Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
Without a sound knowledge of Turkish political history, it is very difficult to understand why Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet movement have been very sensitive about governmental, constitutional and legal issues despite being primarily an educational and dialogue movement that endeavors to stay away from daily politics.
The answers to questions such as, “What does the Hizmet movement want from the state?” “Why has Gülen been determinedly encouraging his sympathizers to accept state jobs?” and “Why are there several media outlets owned by Hizmet-inspired people?” cannot be answered convincingly without referring to modern Turkish political history.
After Team B of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) led the War of Independence from 1919-1922, they decided to follow most of Team A’s policies with a more revolutionary zeal. Most of the CUP politicians were Turkish nationalist, social Darwinist, anti-religious laicist, etatist and Jacobin people who did not trust the people. They decided to create a homogenous secular Turkish nation in Anatolia, since they blamed both Islam and the ethnically-religiously diverse population of the Ottoman Empire for its fall. We all know what happened to Armenians, Greeks and Kurds during and after World War I, but very few people paid attention to what happened to practicing Muslim people, who have always been the majority in this country.
The Kemalist oligarchic elite has always perceived urbanite, educated, organized, practicing Muslims as an existential threat. Religion has always been a security issue in the Republican era. Until it was abolished in 1991 by former Prime Minister Turgut Özal, the notorious 163th article of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) was used by the state to unjustly imprison many thousands of practicing Muslims who were simply reading spiritual books that had nothing to do with politics. The media, which was strictly controlled by the state, portrayed them as traitors, spies, terrorists and so on. There were not human rights and civil society organizations to defend their basic and fundamental rights. Only a very few, select people who were approved by the Kemalists could become police officers, prosecutors, soldiers and judges. And almost all of these bureaucrats always served the unjust aims of the Kemalist oligarchy.
In response to all this, Gülen has placed much emphasis on education. With a new ijtihad (independent reasoning), he always stated that instead of building a mosque, religious businessmen must establish secular schools that will educate the future’s engineers, doctors, lawyers, journalists and yes, police, prosecutors and judges. As the most recent Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) statement repeated, Gülen and the Hizmet movement have consistently “expressed a demand for EU reforms, the establishment of a fully democratic Turkey, the establishment of the rule of law, the most advanced fundamental rights and freedoms, equality of all before the law, a civilian constitution and a transparent state that can be held accountable; in addition, they have extended efforts to make ensure that these goals are achieved.”
As a result, it is only normal and democratic that now, potentially 1 or 2 percent of bureaucrats are people who are inspired in varying degrees by the Hizmet movement, which is espoused by a few percent of the population in Turkey. On spiritual and religious matters, they voluntarily take their inspiration from the Hizmet movement, but on bureaucratic and administrative matters they have to obey the orders of their superiors within the bureaucracy. What the Hizmet movement expects them to do is be just, obedient to the rule of law, democratic and supportive of human rights and freedoms, including religious freedoms. This is more than enough for the Hizmet movement, which flourishes in democratic environments and hates top-down Iranian-type revolutions, since they mostly produce insincere parasites and hypocrites.
Today’s Zaman January 1, 2014
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