My name is Ken Hunter. I go by the name of “Buzz” for most of my friends. I've been fortunate enough to have been friends with people from the Hizmet Movement for eleven years. I met them in September of 2003, and it's the beginning of a relationship I am proud to be a part of.
The Hizmet Movement is connected spiritually, psychologically, philosophically, to the teachings of Mr. Fethullah Gülen. I have never met Mr. Gülen, but I've read some of his writings, maybe most importantly, I have met some people who've known Mr. Gülen. What I've gleaned from his writings is he's a man who's looking to help the world become better through education, and maybe most importantly, through love. One of the passages I read in a book of his, he was talking about where the battle for good and evil is, and he said, when we talk about apocalyptic events, that apocalyptic event occurs in the hearts of men and women, every moment of every day, where we have a choice to do evil, or to do good, where we have a choice to love, or not.
I went into teaching a long time ago, because I thought it would help save the world. As I've read Mr. Gülen, he believes that teaching is the greatest of all occupations. He believes that education is the power to transform. In my graduate studies, I ran across a gentleman named John Dewey, who believed that education is the vital force to renew not only individuals, but to renew community, and as I come to know Mr. Gülen and the Hizmet Movement, I see everything about that Movement concerned with improving community, with creating community, with moving us toward a common good. It sounds utopian in so many ways, and I go back and I listen to John Lennon talk about “Imagine” and “where you are”, but I think what I hear from Hizmet, what I see, and the adherence to Hizmet is a belief that the world can not only be better, but that the world can be the best. And again, going back to my tradition, that's really what the End Time is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be a time of eschatological fulfillment, where we really come into the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God. And that just impresses me every time I hear those kinds of words, it moves me in ways, those are the, those are the kinds of values that I think we have to be about.
Those are the kinds of values I tried to implement when I was teaching and when I, through my principalship, those are the things that matter, I think, most. And those are the things, in so many ways we talk about the least. But putting love into the world, putting love into practice, making love not just a noun, but making love a verb, what a wonderful thing, because that affects community; that changes; that transforms. You know, I know by the people who have loved me, and that can start with family, and also with really good friends. I know that their love has transformed me and made me better. When I think of what Hizmet is about, and what I've come to know in that Movement and what I've seen through Niagara, it's all about love. It's not about anything else. It's all about the transformation of people towards something better. And that transformation doesn't begin by intruding on other people's lives. That transformation begins within. When you look at how those things happen, if what's happening in you is not transformative through love, it's not going to affect anybody else in any other way. So as I understand the Hizmet Movement, the first thing that happens is a growth, a growing, a becoming of the individual, that leads him/her out into the world to affect community, to create community, to create, essentially, a neighborhood of love. And that is really important, especially now.
Throughout most of my teaching career, I was teaching either the Judeo-Christian scriptures or world religions, and my weakest area had been in Islam. I knew the far eastern religions very, very well.
I was more than conversant with Judaism and Christianity and the different sects of Christianity, but I had a weakness in Islam. What's been really helpful for me, as a person and as somebody who's a teacher, in getting to know Niagara, in getting to know Hizmet, I've gotten to know the beauty of Islam, the wondrousness and the kindness and the general level of peacefulness and goodwill that's embodied in that religion.
I was fortunate enough to travel to Turkey, got a chance to see and experience real Turkish hospitality. Most importantly, that hospitality continues to this day. The kindness that I've met, and that I've been received with, by members of Hizmet, by members of the Islamic/Muslim community, is astonishing to me. It really is. To go back to the words of the 60s, it's mind-blowing. And it really has expanded my understanding of what it means to be human. It's certainly taken away any of the edge of, about anything Muslim, where there's a… so much of what happens is just a general reaction to that word. What I found is, men and women who embrace the teachings of that religion embody that teaching, and make their God manifest in the world, and they follow the teachings of Mr. Gülen in making that God manifest. What they're really making happen in the world is love.
From what I understand, from reading the different news sources and listening to the different presentations, Hizmet is being seen as problematic for the ruling class of Turkey. I guess from my point of view, I don't understand why a movement that's about love, that's about the development of people, that's tinged with kindness—and it goes back, you can even take it back to Rumi, where this particular way of conducting lives is simply about loving—why that can be a threat to any, to any government, it seems illogical to me.
I guess in the end, it goes back to, we fear what we don't know. So many people, and I'm one of them, so many people have all kinds of phobias surrounding things we don't know, things with which we are not familiar. When we get to know them, the fears drop away. Franklin Roosevelt said, “all we have to fear is fear itself.” I think he was very wise, I think he was very smart. And what I've found in my own life, when I face those things that I fear, when I get to know those things, they begin to lose their power over me. It doesn't mean that I don't have to treat them with respect, and that their character necessarily has changed; it just means that the imagination that I used to make them bigger than they are stops blowing them up into real hideous monsters. It's just things that I see and things that I need to respect, and things I need to work around.
I look at people of my generation, and I think of a fellow who was shot when I was fourteen years old, a gentleman named Martin Luther King. And he was all about love. And that frightened people. I'm not sure what it is about love, but love is all about freedom, and love is all about life and freedom. Freedom is the most important value that I've found in teaching the scriptures. It's the key. Without freedom, nothing happens. Nothing matters, but for some reason we're frightened of that. And I don't know why we are. It's what gives us the power to be truly human. It's what gives us the ability to be truly alive. It's what gives us the opportunity to be more than we ever hoped we could be. And being frightened of that, I guess I can understand that. But once we face it and once we get to know it, and once we get to see it really in action, I can't think of anything that we should embrace more fervently, more ardently, and more courageously than love. So whatever's going in Turkey, I understand, 'cause I saw some of that go on in the United States, growing up when, faced with love, we responded badly. When we were faced with the possibility of making people more free, we responded less than courageously. And what I'm hoping as we go forward, as all of us go forward, that when love presents itself, we embrace it. We face the fears that are within us, and step out of ourselves, and become what we could be.
**Profile: Kenneth Hunter is the Principal of the Prosser Career Academy High School. He studied theology at Chicago Loyola University and taught world religions in high schools. He served as the chairperson of Illinois State Board of Education Language Arts Assessment Advisory Council (2002-2012). He is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago.
*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!