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Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies

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The Gülen Phenomenon: A Neo-Sufi Challenge to Turkey's Rival Elite?
To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/10669920601148604 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10669920601148604

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Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1, 37–61, Spring 2007
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¨ The Gulen Phenomenon: A Neo-Sufi Challenge to Turkey’s Rival Elite?
EROL N. GULAY
St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, UK

¨ Fethullah Gulen’s modern religious movement has been the subject of numerous academic articles and books and has received a great deal of media attention both in the West and in its native Turkey. This work builds on those findings, further analyzing the theological writings ¨ of Gulen and his followers in order to reach an understanding of their conceptions of subjectivity, worldly activity, salvation, and the role of Islam in public life. Using a constructivist paradigm that views the community in a process of mutual engagement with social-structural forces at large, its role and influence in Turkish civil society and the larger world of Islamic social movements is distilled. From this basis, a typology of Islamic social ¨ movements is constructed, and an attempt is made to locate the Gulen community within it. By doing so, this work both identifies and defines the broad features of this dynamic and growing community within its social, political, and religious context.

Background: Retreat of the State and the Deprivatization of Islam ¨ On 21 June 1999, Fethullah Gulen, the founder and leader of Turkey’s largest civil society religious association, was charged under the state’s Anti-Terror Law with ’attempting to change the secular characteristics of the Republic.’1 His movement was implicated with activities that ’wove the country with its legal and illegal networks that include advisory boards, regional, city, neighborhood, and hostel leaders.’2 State-supported media outlets ¨ attacked Gulen as a ‘reactionary’ who sought the return of shari’a [Islamic law], and denounced his organization for infiltrating all levels of Turkish government and society.3

Correspondence address: Erol Gulay, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, UK. Email: erol.gulay@sant.ox.ac.uk 1 M. Hakan Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 202. 2 Ibid., pp. 202–203. 3 ¨ Specifically, in June 1999, the state produced an audio recording of a sermon in which Gulen said: ‘The existing system is still in power. Our friends, who have positions in legislative and administrative bodies, should learn its details and be vigilant all the time so that they can transform it and be more fruitful on behalf of Islam in order to carry out a nationwide restoration. However, they should wait until the conditions become more favorable. In order words, they should not come out too early.’ See Filiz Baskan, ‘The Political ¨ Economy of Islamic Finance in Turkey: The Role of Fethullah Gulen and Asya Finans,’ in: Clement M. Henry & Rodney Wilson (Eds) The Politics of Islamic Finance (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), ¨ p. 236. Gulen repeatedly has denied the authenticity of this tape. 1066-9922 Print/1473-9666 Online/07/010037-25 q 2007 Editors of Critique DOI: 10.1080/10669920601148604

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Gulen had been receiving medical care in the United States during these proceedings, and has remained there ever since. ¨ Well before the charges, the Gulen community had arisen from humble Anatolian roots ¨ to claim the loyalties of millions of Turks and Muslims around the world.4 The Gulen community first gained a foothold in Turkey’s nascent public sphere in the early 1980s, during a time of economic, political, and social liberalization.5 The slow but progressive deterioration of Kemalism, the ruling ideology of the state since modern Turkey’s founding in 1924, provided the necessary background to the community’s increased presence in civil society.6 Kemalism as a ‘master signifier’ of Turkish society, the unified class of ideas and values that defined Turkish identity, was, by the 1980s, a failing social and political project.7 Symptomatic of this declining paradigm was a liberalized public sphere that ‘vernacularized’ new conceptions of identity and modernity.8 According to Hakan Yavuz, this ‘vernacularization of modernity’ was an effort by modern Islamic social movements and intellectuals to ‘redefine the discourses of modernity (nationalism, secularism, democracy, human rights, the liberal market, and personal autonomy) in their own Islamic terms.’9 ¨ Movements like the Gulen community present an alternative source of ultimate authority and values in the absence of a hegemonic state ideology. Exploiting this new space of opportunity, it has emerged to present normative critiques to the prevailing paradigm. In particular, it has used Islamic messages and discourses, once consigned to the private sphere due to Turkey’s aggressive secularism, to mobilize against Kemalism.10 ¨ In effect, the Gulen community has ‘deprivatized’ Islam.11

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¨ Gulen insists his following constitutes a cem’at, or cemyet, which means ‘community’ or ‘gathering’ in Turkish. He once referred to it as a birlik, or union. See Olivier Roy, Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), p. 222. He rejects the label tarikat, which denotes a ¨ Sufi order. See Zeki Saritoprak, ‘Fethullah Gulen: A Sufi in His Own Way,’ in: M. Hakan Yavuz & John ¨ L. Esposito (Eds) Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2003), p. 168. By ‘public sphere’ and ‘civil society’ I mean the space of activities and institutions that exist independent from state control See further Serif Mardin, Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989). ¨ Kemalism, named after Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal ‘Ataturk’ (1881–1938), is the secularist, positivist ideology of the state. It represents ‘top-down, state-imposed political and cultural reforms’ that aim to create a unified society and secularized state; see Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 31. Kemalism’s six foundational principles, nationalism, secularism, republicanism, statism, reformism, and populism, are protected by the Constitution; see Yavuz & Esposito (Eds) Turkish Islam and the Secular State, p. xxi. On the notion of ideologies and symbols as social ‘master signifiers,’ see Bobby Sayyid, A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism (New York: Zed Books, 2003). For an overview of the decline of Kemalism in the 1980s, see Faruk Birtek and Binnaz Toprak, ‘The Conflictual Agendas of NeoLiberal Reconstruction and the Rise of Islamic Politics in Turkey,’ Praxis International, 13 (1993), pp. 192– 212; and Ziya Onis, ‘The Political Economy of Islamic Resurgence in Turkey: The Rise of the Welfare Party in Perspective,’ Third World Quarterly, 18 (1997), p. 751. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 5. Ibid. Kemal reserved Islamic practice and expression for the ‘private sphere,’ or the subjective realm of an individual’s conscience, home, and mosque. On the ‘deprivatization’ of religion, see Jose Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994).

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Jose Casanova charts the phenomenon of ‘deprivatized’ religions, and identifies ‘the process whereby religion abandons its assigned place in the private sphere and enters the undifferentiated public sphere of civil society to take part in the ongoing process of contestation, discursive legitimation, and redrawing of the boundaries.’12 Similarly, in Turkey, the retreat of Kemalism has allowed oppositional forces to advance legitimately and to position themselves in the new ‘competitive religious market’ of pluralized and democratized values.13 The liberalization of the non-political spheres of society has led to the proliferation of rival claimants to loyalty and authority. Examining the socioeconomic forces unique to the movement’s historical moment will help shed light on its associational form and membership. Furthermore, to highlight the ¨ link between Gulen’s message and the material and religious interests of his followers, we must investigate the unique historical circumstances into which they are inscribed. This ‘constructivist’ approach to social movements examines how discourses and practices engage with contextual forces to produce ‘counterpublics.’14 The counterpublic sphere, according to Yavuz, is composed of ‘spaces where people come together in public, without bracketing their Islamic identities, and invent new shared meanings and ideas to critique the hegemonic and officially sanctioned identities and public policies.’15 The aim of this article will be to utilize the constructivist methodology to attain an intimate understanding of the community’s theological and organizational characteristics, as well as how these characteristics intersect and correspond with contextual and historical forces. With the community’s broad doctrinal and associational form outlined, we will locate ¨ Gulen and his followers within a typology of modern Islamic social movements in an attempt to define its orientation, structure, and mission.

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¨ Socioeconomic Roots of the Gulen Community: The Rise of a Rival Elite ¨ The Gulen movement is comprised largely of Turkey’s rising entrepreneurial urban and provincial middle class, the businessmen, and merchants of Anatolian towns and cities. According to Yavuz, ‘it has not been the most marginalized sectors of society that have been politicized by Islam but, on the contrary, it has been the most upwardly mobile ones who led the current wave of social and political Islamization.’16 This stratum embraces the ¨ Islamic idiom of Gulen’s texts and sermons and deploys his ethic of action and service in their daily lives. This provincial middle class, long marginalized during the Ottoman and modern era, has taken advantage of the country’s recent political and economic liberalization, leading to what Serif Mardin has called a ‘mobilization of the periphery’ against the secular elites.17
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Ibid., pp. 65–66. Bryan Turner, ‘Towards an Economic Model of Virtuoso Religion,’ in: Ernest Gellner (Ed.) Islamic Dilemmas: Reformers, Nationalists, and Industrialization: The Southern Shore of the Mediterranean (New York: Mouton, 1985), p. 59. For more on the ‘constructivist’ methodology, see Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey. Also, ‘contextual’ forces and analyses account for immanent social, economic, political, historical, and material factors; in other words, the particular societal forces of a given historical moment. Yavuz (2003b), p. 168. Ibid., p. 270. Mardin, Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey.

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The existence of an independent bourgeoisie, separate from the influence and patronage of the state, has known no effective precedent in Ottoman and Turkish history, but the structural adjustment policies of the Turkish economy in the 1980s aimed at producing just that. Emerging from traditional Islamic roots, in an environment long resistant to the penetration of Kemalist secular ideals, the Anatolian middle class now has the chance to ¨ project an alternative social idiom onto the national scene. Gulen’s followers do not recede to the margins of society in their ‘reaction’ to modernity; they fully embrace free market reforms and political liberalization to create businesses, build schools, publish journals, and accumulate religious and secular knowledge.

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¨ Origins of the Gulen Community ¨ Gulen’s own religious experience and education occurred in provincial Turkey. He was born in Korucuk, in the eastern Anatolian province of Erzurum, on 27 April 1938.18 Here he was raised in a deeply traditional and religious community, in a region uniquely ¨ influenced by revivalist forms of mysticism.19 Gulen’s idioms, expressions, and world view can be culled largely from the religious heritage of the Turkish steppe, where he was educated and trained as a preacher, and from where many of his followers have emerged. ¨ Gulen’s civil society and financial empire, with millions of followers and sympathizers and billions of dollars in assets, sprung from a small religious school in the Aegean city of ¨ Izmir. Here, in 1966, at the Kestanepazari Qur’an School, Gulen, a state-employed imam, tutored a devoted group of young students in orthodox and Sufi interpretations of Islamic doctrine.20 He soon expanded his activities by creating summer camps for local high ¨ school and university students. At these male-only camps, Gulen stressed the consolidation of a disciplined and loyal ummah motivated by Muslim sincerity and ¨ service. Gulen drilled his students in the fundamentals of Islam, as well as the teachings of ¨ Said Nursi.21 Textual study and discussion dominated daily activity.22 Gulen encouraged his students to develop interpretations relevant to their personal stations in life, hoping to ¨ inculcate an ethic of individualism and confidence. Clearly, Gulen’s first students were not driven to faith by socioeconomic despair, but were inspired by a theology of Islamic activism and Muslim brotherhood. ¨ Gulen’s brief imprisonment in 1971 for religious expression following the military ¨ takeover of the government touched off the turbulent 1970s. Afterwards, Gulen adopted an
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¨ Gulen was raised in a ‘frontier’ Islamic idiom that stressed the example of the Prophet Muhammad, the fundamental scriptures of Islam, and the defense of the nation and faith against external enemies; see Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 180; and Yasin Aktay, ‘Diaspora and Stability: Constitutive Elements in a Body of Knowledge,’ in: Yavuz & Esposito (Eds), Turkish Islam and the Secular State, p. 132. According ¨ to Yavuz, Gulen received his initial religious education from a Sufi sheikh, Muhammad Lutfi; see Yavuz, ¨ ¨ ‘The Gulen Movement: The Turkish Puritans,’” ibid., p. 20. Gulen’s birth date comes from Roy, Globalized Islam, p. 228. Nur Yalman, ‘Islamic Reform and the Mystic Tradition in Eastern Turkey,’ European Journal of Sociology, 10 (1969). Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 181. ¨ Gulen was introduced to Nursi’s writings in 1957 and became an active participant in his community prior to ¨ 1966. See Bekim Agai, ‘The Gulen Movement’s Islamic Ethic of Education,’ in: Yavuz & Esposito (Eds) Turkish Islam and the Secular State, p. 53. For more on these early activities, see Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 182.

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explicitly apolitical course for his movement.23 Any political stances the movement did take were aligned firmly with state interests. Official state suspicion and repression of Islamic social activities thus forced the young community to adopt a conservative ¨ nationalist bent during the politically volatile 1970s.24 Gulen and his followers emerged as strong opponents of communists and leftists, the state’s primary ideological threats.25 By ¨ doing so, the Gulen community was able to fend off state oppression, at least in the short term, while its numbers and resources grew. ¨ Gulen’s activities continued to intensify and diversify during the 1970s, with the construction of isik evler, or meeting places (literally, ‘lighthouses’). The isik evler ¸ ¸ established local sites of interaction, fundraising, and communal relations for the ¨ community’s growing following.26 Meanwhile, in alignment with Gulen’s project of youth enrichment, the community began building dormitory housing for underprivileged ¨ provincial university students.27 Gulen insists on the need for these spaces to protect and encourage the spiritual lives of youth, arguing: In Turkey, we need . . . private shelters for the youth against disbelief and corruptive influences of the system. These shelters are the lighthouses, and I hope they help each and every young person to create their personality by living together and enlightening their environment with Islamic ideals.28 These dorms provided five to six young disciples the opportunity to create an Islamic environment while acquiring the secular knowledge needed to transform society.29 The isik evler and dorms became centers of spiritual and worldly activity, obtaining both a ¸ ¨ ‘religious and utilitarian function,’ according to Yavuz.30 Gulen describes the isik evler as: ¸ Places where the people’s deficiencies that may have been caused by their human characteristics are healed. They are sacred places where plans and projects are produced, the continuation of metaphysical tension is provided, and courageous and faithful persons are being raised. Said Nursi himself said that ‘the men who acquire the true faith can challenge the universe.’31 ¨ Ultimately, Gulen adds, these communal spaces intend for the ‘conquest of the world in spirit and reality.’32 He expands on this point by addressing the need for a combination of Islamic and secular knowledge in the minds of his activists:

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Ibid., p. 183. ¨ Ihsan Yilmaz, ‘Ijtihad and Tajdid by Conduct: The Gulen Movement,’ in: Yavuz & Esposito (Eds) Turkish Islam and the Secular State, p. 224. Aktay, ‘Diaspora and Stability,’ p. 132. Yavuz, ‘Islam in the Public Sphere,’ p. 19. ¨ Agai, ‘The Gulen Movement’s Islamic Ethic of Education,’ p. 48. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, interview by M. Hakan Yavuz, Philadelphia, April 12, 2002, in Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 32. Yavuz, ‘Islam in the Public Sphere,’ p. 32. Ibid. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, Prizma, Vol. 2 (Istanbul: Zaman, 1997), p. 12. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, Understanding and Belief: The Essentials of the Islamic Faith (Izmir: Kaynak, 1997), p. 12.

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Thus, the aim of this activist spirituality and training in Western sciences was to equip ¨ Gulen’s followers to engage with and transform society. Organizational Characteristics ¨ In Gulen’s view, his community represents a simple ‘gathering’ of co-religionists and likeminded individuals eager to rediscover notions of Muslim authenticity and personality: Ours is a gathering of people who share the same views and who come together around the common ground of the essentials of the faith, and of the philosophy of service to humanity . . . this so-called movement makes no claim to bring about anything new or peculiar in Islam.34 Later, in an interview with the Turkish daily, Zaman, he adds: As a matter of fact, I stood at the pulpits of the mosques, in public places, and at conferences and seminars and stated what needs to be done. I mean to say that this is not organized. These people follow these suggestions. They spread out around the world. They accomplished something in those places and continue to do things.35 ¨ Gulen’s claim that he holds no official spiritual or temporal authority over the group, added to the fact that the community remains voluntary and inclusive, with no formal process of initiation, suggests an informal, decentralized association. A closer look, ¨ however, reveals the Gulen community to be more than a mere grouping of similarly ¨ interested Muslims. For example, Fred Reed asserts that Gulen retains a significant level of spiritual and worldly authority over his followers, particularly his inner core of young supporters and disciples: ‘Whereas the followers of Said Nursi have supplanted the ¨ concept of leader with the primacy of the text, those of Mr. Gulen look to his person for guidance, not only in matters of the spirit, but in the affairs of the City.’36 His own followers contend that he is a ‘true leader who leads by example, [who] lives as he preaches and presents an ideal living model to emulate.’37 Meanwhile, the community is structured by a bureaucratic arrangement of authority based on a network of loyalty and trust. Power is distributed outwards from a central board of advisors, the buyuk abiler, or ‘elder brothers,’ consisting of 30 full-time advisors to ¨ ¨ Gulen who operate with ‘military-like’ discipline and with the utmost loyalty to Gulen and
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¨ Gulen, Prizma, vol. 2. p. 12. Fred Reed, Anatolia Junction (Burnaby, British Columbia: Talon, 1999), p. 82. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, interview by Nuriye Akman, ‘High-Ranking People Used the Cassette Incident as a Tool for Blackmail,’ Zaman, 27 March 2004. Reed, Anatolia Junction, p. 87. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism: Emerald Hills of the Heart, Vol. 1, Ali Unal (Trans), (Fairfax, Va.: The Fountain, 1999), p. xi.

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the community’s ideals.38 The buyuk abiler, many of whom are university graduates from ¨ Anatolia or direct disciples of Gulen, represent the altin nesil, or ‘golden generation,’ ¨ Gulen’s plan to rear pious, youthful, and action-oriented Muslims who ‘combine rational ”enlightenment” with true spirituality, wisdom, and continuous activism.’39 This inner circle controls the community’s financial resources, obtained from zakat payments and ¨ private contributions of followers, as well as revenues from Gulen’s network of Islamic charities and waqfs.40

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Educational Activities ¨ For Gulen, the spiritual development of impressionable youth is vital to the future success of the movement: ‘God creates everyone with the potential to accept belief, but both the family and existing educational and social conditions have a certain role in one’s guidance ¨ or misguidance.’41 Gulen’s foundations offer scholarships, dormitory housing, and preparation courses for university entrance exams to young students from traditional provincial or urban backgrounds, all part of the community’s indispensable altin nesil initiative.42 Through this program, and within these collective institutions, Turkey’s upwardly mobile provincial and urban Muslim youth obtain the education and values necessary to Islamize their secular environment. The community’s extensive activities in the educational sphere have transformed it into a global, faith-based social movement. Motivated by the desire to create a modern, educated Muslim elite, equipped with the skills to restore Islam’s place in society, the ¨ Gulen community has spread its message and resources actively throughout the world. ¨ Stirred by the promise of an altin nesil, Gulen’s followers have founded schools in over a dozen countries, including Bosnia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan. Today, there are more than 300 private high schools and seven universities affiliated with the ¨ Gulen community, with 26,500 students and over 6000 teachers around the world.43 In Turkey alone there are over 150 private schools, including Istanbul’s Fatih University.44 As this generation of upwardly mobile activists constructs its own sector of activity and penetrates existing structures of political and economic influence, they are expected to support the community with financial contributions and political influence. As Bekim ¨ Agai notes, ‘[Gulen] believed a bureaucrat or businessman could do more to change society than could a preacher because the purely religious part of society was so
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¨ For more on the ‘elder brothers’ see Saritoprak, ‘Fethullah Gulen: A Sufi in His Own Way,’ p. 168; and Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 189. ¨ ‘Fethullah Gulen and his Meeting with the Pope,’ The Fountain, 23 (1998), p. 16. One of the ‘five pillars of Islam,’ zakat, obligates Muslims to donate a fixed percentage of their yearly income ¨ to charity. On Gulen’s financial activities and pious endowments, see Sami Zubaida, ‘Trajectories of Political Islam: Egypt, Iran and Turkey,’ in: Bryan S. Turner (Ed.) Islam: Critical Concepts in Sociology, Vol. 4 (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 302. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, Essentials of the Islamic Faith, Ali Unal (Trans.), (Fairfax, VA: The Fountain, 2000), p. 146. Zubaida, ‘Trajectories of Political Islam,’ p. 302. ¨ See Agai, ‘The Gulen Movement’s Islamic Ethic of Education,’ p. 48; and Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 193. ¨ Agai, ‘The Gulen Movement’s Islamic Ethic of Education,’ p. 48.

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marginalized that people with solely religious knowledge were not in position to influence ¨ society.’45 Arrayed against the graduates of public Kemalist schools, Gulen’s schools produce individuals who seek to replace the secular Turkish elite. ¨ Armed with secular and religious knowledge, Gulen encourages his followers to produce works on Islamic interpretation, historical revisionism, and Islamic science. ¨ Gulen exhorts his believers to ‘use the same tools of science and technology to show that they do not contradict Islam and to lead people to the right path.’46 As Yavuz relates: ¨ Gulen has been encouraging his sympathizers to write works on modern issues such as genetic engineering, organ transplantation, music, art, modern theology, tafsir (Qur’anic exegesis), the Muslim-Christian dialogue, and Islam’s possible opinions on these subjects in this age. Now, many of his sympathizers publish papers and books and write Ph.D. theses on these issues.47 This ‘new intelligentsia’ is urged to produce rival Islamic pedagogies, histories, sciences, ¨ and economic theories to challenge prevailing secular disciplines.48 Gulen’s publishing houses and presses—Nil, Truestar, Fountain, Light, Tov, Kaynak—solicit and disseminate these intellectual and scientific works, enabling an entire genre of Islamized literature and knowledge.49

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The Islamic Economic Sector ¨ The Gulen community has spurred massive growth in the ‘Islamic’ economic sector, owning 203 of the 385 major Islamic corporations in Turkey.50 These companies are organized around the values of charity, ethical dealings, and Muslim solidarity, and are ¨ financed by Gulen affiliated banks and holding corporations. The Asya Finance Corporation, for instance, with over half a billion dollars in assets, was founded in 1996 ¨ and invests exclusively in Gulen supported charities, schools, and companies.51 Overall, the movement’s economic infrastructure consists of over 100 foundations that financially support the community’s social and educational activities around the world.52 Although ¨ not controlled directly by Gulen and his inner circle, these allied associations share the community’s world view and goals. ¨ For Gulen, harnessing the activities and energies of young, vibrant Muslim businessmen is the key to Islamic revitalization.53 Thus, as Yavuz writes, ‘his philosophy . . . is very much in tune with this growing business community. [He] reveals the aspirations and
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Ibid., p. 55. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 100. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 233. See Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 234; and Yilmaz, ‘Ijtihad and Tajdid by Conduct,’ pp. 233– 234. Yilmaz, ‘Ijtihad and Tajdid by Conduct,’ pp. 233 –234. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 91. Baskan, ‘The Political Economy of Islamic Finance in Turkey,’ p. 216. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 192. Baskan, ‘The Political Economy of Islamic Finance in Turkey,’ pp. 218–219.

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desires of the new emerging Turkish bourgeoisie, which [has] internalized modern tastes.’54 His doctrinal interpretations contribute to a pietistic middle class ethic that responds to the material and spiritual interests of his followers, particularly the university ¨ graduates and entrepreneurs who seek inclusion into Gulen’s network of lucrative business contacts and motivational religious values. ¨ Spurred on by Gulen’s claim that ‘Islam encourages trade as a livelihood, as long as it is carried out according to Islamic law,’ community members founded the Association for Solidarity in Business Life (ISHAD) and the Businessmen’s Association for Freedom (HURSIAD) in 1993 to establish guidelines for economic cooperation and interestformation.55 ISHAD and HURSIAD advocate for free market reforms and privatization schemes, and integration into the European Union.

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Media Activities ¨ Gulen’s message is disseminated through various communication and media networks. The ‘public space’ of media, according to Dale Eickelman and Jon Anderson, is necessarily ‘discursive, performative, and participative,’ due to its mass accessibility and visibility.56 Unlike the relatively intimate and protected setting of the isik evler, the public ¸ sphere is a competitive and dynamic forum, where messages become eminently contestable. To reach a large audience, it is often necessary to preach a generic, accessible message for mass consumption. Taking advantage of new opportunity spaces during the privatization and liberalization ¨ of Turkish media in the 1980s, Gulen built a far reaching network of media companies that spreads and popularizes Islamic themed opinions, music, entertainment, literature, news, and information, in a public sphere normally starved of religious programming.57 Through its newspapers, television stations, Internet sites, and radio stations, the movement tried to provide Islamic content to the airwaves and public opinion and to contextualize contemporary issues from an Islamic perspective. Ayse Oncu, in a study of modern Islamic television programming in Turkey, has noted the general trend of most religious broadcasts to ‘convey the omnipresence of Allah in all walks of life,’ and to address concerns about practical issues of daily religious observance and life.58
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Yavuz, ‘Islam in the Public Sphere,’ p. 37. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, Prophet Muhammad: Aspects of his Life, Vol. 2, Ali Unal (Trans.),(Fairfax, Va.: The Fountain, 1996), p. 171. On the community’s business associational activities, see Baskan, ‘The Political Economy of Islamic Finance in Turkey,’ p. 223. Dale Eickelman & Jon Anderson, ‘Redefining Muslim Publics,’ in: Dale Eickelman & John Anderson (Eds) New Media in the Muslim World: The Emerging Public Sphere, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), p. 2. As further evidence of the expansion of Islamic media during the economic liberalization period, the number of religious books published in Turkey grew from 239 in 1973, to 359 in 1982, to 618 in 1986; in 1998 the number was 863. Religious periodicals have grown from 16 in 1973, to 18 in 1982, 20 in 1986, and finally as many as 40 in 1996; see State Institute of Statistics, Prime Ministry, Statistical Yearbook of Turkey (Ankara: ¨ State Institute of Statistics Printing Division, 2001). For more on Gulen’s media empire, see Baskan, ‘The Political Economy of Islamic Finance in Turkey,’ p. 223. Ayse Oncu, ‘The Banal and the Subversive: Politics of Language on Turkish Television,’ European Journal of Cultural Studies 3 (2000), p. 310.

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To date, this media empire spans radio (Dunya, Burc FM), television (Samanyolu TV), ¸ newspapers (Zaman), printing houses, the Internet, and journals (Sizinti, Aksiyon, The Fountain, Zafer, Ekoloji, Yeni Umut Dergisi).59 These outlets have achieved a great deal of success—Burc FM is among Turkey’s most popular radio stations, while Zaman is the ¸ fifth most widely-read daily in Turkey, and is published in 13 countries.60 These media ¨ activities have expanded the Gulen movement’s following to include an ‘imagined macrocommunity’ of sympathizers who share a similar worldview and values.61 In effect, ¨ by moderating and universalizing his message, Gulen has been able to win the tacit support of millions of ordinary Turks through popular mediums. Eickelman and Anderson, in studying the transformation of Islamic messages in modern media, have observed similar processes of ‘presenting Islamic doctrine and discourse in accessible, vernacular terms’ that aims to enhance the visibility and approachability of Islam, ‘even if this contributes to basic reconfigurations of doctrine and practice.’62 ¨ Similarly, Gulen’s media activities project generic and objectified religious messages in an effort to recast social and political issues from the community’s viewpoint. This process of ¨ vernacularization has contextualized and ‘secularized’ Gulen’s religious vocabulary.63 As Yavuz observes: The process of ‘going public’ and trying to communicate within the normative ¨ domain of the public sphere in Turkey required the Gulen movement to moderate its voice and frame its arguments in terms of reason and interests. This slow yet profound attempt to ‘go public’ has facilitated the internal secularization of religion by forcing [it] to compete with diverse worldviews and frame [its] arguments so that anyone could understand.64 The community’s media outlets rarely evoke Islamic language—instead, they reference ¨ broadly understood terms such as hard work, charity, faith, and justice. Gulen justifies these efforts by appealing to an expanded conception of spirituality, writing: ‘We seek the good and moral values, which are universal. These values are the same virtues and morality promulgated by all Divinely inspired religions.’65 In its effort to reach new ¨ audiences and gain a larger market share, Gulen’s media empire abandons authentic Islamic vocabularies and translates them into the Turkish vernacular.66 The expansion and popularization of Islamic values in Turkey’s public sphere has thus come at the expense of religious orthodoxy. This has introduced a fundamental paradox to the community’s mission: reconciling the desire to achieve greater influence with the wish

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¨ Gulen, Questions and Answers About Faith, p. 57. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 191. Arthur Buehler, Sufi Heirs of the Prophet: The Indian Naqshbandiyya and the Rise of the Mediating Sufi Shaykh, (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1998), p. 228. Eickelman and Anderson, ‘Redefining Muslim Publics,’ p. 12. ¨ ¨ See Elizabeth Ozdalga, ‘Secularizing Trends in Fethullah Gulen’s Movement: Impasse or Opportunity for Further Renewal?’ Critique, 12, 1 (Spring 2003), pp. 61–73. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, p. 184. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, Questions and Answers About Faith, Ali Unal (Trans.), (Fairfax, Va.: The Fountain, 2000), p. 7. Eickelman & Anderson, ‘Redefining Muslim Publics,’ p. 13.

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to assert an authentic Islamic message in the midst of a secular society. For the time being, ¨ Gulen has focused on the former strategy, generalizing Islamic doctrines to win the sympathies and following of secular Turks.

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¨ The Theological Thought of Gulen ¨ Gulen has produced voluminous exegetical works on the Qur’an and the hadith, as well as more practical tracts on matters of mundane and material interest.67 To account for ¨ Gulen’s religious orientation, his writings must be examined through the lens of his ¨ theological influences and particular socioeconomic setting. In general, Gulen borrows heavily from the religious ideas of Nursi and the Naksibendi Sufis, reemphasizing certain ¸ key ideas and values, while introducing entirely new ones. By identifying the subtle shifts ¨ in Gulen’s theological orientation from those of his religious antecessors, one can begin to illuminate the direction and meaning of his project.

¨ Jihad and Hizmet: Gulen’s Conception of Muslim Subjectivity ¨ Gulen promotes a theology of action that seeks to re-enchant the world with meaning ¨ through Islamic service. To enable this life of action, Gulen articulates an Islamic ¨ conception of human subjectivity.68 Individual autonomy and agency, Gulen writes, is undeniable and a gift from God, who created man to rule as khalifa, or vice-regents, on earth.69 The true believer is conscious that God ‘is the sole source of power and wealth.’70 Men are free to transform and create according to their needs, as long as their wealth and ¨ activities recognize the source of Creation and free will. Gulen reminds his followers, ‘He alone determines, apportions, creates, and spreads all our provisions before us . . . thus we must be thankful.’71 Furthermore, as human subjectivity is linked to a higher authority, it necessarily is ¨ limited. Gulen’s conception approaches what Farzin Vahdat calls ‘mediated subjectivity,’ which limits willful conduct by the compulsion to act in God’s favor and to ascribe all accomplishments to its divine source.72 This limited, interactive form of subjectivity is projected onto the attributes of a monotheistic deity—attributes such as omnipotence, omniscience, and volition—and then partially reappropriated by humans. In this scheme, human subjectivity is contingent on God’s subjectivity. Thus, although human subjectivity is not denied, it is never independent of God’s subjectivity and, in this sense, it is ‘mediated.’73
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¨ My particular study focuses on Gulen’s works on Sufism, the Islamic faith, and the Prophet Muhammad, as well as his community’s English language periodical The Fountain, and the Turkish daily Zaman. By ‘subjectivity’ I refer to the idea of the autonomous, willful individual attempting to master the world through a program of ‘positive action.’ See further Farzin Vahdat, God and Juggernaut: Iran’s Intellectual Encounter with Modernity (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2002), p. 2. ¨ Gulen, Questions and Answers About Faith, p. 57. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 171. Ibid., p. 94. For more on the notion of ‘mediated subjectivity, see Vahdat, God and Juggernaut, p. 134. Ibid.

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Man, then, is not an independent figure—he relies on God’s creation and knowledge, and requires God’s mercy and grace. What agency he does possess is predicated on the gifts and talents bestowed upon him by God.74 This understanding of God provides the believer with the confidence and will to achieve ¨ in this world in preparation for the next. In Gulen’s view, a Muslim cannot passively submit (islam) before God, but must actively serve him (hizmet) and strive to please him ( jihad).75 Platt observes a similar religious attitude in certain ‘revivalist puritan’ Muslim movements in Tunisia, characterized by ‘a general tone . . . of aggression, opposition, and ¨ striving ( jihad) rather than submission (islam).’76 Similarly, for Gulen, faith in God powers a charge of striving in the believer, while infidelity leads one to idleness and ignorance: Dead souls exposed to a dearth of faith, and lack of knowledge and of love of God, are revived through belief; they begin to feel what life really means through their knowledge of God, they dive into its depths through love, and attain a full life through resolution, will-power and determination.77 It is through God alone that humans obtain the potential to master the world. The Muslim subject is motivated to transform society in order to please and glorify God, rather than to obtain personal edification and gain. The subject, therefore, constantly must ask himself, ‘Oh my Lord, what else can I do?’ (Daha yok mu Allah’yim?).78 Muslims must ‘do everything for the sake of their exalted God, thinking only of His approval in their everyday speech, behavior, and thought.’79 This ‘God-consciousness,’ fixed exclusively on the attainment of God’s grace, impels the ¨ body and mind toward worldly action to achieve the promise of salvation. The goal, Gulen urges, is to become an insane kamil, a perfect human, who follows the example of the Prophet Muhammad, the most excellent of human forms. The paradigmatic Muslim subject, the Prophet was a ‘man of action,’ who ‘stressed learning, trading, agriculture, action, and thought. Moreover, he encouraged his people to do perfectly whatever they did, and condemned inaction and begging.’80 Like Muhammad, the Muslim activist must be engaged ceaselessly in piety minded activity, or hizmet, centering all worldly and spiritual activities on the recollection of God.81

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¨ Gulen borrows this conception from Sirhindi-inspired Naksibendi theology, which asserts: ‘The beliefs, ¸ actions and experiences of man are his own, not of God; though they are in virtue of the knowledge and power He has bestowed on him and operated within the limits He has imposed.’ Muhammad Ansari, Sufism and Shari’ah: A Study of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi’s Effort to Reform Sufism (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 1986), p. 114. Hizmet is a Turkified word from the Ottoman era derived from the Arabic khidma, and means ‘a service rendered to someone.’ Katie Platt, ‘Island Puritanism,’ in: Ernest Gellner (Ed.) Islamic Dilemmas: Reformers, Nationalists, and Industrialization: The Southern Shore of the Mediterranean (New York: Mouton, 1985), p. 175. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 2, p. 122. ¨ Gulen, Prizma, Vol. 2, p. 37. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, ‘A Brief Overview of Islam,’ The Fountain, 45 (2004): p. 6. ¨ Gulen, Prophet Muhammad, p. 15; and ibid, p. 105. ¨ ¨ Gulen defines ‘piety,’ or taqwa, as the ‘conscious performance of good and the avoidance of evil.’ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 46.

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¨ Hizmet, a central conception in Gulen’s theology, refers to the outward expression of ¨ inner spirituality and God consciousness. Gulen compels Muslims to reject the Sufi emphasis on inner spiritual perfection, and to apply their internal faith to this world: ‘Those who always feel themselves in the presence of God do not need to seclude themselves from people.’82 Indeed, ‘God did not create people only to have them become passive recluses, activists without reason and spirit, or rationalists without spiritual ¨ reflection and activism.’83 Gulen promises this-worldly spiritual transcendence over daily life through a program of meaningful, God conscious service. His theological emphasis on hizmet represents the most important conceptual departure from Nursi and the Naksibendis. While Nursi and the Naksibendis do not condemn this-worldly activity, ¸ ¸ they also do not emphasize it as a foundational principle.84 For instance, while the influential sixteenth century Naksibendi scholar Ahmad Sirhindi advanced the notion of ¸ ‘abdiyat, or service to God, Ansari argues that his renewalist project was not predicated on ¨ that ethic alone.85 The singular focus on ceaseless hizmet represents Gulen’s unique contribution to contemporary Turkish Islamic thought. Pietistic Activism: The Rationalized Path to Salvation ¨ According to Gulen, the translation of inner spirituality into ‘pietistic activism’ is what ¨ ultimately ensures salvation and the fulfillment of God’s will.86 Elizabeth Ozdalga defines pietistic activism as ‘activism, stirred up, as well as controlled, by pietism.’ As a ‘new feature in Turkish religious life,’ this austere ethic of worldly asceticism has led to the ‘rationalization of social relationships,’ and the means to salvation.87 ¨ Salvation is not guaranteed to the pious activist, however. According to Gulen’s teachings, God’s will is unknowable, and his predetermined fate for each believer cannot ¨ be foreseen. Gulen writes that true Muslims must ‘tremble with fear of God, full of anxiety and hope concerning their final goal and pursue His pleasure by seeking to please Him and living in a way that shows their love for Him.’88 In the face of uncertainty, the Muslim must be tireless in performing as many good deeds as possible.89 One must launch
82 83

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Ibid., p. 19. ¨ Fethullah Gulen, Prophet Muhammad: Aspects of his Life, Vol. 1, Ali Unal (Trans.), (Fairfax, Va.: The Fountain, 1995), p. 87. Mehmet Aydin, ‘The Problem of Theodicy in the Risale-i Nur,’ in: Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi (Ed.) Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), p. 222. Sirhindi adds: ‘The object of . . . life is to perform duties of servanthood, to surrender and submit to the Lord, to express his lowliness and dependence, and constantly turn to God.’ Quoted in: Ansari, Sufism and Shari’ah, p. 230. Ansari’s argues that Sirhindi focused on more than just ‘abdiyat in ibid., p. 17. ¨ ¨ For more on ‘pietistic activism,’ see Ozdalga, ‘Worldly Asceticism in Islamic Casting: Fethullah Gulen’s Inspired Piety and Activism,’ Critique, 17 (2000), p. 88. ¨ Gulen counts asceticism, or zuhd, as one of the essential principles of the Islamic faith, and of Sufism in ¨ particular Gulen, Key Concepts in Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 42. He defines it as an attitude of indifference to worldly appetites, and the renunciation of pleasure. Instead, the ascetic ‘directs others to the absolute Truth’ of Islam, ¨ in ibid., p. 42. On rationalization as a means to salvation, see Ozdalga, ‘Worldly Asceticism in Islamic Casting,’ p. 88. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 26. ¨ Ozdalga, ‘Worldly Asceticism in Islamic Casting,’ p. 93.

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an ‘active quest . . . for the desired designation90 . . . [because] belief in [salvation] prevents young people from wasting their lives in transitory and trivial things.’91 As God is fair and merciful in his dealings, though, a pious activist can be confident of ¨ the reward of salvation. By appealing to a contractual view of divine justice, Gulen rationalizes the path to salvation, offering his followers a degree of certainty in their elected status.92 He urges his followers to balance their fears and hopes for eternal salvation: Fear removes any feeling of security against God’s punishment, and hope saves the believer from being overwhelmed by despair . . . one may be fearful even when all obligatory duties have been performed perfectly; one may be hopeful although he or she has been less than successful in doing good deeds.93 ¨ Gulen’s teachings echo Nursi’s thoughts on the need to balance one’s hope and fear of God’s grace. In similar fashion, Nursi wrote: ‘It is the mark of guidance to preserve the balance of hope and fear, so that hope induces firm striving, and fear does not cause a person to swerve from the path, or despair of God’s mercy, or feel secure against His ¨ punishment.’94 Thus, Gulen’s followers are motivated by the possibility of earning eternal reward through a methodical course of activity and belief. Attaining salvation becomes a rational, programmatic function of uniting one’s material and ideal interests in the singular pursuit of God’s grace.

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Zuhd: The Muhammadan Way of Asceticism ¨ Gulen’s theology places the onus of attaining salvation directly in the hands of the subject, enforcing an ethic of individualism, self-control, and self-discipline that encourages a ¨ ‘controlled, moderate, balanced way of living.’95 Gulen references the early ummah to justify this methodical lifestyle, asserting that in the time of Muhammad, believers would often ‘write down or memorize their daily actions, thoughts, and words, and then analyze and criticize themselves for any evil or sin they had committed.’96 This ethic of self-discipline is applied to worldly activity and vocational life. The Fountain contains numerous articles that focus on developing methodical life routines, like the cultivation of regular eating habits, sleeping hours, and cleanliness, inspired by the Prophet Muhammad’s own ‘bodily perfection.’97 Articles abound concerning such topics as the ‘Effective Use of Time,’ and which encourage followers to heed Qur’anic
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¨ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 39. ¨ Gulen, Essentials of the Islamic Faith, p. 151. ¨ Gulen’s appeal to the ‘contractual view’ of divinity finds support in Islamic scripture. Merchant concepts and vocabulary abound in the Qur’an. Charles Torrey speaks of the ‘commercial relation between Allah and man’ in the Qur’an in his The Commercial-Theological Terms in the Koran (1892), p. 38. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 40. Metin Karabasoglu, ‘Text and Community: An Analysis of the Risale-i Nur Movement,’ in: Abu-Rabi (Ed.), Islam at the Crossroads: On the Life and Thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, p. 273. Nasim Butt, ‘Disciplining Obesity: A Healthy Life-Style,’ The Fountain, 16 (1996), p. 7. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 6. M. A. Sahin, ‘Discipline in the Home,’ The Fountain, 13 (1996), p. 18.

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injunctions that promote methodical activity and time management.98 Such behavior is necessary to uphold a responsible, ‘goal-driven’ life that adheres to a God-focused ‘calling.’99 In addition, readers are urged to keep daily activity records to ‘become more aware of how time can be squandered for no benefit,’ and to assert their ‘will-power’ through organization, planning, and efficiency.100 ¨ Meanwhile, Gulen condemns idleness and aloofness in life, writing ‘Flippancy and frivolity injure one’s reliability and reduce one’s dignity.’101 Rather, ‘good Muslims abandon heedlessness and indifference, do their work properly, put forth their best efforts in whatever they do, and are serious and reliable in all dealings and transactions.’102 These examples recall Weber’s ideal type of the inner worldly ascetic, whose ‘distinctive goal always remains the “conscious,” methodical mastering of one’s own conduct of life’ in order ‘methodically to prov[e] oneself in one’s vocation in economic life.’103

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Aksiyon Insani: The Synthesis of Material and Ideal Interests ¨ By internalizing a discourse of individualism, subjectivity, and rationalism, Gulen’s theology of action synthesizes the material and ideal interests of the Anatolian entrepreneurs, attracting their support and influence. Emerging alongside social ¨ transformations that produced a heightened spirit of economic individualism, Gulen’s theology grew organically out of the religious and economic soil of Anatolian cities and ¨ towns. For instance, Gulen’s ideal Muslim, the aksiyon insani, or ‘man of action,’ ¨ doubles as a member of the Anatolian bourgeoisie. According to Ozdalga, the aksiyon insani is a believer who ‘is never satisfied with existing conditions,’ and is willing to ¨ ‘work his or her best until this world is turned into a paradise.’104 Indeed, Gulen implores his followers that ‘action must be the most indispensable element or feature of our lives.’105 Hoping to vernacularize Islamic doctrine for the business and professional classes, ¨ Gulen’s theology uses commercial analogies to translate austere Islamic principles into ¨ functional values. For example, in a book on practical guidance for daily living, Gulen uses the following analogy to convince the reader to follow God’s commandments: ‘Imagine that a successful business owner gives you sound and free advice on how to run your business. Would you refuse such advice?’106 Later he insists: ‘When we buy something, do we make up our own instructions concerning how to use it, or do we use the instructions provided by the manufacturer.’107 The Fountain, meanwhile, contains numerous articles pertaining to the life and needs of a businessman, including features
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See M. Temiz & E. Oz, ‘Effective Use of Time,’ The Fountain, 16 (1996), pp. 34 –38. Ibid., p. 36. Ibid. ¨ Gulen (1996a), p. 123. Ibid. Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), p. 329; and Max Weber, Economy and Society:,An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), p. 575. ¨ Ozdalga, ‘Worldly Asceticism in Islamic Casting,’ p. 88. ¨ Gulen, ‘Action and Thought,’ The Fountain, 13 (1996), p. 2. ¨ Gulen, Questions and Answers About Faith, p. 29. Ibid., p. 30.

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on business ethics, Islamic viewpoints on investment and savings, and practical guides for leadership and management.108 ¨ Gulen legitimates the experience of the Anatolian tigers by sacralizing economic development and scientific progress, tying it to notions of Muslim pride and autonomy. Noting the humiliating backwardness of agricultural and primitive economic activity, he commands the Muslim community to ‘establish science and exploit natural resources by discovering the Divine laws of nature and reflecting on natural phenomena.’109 True belief, he contends, consists in ‘both spiritual and physical health as well as scientific and technical competence.’110 Wealth, in turn, obtains religious value if it is used piously in the direction of God’s will, for ‘more blessings mean more responsibility.’111 Thus, ‘as God gives you more bounties and blessings, your responsibility grows.’ 112 The accumulation of wealth therefore is not profane or prohibited but rather encouraged ¨ as a useful deed. In defense of his interpretation, Gulen often cites the fact that Muhammad’s Companions were wealthy and owned many possessions.113 Following ¨ their example, Gulen insists that wealth is a divine gift that is to be used to instill Islamic values in society.114 Capitalistic activity predicated on pious activism also receives divine sanction. ¨ According to Gulen: Commercial transactions must adhere to the Divine Law, another element that reinforces faith. By doing so, Muslims submit to God’s decree in that particular matter and so transcend their own worldly preferences. For example, Muslim merchants must inform their customers of any defect in the merchandise. While this will lower or even cancel the resulting profit, Muslim merchants who do so will have the satisfaction of obeying God and not serving their own desires.115 Unfettered capitalistic desire and activity, because it distracts from the desire to please ¨ God, receives Gulen’s discouragement. Like all things, the capitalist mentality must be balanced by a spiritual consciousness that places worldly activity into a larger perspective. A follower criticizes unregulated corporate globalization in The Fountain, writing: ‘Its emphasis on always-increasing profits as the way to ultimate happiness and meaning in our lives is misguided, for how can what is transient give lasting satisfaction?’116 ¨ Gulen legitimizes socioeconomic difference and defends social hierarchies, ascribing them to divine mandate. Social stratification ‘sustains the variety of human occupations, a fundamental element of human social life. This variation causes people to need one

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See Steven Krauss, ‘The Destructive Force of Greed,’ The Fountain, 40 (2002), pp. 23 –25; and Selim Aydin, ‘Social Captial: An Important Power Resource for National Progress,’” The Fountain, 43 (2003), pp. 21 –23. ¨ Gulen, Prophet Muhammad, Vol. 2, p. 17. Ibid. ¨ Gulen, Essentials of the Islamic Faith, p. 133. Ibid. Mahmood Ibrahim, Merchant Capital and Islam (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990), p. 132. The accumulation and expenditure of wealth is recommended and regulated in the following Qur’anic verses: Qur’an 62:10; 73:20; 5:20; 24:22; 27:16; 30:33; 2:18, 215, 272 –273; 11:84; 22:11; 38:32; 50:25; 68:12; 70:21. ¨ Gulen, Questions and Answers About Faith, p. 29. Jay Willoughby, “Economic Globalization and the Quest for Profit,” The Fountain, 36 (2001), p. 29.

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another and to establish mutual good relations.’117 He adds, seemingly referencing Durkheim’s conception of organic solidarity: ‘God Almighty created people with different dispositions and potentials so that human social life would be maintained through mutual help and the division of labor.’118 views poverty, meanwhile, as an undesirable state for the responsible Muslim rather than a guarantor of salvation. ‘It is not poverty in itself that is good, but rather the state of mind that has disciplined (and triumphed over) the worldly self and set its sight upon eternal life,’ adding that, ‘as all of our actions will be displayed on the Day of Judgment, we cannot be careless and do something half-heartedly.’119 R. W. Tawney describes a similar Calvinist attitude toward poverty, writing: ‘The idleness of the mendicant was both a sin against God and a social evil.’120 ¨ Idleness invites the influence of Satan, who will lead the believer astray, insists Gulen. He and his followers emphasize that only through restless activity and the continuous recollection of God can one escape the whisperings of evil: ‘Being idle encourages Satan to tempt you with forbidden desires. Block Satan by undertaking some duty, responsibility, or service for God to acquire some intellectual or spiritual enlightenment.’121

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Dawa: The Calling of the Altin Nesil As cited earlier, Platt describes how the turn from islam (submission), to jihad (striving), produced a this-worldly and activist orientation in the followers of revivalist sects in Tunisia.122 Similarly, she adds, this change in attitude produced ‘proselytizing behavior’ ¨ in its adherents.123 A parallel phenomenon can be observed in the Gulen community. ¨ Gulen prods his followers on with the concept of dawa, the ‘call,’ reminding his followers that they all have a ‘specific purpose and duty to fulfill.’124 For many, dawa has meant activity in the economic sphere, while for others it has translated into educating the next ¨ generation of Muslim activists. Gulen insists on the need for ‘noble-minded teachers’ who will ‘arise among us and undertake this truly humane mission to rescue people from their ¨ current moral and spiritual suffering.’125 Thousands of Gulen’s followers have heeded the ¨ call, instructing Gulen’s altin nesil in the ethic of pietism and activism. ¨ The Gulen community’s organizational and ideational forms are shaped and constrained by opportunity spaces and material forces. At the same time, it reshapes and re -imagines ¨ those social forces through a process of participation and engagement. Gulen constructs counterpublics for his followers by cross-fertilizing Islamic ideas with contextual realities to create an activist theology for the ‘modern Muslim.’ His engagement with politics and
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¨ Gulen, Essentials of the Islamic Faith, p. 134. Durkheim’s notion of organic solidarity asserts that ‘each one of us depends more intimately upon society the more labor is divided up.’ See Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society (New York: Free Press, ¨ 1997), p. 85; and Gulen, Prophet Muhammad, Vol. 2, p. 239. ¨ ¨ Gulen, Questions and Answers About Faith, p. 159; and Gulen, Prophet Muhammad, Vol. 2, p. 16. R. W. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New York: Penguin, 1926), p. 123. Hikmet Isik, “Questions and Answers,” The Fountain, 34 (2001), p. 47. See Platt, ‘Island Puritanism.’ Ibid., p. 175. ¨ Gulen, Questions and Answers About Faith, p. 26 Ibid., p. 192.

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society secularizes and contextualizes his Islamic message, while his theology of Muslim striving Islamizes and sanctifies his followers’ worldly activities. With interests in finance, ¨ media, education, and politics, Gulen’s community has emerged as a ‘rival elite’ organized around an Islamic ethic of solidarity and service.126 By a process of engagement and colonization, this new elite seeks to penetrate the prevailing Kemalist social and political structure and undermine its normative, epistemological, financial, and social foundations.

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¨len Community Toward a Definition of the Gu ¨ Explaining the rise of the Gulen community requires, above all, a definition of its organizational and ideational type. Using ideal types, we can begin to approach a proper categorization. For our purposes, the movement’s associational form will be determined from a typology of societal orientations, while its theological profile will be culled from a distribution of salvational orientations. As will be discovered, ideational and material factors ultimately interact in processes of mutual participation and construction in the formation of Islamic social movements. ¨ Authors struggling to characterize the Gulen community have used a wide variety of classifications. To some analysts, namely Olivier Roy, it represents a ‘neo-Sufi’ brotherhood.127 Its detractors, meanwhile, dismiss it as a ‘New Age cult,’ while others, especially Kemalist intellectuals, decry its adherence to ‘reactionary’ Islamic traditions.128 Yavuz cycles through numerous definitions, each as precise and narrow as the other. None of his attempts, however, take societal orientation or theological type into consideration; instead, his typology centers on the community’s most definable structural features. For ¨ instance, Yavuz tells us that the Gulen community is a ‘transnational education movement,’ and a ‘market-friendly religio-education movement,’ but tells us nothing of the ideational forces that inform these structural characteristics.129 Our typology will be constructed using Ernst Troeltsch’s three ideal religious forms— church, sect, and mysticism—in addition to Roy’s more modern distinction between neo-Sufi and neofundamentalist Islamic movements.130 Troeltsch’s typology considers both associational and theological features in distinguishing between the three types, highlighting an affinity that agrees with our constructivist approach to religious movements. As Bryan Wilson observes, salvational orientation structures various theological, and organizational characteristics within a movement.131 For instance, Wilson argues that a religious group’s view on salvation is reflected in its ideal interests, intra-group relations, and orientation toward society.132 Salvation attainment is the formative source, then, of the distinctions between religious forms.
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Niko Kielstra, ‘Law and Reality in Modern Islam,’ in: Gellner (Ed.) Islamic Dilemmas: Reformers, Nationalists, and Industrialization: The Southern Shore of the Mediterranean, p. 15. Roy, Globalized Islam, p. 225. ¨ For more on the Gulen community as a ‘New Age’ movement, see Can Kozanoglu, Internet, Dolunay, Cemaat (Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari, 1997). Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, pp. 19; 35. See Ernest Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); and Roy, Globalized Islam. Bryan Wilson, Religious Sects: A Sociological Study (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970), p. 36. Ibid.

¨ The Gulen Phenomenon ¨ Theological Form: The Gulen Community and Neo-Sufi Theology

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¨ The Gulen community, with theological roots in Naksibendi Sufism, possesses many of ¸ ¨ the religious characteristics of reform Sufi movements. Theologically, Gulen reconstructs many Sufi principles and spiritual exercises for his modern audience: mystical selfexploration, development of the inner self, the ascendance and ultimate transcendence of the soul from this world to a union with God, and the believer’s ultimate return to the earth for the resumption of meaningful works.133 On the last principle, which is derived from ¨ Sirhindi’s conception of marju, or return, Gulen teaches: ‘the traveler returns to be amidst the people in order that others may also feel and experience what he or she has felt and experienced during some degree of meeting or reunion with God.’134 ¨ Gulen preaches the necessity of this-worldly mysticism, and traces its legitimacy to the ¨ example of Muhammad. For example, Gulen characterizes true mystics as persons who, . . . continue their relationship with the world in proportion to its essential value. They are ascetics whose every moment is spent in pride and fame. As stated in a Prophetic Tradition, they are the royalty in the Gardens of Paradise, but they live life in such a way that they attach no importance to other things . . . They regard all worldly and other-worldly favors as a means of mentioning their true Owner, of being in constant thankfulness to Him and they are zealous to strive in His way.135 ¨ In essence, Gulen reformulates the traditional Naksibendi concept of khalvat dar ¸ anjuman (solitude in society) for the contemporary, active Muslim and resuscitates the Naksibendi adherence to the ‘Muhammadan way.’136 Against the formalism of urban ¸ ¨ orthodoxy, Gulen also stresses the esoteric side of faith. True faith and salvation, he teaches, derives from experiencing a personal emotional bond with scripture and with God, in addition to a legalistic adherence to the Qur’an. He seeks to combine Sufi emotionalism with the austerity of shari’a, recommending that inner knowledge and experience of God be ‘filtered’ through the legal requirements of the Qur’an and hadith.137 He writes: ‘It is only when the intellect, spirit, and body are harmonized, and man is motivated toward activity in the illuminated way of the Divine message, that he can become a complete being and attain true humanity.’138 He therefore sees no conflict between the outer and inner dimensions of Islam. ¨ Gulen directs the Sufi concentration on inner spirituality toward the worldly realm. The taming of the corporeal body by means of spiritual transcendence, a fundamental notion in Sufi practice, is exploited to achieve mastery of the world through social activity. After achieving transcendence and constant ‘God-consciousness,’ disciples are enjoined to perpetuate this knowledge of God in daily life, performing acts of service that reflect their intense subjective spiritual experience. What is at once a personal and emotional exercise,

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133 134

135 136 137 138

¨ ¨ See Gulen, Key Concepts of Sufism, Vol. 1; and Gulen, Key Concepts of Sufism, Vol. 2. ¨ On Sirhindi’s conception of marju, see Ansari, Sufism and Shari’ah, p. 90. For Gulen’s interpretation, see ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts of Sufism, Vol. 2, p. 247. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts of Sufism, Vol. 2, p. 73. Ansari, Sufism and Shari’ah, p. 67. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts of Sufism, Vol. 2, p. 21. ¨ Gulen, Essentials of the Islamic Faith, p. 106.

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raising one’s soul toward the brilliance of God’s knowledge and beauty, is instrumentalized and rationalized to discipline one’s life and work in the temporal realm. ¨ Gulen is critical of older Sufi orders, condemning their ‘spiritless ritual’ and attacking ¨ their masters as ‘bigoted highwaymen.’139 Gulen regards the heterodoxy of older orders as being overly syncretistic, to the point where the essential faith is replaced by ‘personal ¨ choices and desires.’140 In fact, Gulen is so adamant about the heresy of ecstatic orders that he applauds Kemal’s move to abolish them in 1924, observing, ‘Who knows that such attitudes did not cause Destiny to allow the banning of such and the closing of the ways that led to their collapse.’141 ¨ Thus, like neo-Sufi and new mystical forms, Gulen’s teachings represent a synthesis between scripturalism and experientialism. According to The Fountain, Sufism is ‘based on meticulously observing the rules of shari’a down to the smallest detail in order to penetrate their inner meaning.’142 Viewing fundamental scripture as the source of all ¨ religious knowledge, Gulen warns his community against the corruption of pure Islamic doctrine: ‘Adherence guarantees that Islam retains its original purity. Any deviation will result in social and doctrinal splits and new importations into Islam.’143 ¨ The Gulen Community and Neofundamentalist Theology ¨ Like neofundamentalist groups, the Gulen movement seeks to create a community of believers dedicated to the rigorous study and practice of essential Islamic beliefs. Furthermore, just as neofundamentalism is tied to the urban pietism of the lower and ¨ middle classes, Gulen’s theology of worldly asceticism and Islamic activism has organized around the material interests of the rising Anatolian bourgeoisie. As Ernest Gellner observes, the affinity between strong religious devotion and capitalistic activity is quite marked: The elective affinity of scripturalist rigorism or fundamentalism with the social and political needs of the period of industrialization or ‘development’ is fairly clear. It is a period which calls for much discipline and self-sacrifice, for self-discipline above all, and for orderliness and literacy, the obedience to abstract rules, imposed by central and as it were disembodied authority. One has to perform one’s duties religiously.144 ¨ As with neofundamentalism, Gulen’s theology reflects an essentialist, ahistorical interpretation of the Muslim faith that adheres to the Qur’an and hadith. The Qur’an and hadith are viewed as equally authoritative and relevant, with the example of the Prophet ¨ serving as a practical guide for daily life. Gulen insists: ‘the Qur’an is identical with
139 140 141

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142 143 144

¨ Gulen, Key Concepts of Sufism, Vol. 2, p. 243. Ibid. ¨ Gulen’s ascetic distaste for some Sufi practices recalls Weber’s view of the ‘worldly ascetic,’ who rejects ‘everything that is ethically irrational, esthetic, or dependent upon his own emotional reactions to the world ¨ and its institutions.’ See Weber, The Sociology of Religion, p. 168. Gulen’s support of the dismantling of Sufi ¨ orders appears in Gulen, Key Concepts of Sufism, Vol. 2, p. 243. Hikmet Isik, ‘Questions and Answers,’ The Fountain, 47 (2004), p. 46. ¨ Gulen, Prophet Muhammad, Vol. 1, p. 135. Ernest Gellner, Muslim Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 61.

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Prophet Muhammad, and is the embodiment of him in words, just as he is the embodiment ¨ of the Qur’an in belief and conduct.’145 Beyond these fundamental texts, however, Gulen uses ijtihad to contextualize Islamic doctrines for modern worship.146 For example, ¨ Gulen’s writings, televised sermons, and media outlets offer generic religious knowledge to a universal audience, whereas neofundamentalists preserve their faith from common culture.

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¨ Organizational Form: The Gulen Community as a Neo-Sufi Tarikat ¨ Gulen upsets the traditional Sufi organizational paradigm by disestablishing the role of the master as a spiritual mediator between the disciple and God. Claiming no charismatic or formalized authority, he instead acts as an ‘inspirational leader,’ and religious reformer.147 ¨ Gulen, like Nursi, insists he is a student alongside his followers. Only the Qur’an ¨ legitimately can guide one’s spiritual activities, teaches Gulen, because it possesses ¨ infinite wisdom over a sheikh. Gulen’s distribution of interpretational authority among his followers democratizes paths to spiritual development and unravels arbitrary chains ¨ of religious authority. As Gulen teaches, ‘the ways leading to God are almost beyond number.’148 The bureaucratic governing structure of the community’s inner circle parallels other neo-Sufi tarikats. According to Michael Gilsenan, modern brotherhoods possess a ‘high degree of internal stratification’ staffed by ‘full-time and salaried professionals.’149 In general, Gilsenan identifies these tarikats as Weberian ‘voluntary associations’ in that they are movements ‘originating in a voluntary agreement and in which the established order claims authority over the members only by virtue of a personal act of adherence.’150 ¨ As with Gulen’s inner circle, status is determined by devotion to the leader and to the Qur’an and the hadith.

¨ The Gulen Community as an Islamic Non-Aggressive Sect ‘Non-aggressive type sects’ abandon world-rejection and accept the prevailing social order.151 They are often bourgeois in constitution and organize around the ethic of a vocational calling. Ernest Troeltsch defines these sects as ‘highly individualistic organizations based on personal conviction and on conscious, systematic ethical achievement.’152 Roland Robertson adds that these sects also promote an ethic of
145 146

147 148 149

150

151 152

¨ Gulen, Essentials of the Islamic Faith, p. 262. See Yilmaz, ‘Ijtihad and Tajdid by Conduct,’ p. 223; and Etga Ugur, ‘Review of Turkish Islam and the Secular State,’ The Fountain, 46 (2004), p. 49. Yavuz, “Islam in the Public Sphere,” p. 19. ¨ Gulen, Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism, Vol. 1, p. 154. Michael Gilsenan, Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt: An Essay in the Sociology of Religion (Oxford: Clarendon, 1973), p. 65. Gilsenan defines modern tarikats as ‘voluntary associations’ in ibid., p. 66; for a sociological definition of ‘voluntary associations,’ Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (New York: The Free Press, 1964), p. 151. Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, p. 806. Ibid.

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individualism: ‘Sectarianism constitutes a form of socially organized subjectivity, while churchism constitutes a form of socially organized objectivity.’153 Non-aggressive sects both catalyze and respond to social transformations in a constructive process of vernacularization. Modern sects, according to Wilson, flourish amid social structural change by preserving and reinvesting traditional norms and value.154 By legitimizing and sanctifying worldly activity, sects implicitly accept the validity of the mundane realm, and, after an initial estrangement, return to an active ¨ engagement with society. Like the ‘non-aggressive type sect,’ the Gulen community, with its faith-based isik evler, schools, dormitories, and media outlets, stands as a refuge from ¸ the secular culture of the Kemalist elites, while simultaneously attempting to penetrate and reform society. As Casanova notes, modern forms of public religion engage in ‘immanent critiques of particular forms of institutionalization of modernity from a modern normative ¨ perspective.’155 By shielding themselves from society, Gulen’s followers are able to preserve their Muslim subjectivity and defend their traditional values from the hegemony of secular norms. Later, they expend stored social capital to Islamize the prevailing ¨ culture. Therefore, while critical of dominant social norms, the Gulen community directly engages the public sphere ultimately to Islamize the civil and political terrain. They not only create their own sheltered counterpublics but also deploy their normative vision in the market of religious and cultural values, seeking converts and sympathizers. Toward a Definition: The Neo-Sufi, Non-Aggressive Sect of a Rival Elite Stressing the autonomy and authenticity of the Muslim subject and synthesizing the ¨ external and internal aspects of the Islamic religion, Gulen’s theology places him within reform Sufism. Meanwhile, the community’s non-political, or ‘post-Islamist’ counterpublic strategy of cultural and economic engagement places it within the non-aggressive sect type of religious associational forms. As Michael Gilsenan observed about modern ¨ Egyptian tarikats, the Gulen community seems to be ‘an organic part of the structure of . . . society rather than being in any sense ‘outside’ or ‘interstitial’ to it.’156 Similarly, the ¨ Gulen community’s counterpublic strategy does not necessarily imply rejection or distance from society; if anything, it reveals the movement’s firm commitment to the ¨ future course of Turkey’s modernizing project. The Gulen community contributes to a ‘public debate’ about important social issues, offering, in Casanova’s words, ‘counterfactual normative critiques’ of prevailing paradigms.157 The production of critical discourses and rival institutions suggests an alternative conception of Turkish modernity rather than a wholesale rejection of modernity itself. As Casanova writes, religion’s ‘deprivatization’ is often a constructive act, not a defensive maneuver: Religions throughout the world are entering the public sphere and the arena of political contestation not only to defend their traditional turf, as they have done in the
153

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154 155 156 157

Roland Robertson, ‘On the Analysis of Mysticism: Pre-Weberian, Weberian and Post-Weberian Perspectives,’ Sociological Analysis, 36 (1975), p. 245. Wilson, Religious Sects, p. 228. Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World, p. 230. Gilsenan, Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt, p. 6. Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World, p. 43.

¨ The Gulen Phenomenon past, but also to participate in the very struggles to define and set the modern boundaries between the private and public spheres, between system and life-world, between legality and morality, between individual and society, between family, civil society, and state, between nations, states, civilizations, and the world system.158

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Oriented towards society rather than against it, and fluent in the vocabularies of modern ¨ science and business, the Gulen community stands for an organic Turkish conception of ¨ modernity. In a broad sense then, Gulen’s community arises to reject the Kemalist equation of modernization with Westernization. As the Kemalist revolution once tried to ¨ ‘Turkify’ Islam and cultural identity, the Gulen community tries to Islamize modernity and national identity by promoting religious values and practices culled from Islam’s ‘golden age.’ References
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Yalman, N. (1969) Islamic Reform and the Mystic Tradition in Eastern Turkey, European Journal of Sociology, 10, pp. 41–60. Yavuz, M. & Esposito, J. (2003) Islam in Turkey: Retreat from the Secular Path?, in: M. H. Yavuz & J. L. Esposito ¨ (Eds) Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press). Yavuz, M. (2003) Islamic Political Identity in Turkey (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Yavuz, M. (2003) Islam in the Public Sphere: The Case of the Nur Movement, in: M. H. Yavuz & J. L. Esposito ¨ (Eds) Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press). ¨ Yilmaz, I. (2003) Ijtihad and Tajdid by Conduct: The Gulen Movement, in: M. H. Yavuz & J. L. Esposito (Eds) ¨ Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press). Zubaida, S. (2003) Trajectories of Political Islam: Egypt, Iran and Turkey, in: B. S. Turner (Ed.) Islam: Critical Concepts in Sociology, Volume 4 (London: Routledge).

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