March 22, 2010

Gülen movement is a chance for humanity, American professor says

Today's Zaman

Prof. Jill Carroll
Prof. Jill Carroll
The Fethullah Gülen movement is a chance for humanity, Rice University Professor Jill Carroll said while speaking at a high-level conference in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on Saturday.

The Baltic Turkish Culture Academy and Vilnius Pedagogical University jointly organized a conference on Gülen and the Gülen movement’s ideas on dialogue and tolerance. Speaking during the conference, Carroll, who is the author of a book called “A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen’s Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse,” said the Gülen movement is open to innovation and that dialogue has become part of the movement’s life. “The Gülen movement is a chance for humanity,” Carroll stressed.

With the participation of Ian Williams from Birmingham University and İhsan Yılmaz from Fatih University, this international conference on Islam and interfaith dialogue is the first of its kind in Lithuania. The conference, which featured the ambassadors of Azerbaijan and Spain, the consuls general of Turkey, Kazakhstan and Italy, and Lithuanian government officials, started with an opening speech by Vilnius Pedagogical University Rector Algirdas Gaizutis. Noting that dialogue seeks cultural cooperation, Gaizutis said they had translated one of Gülen’s books into Lithuanian. The rector said they are living in a more global world with open-minded people and that Gülen’s ideas have been received with great respect.

Explaining why she wanted to write about Gülen in her book, Carroll said it was necessary to study morals, freedom, education and responsibility, which are the basis of tolerance, and this is the reason why she wanted to compare Eastern and Western thinkers. Stressing that the best achievement of Gülen is his ability to implement his ideas, Yılmaz said many people may have similar ideas but what makes him unique is his ability to execute his thoughts. Williams said he has been following Gülen's activities for more than 10 years and that only Gülen truly represents service to humanity.

Abdulwahid Van Bommel
Meanwhile, Amsterdam’s Vrije University also organized a panel discussion on Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi and Fethullah Gülen’s peace initiatives over the weekend. Speaking during the discussion, Dutch scholar Abdulwahid Van Bommel said Gülen is indeed undertaking good activities for dialogue. “This is very important for the Western world. Muslims need people like Fethullah Gülen,” van Bommel said. Karel Steenbrink from Utrecht University’s Intercultural Dialogue Platform said Mevlana and Gülen are popular because of their teachings and open dialogue. “While the Gülen movement is not an Islamist movement, it is also not a sect or a tariqat [a religious order]. This volunteer movement is open to everyone with its peaceful and embracing character,” Steenbrink said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 22 March 2010, Monday