasing incorporation into the nationalistic state also contributed to the nationalization of Fethullah Gulen community. The fact that religion is legitimate only when it is a part of (and subordinate to) national culture for the Turkish state, in order for Fethullah Gulen community to get the legitimacy needed it has to become nationalist. It is a trade-off between (further) legitimacy and (further) nationalism. The urge for expansion stimulates an appetite for further legitimacy before the Turkish state. This directs the movement towards a more nationalistic stance within the conservative corridor. The hurry and social engineering dimensions of the movement reinforce its centralist and hierarchical organization. In this respect there is a discontinuity between Said Nursi and Fethullah Gulen. The rush for mission is imposed by the movement for a successful mobilization. However, hierarchy and centralism turn into obstacles before an autonomization of sphere where individualism can develop. This homogenizing effect of centralism also brings about the following reality: The movement despite its scope, does not have any significant intellectual figure except Fethullah Gulen himself because there is no space for individuation and the intellectual autonomy. That explains why intellectuals from within community do their best when they conduct an interview with Fethullah Gulen. 55 Public figures who are expected to answer the need for the intellectual representation of the movement are actually “imported” intellectuals. The daily Zaman, which is published by Gulen’s followers owes most of its intellectuals to some other Islamic or nationalist groups and movements. The third significant turning point in the trajectory of the movement is the advent of 28 February process of military intervention. It is after the impact of the indirect coup on the movement that the community began to draw more and more upon the global discourses of “human rights,” “multiculturalism” and “democracy.” This period is characterized with a decline in the commitment of the movement to the “sacredness” of Turkish state.
55 For examples of such cases see Eyüp Can, ibid, and Latif Erdoğan, Fethullah Gulen Hocaefendi-Küçük Dünyam (Istanbul: AD Yayıncılık, 1995).
The extraordinary and charismatic personality of Fethullah Gulen keeps the whole community together in the quest for the same ideal. Gulen’s personal charisma accounts to a great extent for the success of the movement. He is the most sophisticated and the most literate among other religious leaders in terms of access to different scholarly resources. Fethullah Gulen community movement also functions as an interest group and the community in fact is able to employ different strategies. There is awareness concerning the translatability of different forms of capital 56 and power. The power in one field is transferred to a field where there is a shrink in terms of legitimacy. This is best reflected in the words of the businessman who is the financial adviser of Gulen: “If we had transferred our power that we have abroad into Turkey we would be a political giant.” 57 Fethullah Gulen can be illustrated as a translator who converts power into prestige, the social into the political, the international into the national (and the reverse), the Islamic into the national (and vice versa). Fethullah Gulen community is the first institutionally non-political religious organization which employed professional advertising agencies in order to build a positive image for the movement. The modern and dynamic character of the movement is involved in the constant effort of increasing the audience spectrum. The discourse of the community is shaped by and redesigned for the changing (due to expansion and growth) audiences. Conservatism, however, remains to be the most safe and necessary locus in the political spectrum for the community. The movement does not have a reactionary anti-modern character. Instead, the movement can be considered as an attempt of modernity without westernity (non-western modernity in cotrast to Kemalist non-modern westernity). Although the movement cannot be considered as an attempt directly aimed at the Turkish modernization, rather it functions as a contribution to Turkish modernization from religious face of the Turkish society. It is the representation of the “good” that, according to the movement, will change the “bad”.
56 Here I am drawing upon Pierre Bourdieu’s forms of capital. 57 İhsan Kalkavan, “Yurtdışındaki gücümüzü Türkiye’de kullansak, siyasi dev olurduk”, Yeni Yüzyıl, 10 November 1996.
Another characteristic of Fethullah Gulen movement that other Nurcu groups lack is its interest in popular cultural spheres such as “football” and the “footballers”. Any source of power and legitimacy is a potential field of spread for the community. A field like football to which neither any Nurcu group nor any other Islamist groups would have interest due to its irrelevance to Islamic mission, becomes an important field where Fethullah Gulen community invests. Fethullah Gulen as a modern leader tries all possibilities of transferring any form of popular support into a support directed to his communal hizmet. Hence, football emerges as an important field in this respect. What is important is not whether Islam has anything to do with football, instead the point is whether football provide more room for expansion and generates legitimacy. Fethullah Gulen who expresses his good wishes to the players in national teams like Galatasaray, even bought a football team (Nişantaşıspor). This attempt also distinguishes Fethullah Gulen from other religious leaderships in terms of his analytical and rational approach to the social phenomena. There are two types of the people who render service to the mission. Those who are directly involved in the activities of the movement are considered as doing hizmet (service). Those who are not directly involved in the activities of the movement but support them and contribute to the financial infrastructure of the movement are considered as doing himmet (donation, protection). Hence, himmet in this case works as channel for legitimation for capitalistic accumulation. Here also there is a trade-off between community membership and spiritual identification gained through financial support to the community. That is why, the movement is reminiscent of Protestantism (with its ethics) not only for its reformist policies but also for its approach to the money. 58 Gulen’s basic assumption seems to be inherited from the Old Said: “Spiritual progress depends on material progress” (Manen terakki (İ’la-yı Kelmetullah) maddeten terakkiye bağlıdır). 59
58 Tanıl Bora, “Allahına Kadar Laik” Radikal İki, 1 February 1998, pp.6-7 59 Said Nursi, Hutbe-i Şamiye, (Istanbul: Yeni Asya Neşriyat, 1993) p.92
Moreover, due to the incorporation of the community into the state and the community’s high level of etatism it has no clear perspective that is independent of official perspective about the issues of Kurdish and Alevi identities. Fethullah Gulen community which strive for representation at all levels of publicity and a movement which has vast resources, interestingly enough does not have a journal for women. Fethullah Gulen is one of the most ‘conservative’ Nurcu leaders concerning the issue of women. Thus, the community which has many journals and magazines does not have any magazine for women. Fethullah Gulen movement has three basic fields of interest and thus source of power 60 . Some of these are the following: 1) Educational institutions: Colleges and universities. 2) Business and financial institutions: İŞHAD: İş Hayatı Dayanışma Derneği, Işık Sigorta, Asya Finans. 3) Media: Zaman, STV, Aksiyon, Sızıntı, Burc FM, CHA, and many other periodicals. Fethullah Gulen is influenced very much by both cosmos-oriented vocabulary of Nurcu movement and that of the Turkish nationalism (ecdadülkü). The daily, Zaman, published by the followers of Fethullah Gulen is a community based public space and it reflects very much Fethullah Gulen’s position within a form of conservatism. The bulk of the columnists in the daily includes two types of people: Islamists (e.g. Ali Bulaç, Mustafa Armağan) and right/nationalists (e.g. Beşir Ayvazoğlu, A. Turan Alkan, İlhan Bardakçı) Fethullah Gulen can be positioned between Said Nursi and Mehmet Akif in terms of his conservatism. With respect to the schools and their media representations he can be defined as a search for reconciliation between religion and state. His movement also, like all other Islamic movements oscillates between political statism and economic liberalism. He has
60 Hakan Yavuz, “Nasıl Bir Türkiye”, Milliyet, 11 August 1997
developed the concept of “Türkiye Müslümanlığı” 61 which positions him between religion and nationality. He has been supporting state’s policies in case of conflict between state and Islamic groups (e.g. türban dispute). He has been closer to Turkish republicanism more than to the liberal democratic challenges. However, the movement is open to transformation and wages an identity politics. The name of Fethullah Gulen which was initially used as the leader of “Fethullahçılar” later became “Fethullah Gulen Hocaefendi”. After change in state policy which began to exclude Islamist movements Fethullah Gulen’s name no longer has the last part-Hocaefendi. The community movement led by Fethullah Gulen has a Nurcu background. However, Fethullah Gulen’s epistemological background is not limited with Said Nursi. The concept of “hizmet” which is a root-paradigm in Turkish culture is the name by which the movement identifies itself. Compared to Nursi, Gulen is more etatist and nationalist. This is related to the structure of state-society relations that tend to persist despite transition to the Republic. Conservatism is a political position which functions as a corridor between Islamism and Turkish nationalism. It is the immune zone where Fethullah Gulen community constructs its identity which is a set of strategies. State policies aimed at creation of a Turk-Islam synthesis as a state-friendly form of religion since 1980 not only erodes the definition of secularism in Turkey but also forces Islamic identity to become conservative. Movements like Fethullah Gulen community seek legitimacy before state through addressing to the category of “cultural Islam” which is the only legitimate Islam since Islam is legitimate as part of (and subordinate to) Turkish national culture. Nationalism in a country with strong state tradition and mental map of an “army-nation” (ordu-millet) shapes the identity of Islamist groups along the lines of Turkish Islam. Fethullah Gulen movement contributes to societal reproduction through control over educational, financial and media resources. Pressure over Islamic identity leads to a more conservative (nationalist) Islam. The two
61 Eyüp Can, ibid, p.35
important upheavals which contributed to the increase in nationalism and etatism of Fethullah Gulen movement are the collapse of communism and Fethullah Gulen’s efforts to position his movement within the frames of Turkish state policies and tendencies of integration to state ideology. Fethullah Gulen is a typical conservative leader who seeks to maintain societal equilibrium in the Turkish society. The movement is a civil societal organization which contributes to the expansion of democracy but its internal organization is hierarchical and so excessively centralist that neither the movement is able to produce intellectual individuals nor is ready for compensation of a change in the leadership.
(III) JOURNALISTS’ AND WRITERS’ FOUNDATION AND MANAGMENT OF PUBLIC IMAGE
Fethullah Gulen Movement: ‘The Conquest of Civil Society’ Fethullah Gulen, as the leader of a religious-oriented social movement in Turkey, draws upon global discourses of dialogue, tolerance, and multiculturalism. 62 The movement, though has been active for decades, became public in the early 1990s through the establishment of Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation and its subsequent activities. The name of the foundation sounds and in fact is a bit bizarre because of its extreme appetite to include almost all actors of cultural production. This title, I would argue reflects the hegemonic desire of inclusiveness that the movement maintains. The number and the kind of activities organized by the foundation are numerous and at the same time indicative of its hegemonic desire. The activities range from “Ramadan Dinners” to “football organizations”, from “Conference of Inter-Religious Dialogue” to “award-giving meetings directed
62 For a recent study on the movement and its role in Islam in Turkey see: M. Hakan Yavuz, “Towards an Islamic Liberalism? The Nurcu Movement and Fethullah Gulen” Middle East Journal, Vol: 53, No.4, p.584.
at celebrities.” The foundation sponsored the production of a film and continues to publish books on co-existence and compromise within and between cultures. Fethullah Gulen’s important visit to Vatikan and his meeting with Pope II. Jean Paul was also organized as part of the foundation’s activities. Fethullah Gulen and his community have been employing Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation as a means of regulating their public identity and management of their image. The movement has always been pro-dialogue and persistently avoids confrontation. All of the activities are directed towards the conquest of civil society through the establishment of cultural and intellectual leadership. Hegemonic Apparatus: The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation Despite positive attitude of state towards the movement after the 1980 and during the early 1990s, the movement has not been alwas secure vis-avis state. After the last and the indirect military intervention in 1997 in Turkey, Turkish state policy towards this movement was altered and the movement became the target of criticism. The mainstream Turkish media which have been so enthusiastic about publishing interviews and books by Mr. Fethullah Gulen made a drastic shift and launched a fierce attack against Gulen and his community. After broadcasting videos showing Fethullah Gulen addressing to his groups in an anti-state and pro-Islamist manner, his public image was relegated to that of a “fundamentalist preacher.” Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation engaged in a counter-attack to save the demonization of the image of Fethullah Gulen as a response. However, the movement’s legimacy was eroded to a large extent. Some critics argued that the state’s embrace of Fethullah Gulen movement was a temporary policy and that he was employed in undermining of the Islamist political party (Welfare Party) and as soon as political Islam was gotton rid of, the state support for Fethullah Gulen ceased to exist. 63 Since 1997, the public activities known as typical Fethullah Gulen
63 Rusen Cakir, “Fethullah’i kullanip attilar” Milliyet, 26 June 1999.
foundational organizatios have been carried out by the state (or stateemployed) institutions. The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs which has almost no record of similar organizations started to be employed in order to replace the Gulen-led activities. This is in fact where the civil societal space and public discourse is being constantly contested. Although a relatively stronger one, the state is only one actor in this play. As argued by Sidney Tarrow, the states are constantly framing issues both in order to gain support for their policies and to contest the meanings placed in the public space by movements. In the struggle over meanings in which movements are constantly engaged, it is rare that they do not suffer a disavantage in competition with states, which not only control the means of repression but have at their disposal impartant instruments for meaning and image construction. 64 In short, the struggle between states and movements takes place most importantly in the regulation of images. In the case of Fethullah Gulen movement, the employment of mass media in construction and destruction of Gulen as a public opinion leader was contested. Politics of Representation: Movement of Tolerance versus Fundamentalism As a response to the challenges of framing and publicizing Fethullah Gulen and his community as a typical “fundamentalist” movement, The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation emerges as the site of resistance to this representation. With a politics of representation which focus primarily on the maximization of the legitimacy of Fethullah Gulen and promotion of tolerance towards differences, the foundation tries to keep Gulen and his community outside the coercive reach of the Turkish state which is eager to alienate. Hence, the foundation uses the mass media in such a way that they can manage their own image as a way of resistance against possible negative depictions. Proliferating activities organized by the foundation and reported by the mass media have to a certain extent succeeded in establishing an affinity between Fethullah Gulen and tolerance and peace at the level of popular
64 Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) p.22.
culture. Here, mass media emerges as both the site of domination and at the same time as the site of resistance for this movement. Especially in authoritarian countries like Turkey where contentious politics is not allowed the social movements either resort to violence or if they avoid it then they try to transform the system from within. This is a form of resistance based on participation. Fethullah Gulen movement is an example of “participant resistance” which is not stated but underlies the writings of Gramsci about ideological struggle. Conclusion This paper has focused on the politics of representation carried out by a religous social movement in Turkey. Fethullah Gulen community as a social movement and its Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation as an instrument of hegemonic struggle in the sphere of representation helps us to understand the ways in which meanings and definitions of good and bad, legitimate and illegitimate are contested. What is interesting in this contestation over the meanings and the contention by the social movements is the fact that the instruments used for domination are the very instruments used in resistance. The conquest of civil society requires eliciting mass consent and popular support needed in maintenance of legimacy a social movements enjoys. All of the activities organized by the foundation are directed towards this end. In the case of Turkey, Kemalist modernization as a self-colonization restricts the space of legitimacy for any movement defined with reference to Islam. Therefore, to understand the centrality of the politics of repesentation in the survival of religious social movements we need to grasp the colonial infrastructure of Turkish modernization and politics of representation.
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