I am Steve Gilliland**. I am American.
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes known as the Mormons.
I have a wonderful wife and family, 8 children, 20 grandchildren.
And I have been involved with the Muslim people for about 8 years or so, through my church that has asked me to build bridges and help people get acquainted with each other amongst the Mormons and the Muslims.
I come from a church that is very structured as far as its organization is concerned.
We do a lot of good in the world and in the community. Mormons are known for their humanitarian work, but most of this is generated from the top down.
If people individually want to do things, they can, but usually they get permission from the church structure if they’re doing it within a religious sphere.
I found just the opposite in the Hizmet movement. There is no authoritarian leadership driving it.
There are wonderful inspired ideas from Mr. Gulen. But, people individually and in groups studied his work and then came up with their own applications of what he is telling them.
That was surprising to me that all over the country, all over Turkey, there are groups popping up who read what he had to say, were inspired by them, pulled together with a network of neighbors and friends and others, pulled their resources and developed the means to build schools, colleges, a newspaper, humanitarian programs, and other groups that try to bring people together, diverse people together to talk and to share and understand each other.
We have said many times if there is peace in the world, in the future, it is going to be people like members of the Hizmet Movement and others who will pull together to understand each other and talk it through and bring about peace.
Mr. Gulen is an impressive person not because of his person, or personality, or his organization but because of his ideas.
My impression of him is that he is very humble person.
He has a strong point of view about various things, but he seems like a very humble person, one who listens and encourages listening and sharing and building. It is his ideas that are the power.
I see the Hizmet movement as the best expression of Islam that I have seen anywhere.
The Prophet Muhammad said that, it is in the Qur'an, it says that, we are created in different societies, cultures and backgrounds as a challenge to come together and understand each other and to bring about peace.
That is, the whole thrust that I can see of the Gulen Movement is to bring people together, to understand each other as a way of bringing about peace.
Also, Islam doesn’t have any Pope or authoritarian leader to guide it. It is a people worship, it is an individual relationship between man and God, woman and God
And, so there is no structure there that anyone can turn to except the Book and to God.
Muslims gather together in communities and establish mosques and invite scholars to come in and teach them. But, that’s of their own spontaneous accord, and no one is telling them to do this, they are doing this out of their hearts.
I see that the same way in the Hizmet Movement. I don’t see Gulen running anything, I see him as expressing ideas that are very sound and based upon the teachings of the Quran and of Islam, but not just the Quran or Islam.
I think he represents the best in Christianity, the best in Buddhism, the best in Sikhism, on and on, the best of all world religions, I think, are represented in the philosophy of Fethullah Gulen.
The most striking aspect of the Hizmet Movement to me is the spontaneity of the people, the followers.
They bring forth their interpretation of the philosophy of Gulen and apply it in their own situation according to their needs and their circumstances.
I think that is the richest portion, the richest expression of religion, where people are not told what to do as much, that they are in tune with God, and pray about it and then apply it as God guides them.
As far as education is concerned, I see the key thrust of it is understanding, bringing people from different backgrounds, different economic levels, or from a great variety of experiences, coming together, studying together and helping to understand human beings, understand each other.
If we’re going to have peace in the world or solve the world’s problems, I think, first of all, we need to understand not just the physical aspects of the problems—which is an important part of education—but also the human aspects of the problems, and to develop people who have the skills of encountering people who are different than themselves and not being threatened by this because they know the people are people, and they have learned to communicate and be at home with them.
To me, this is the solution. In schools, there is no better place than in schools while they’re having their various learning experiences to be interacting and growing in the emotional human dimensions.
I see this happening.
In the last 6 years, we have met many teachers from the different schools. We have been in their homes, we have eaten with them, and we have heard their philosophy of education.
I am very impressed that this is a very peaceful, bright, supportive community that, wherever they build schools in the world…
In the last 6 years since we have encountered the Hizmet movement, we have been to many many many activities where they have invited people of various faiths together in dinners and other events where they could visit and get acquainted and share their different points of view.
I see that the Hizmet Movement is very strongly involved in helping people of different faiths to understand each other and talk through their differences, not that people leave being agreed on everything, but they learn to be agreeable.
They learn that other people of other faiths are good people, too, and want the same for their families that we want for our families and our faith.
To me, one of the key principles of Islam is generosity and compassion in dealing with people who are poverty-stricken, poor, people who have been through disasters… That is a key principle of the faith of a Muslim.
I think that the Hizmet Movement is a wonderful expression of those principles in Islam, where they reach out, as the Prophet Mohammed what have them, reach out around the world to people who are struggling in disasters and in problems, and who don’t have help.
And they are providing help to them as much as they can in any way, without any strings attached.
They are not there to convert; they are not there to gain power over people. They are there to help people, and to raise them up.
Down through history, different individuals, tyrants, or whatever you want to call them, have tried to use fear to strengthen their power.
We see Erdogan using a very benign, very supportive group such as the Hizmet Movement as a means of creating fear in the minds of people so that he can enhance his own power, and I don’t think it is going to work.
On a short-term basis he may have some success in this, but the Turkish people are smart enough to not be fooled by these types of lies. My statement to the people in Turkey is; find out what the Hizmet program is all about, read the philosophy of Fethullah Gulen, and realize where they are coming from, instead of listening to the politicians. Go to the source.
**Profile: Steve Gilliland is the director of Muslim Affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southern California. He received a master’s degree from Brigham Young University in Family Counseling. Gilliland also holds a doctorate degree from Boston University in Counseling. He organized the LDS Institute Program for the students at Harvard, Radcliffe, MIT, and Boston University.
*Produced by Spectra Media exclusively for Irmak TV, Atlas of Thoughts (Fikir Atlasi) connects the scholars, politicians, jurists, religious figures, journalists, and academics reflecting on Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement with the audience. Each episode features a person from a different segment of the society with diverse experiences regarding the Hizmet activities and its volunteers. If you are interested to hear about the Hizmet and Mr. Gulen from these people’s perspectives, do not miss this show!