Turkey: A Bridge between Islam and the West - II
By Dr Muzaffar K. Awan
Michigan, USA

In recent decades, Fetullah Gülen (born 1938) has emerged as one of the manifestations of Said Nursi's legacy in Turkey. Gülen very much represents this approach, and he remains an agent of this newer societal transformation. He has played a key role in transforming people’s minds and has led them to a newer understanding of bottom-up modernity. The Gülen movement emerged very much out of the Nursi movement and yet there are certain new characteristics that Gülen has brought to the movement. I call this new movement a Nursi-Gulen movement (8). In terms of nationalism, Gülen is a bit more Turkish nationalist (in a Pan-Turkish context) in his thinking. Also, he is somewhat more state-oriented, and is concerned with market economics and neo-liberal economic policies. These are then the major characteristics of the Gulen movement.
The Gülen movement has been moving from ideas to practice. Practice was important and thus action has been very significant. In its view, Islam was not only about praying five times a day and reading Islamic books, but included acting, doing and creating institutions. In that sense, the Gülen movement is worldlier as it wants to create heaven here and now – education system, hospitals, institutions, and so forth. So whereas Said Nursi stressed cognitive understanding, Gülen is action-oriented. Gulen has developed a tremendous network of such institutions not only in Turkey but also in numerous other Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
In Turkey, the pendulum has been swinging toward a bottom-up conception of modernity and a new vision of secularism over the decades has evolved.
This writing is an attempt to look at Turkey’s islamization example of over half a century. The most important link in this context has been the Nursi-Gulen Islamic intellectual thought and movement.
Turkey has become increasingly interesting to scholars of Islamic studies. It was the only Muslim nation in NATO and has now started full membership negotiations with the European Union, where it can certainly bridge Islamic and Western civilizations. There is no doubt that Islam constitutes one of the most essential elements of Turkish culture---ninety-nine percent of the Turkish population is Muslim. The influence of Nursi-Gulen discourse on the Turkish public sphere has been paramount.
However, the main subject of this writing is Fethullah Gülen.He is an influential Islamic personality in today’s Turkey and perhaps in the world. His influence not only comes from his charismatic personality and his intellectual wisdom but also from the large number of educational and social institutions that have been established by his numerous admirers who take his advice and recommendations very seriously. Recently, the Muslim World journal (7), dedicated a special issue to Fethullah Gulen and his civic movement that would contribute greatly to the understanding of modernities in Turkish-Islamic context. (To be continued)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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