August 29, 2015

Gülen urges Muslims to denounce terrorism, promote human rights, education

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has called on Muslims around the world to denounce terrorism, defend human rights in their communities and promote education, actions that he sees as the antidote to Muslims' lingering problems.

In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Gülen urged Muslims to confront "totalitarian ideology" at a time when the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) continues its carnage in the Middle East. He argued that terrorist violence carried out in the name of Islam profoundly affects all Muslims and that Muslims should join efforts to combat what he called a "cancer."

"Members of the faith must do whatever possible to prevent this cancer from metastasizing in our communities. If we don't, we'll be partly responsible for the smeared image of our faith," Gülen wrote in the WSJ.

Gülen is a moderate Islamic scholar with a large following in Turkey. His followers have established dozens of centers around the world to promote dialogue between members of different faiths and cultures.

In the article, the Islamic scholar offered six methods to combat terrorism that has been characterized as being connected to Islam. He first called on Muslims to denounce violence because Islam rejects any claims terrorists make of religious justification. He said Islam's core ethics are not left to interpretation.

"One such principle is that taking the life of a single innocent is a crime against all humanity. … Even in an act of defense in war, violence against any noncombatants, especially women, children and clergy, is specifically prohibited by the Prophet's teachings," Gülen claimed.

The scholar said it is obvious that mainstream moderate voices are less likely to capture headlines than extremists ones but that moderate Muslims needs to find innovative ways to ensure "our voices are heard" instead of blaming the media. Gülen also asked Muslims to publicly promote human rights as the most basic of Islamic values. "No individual, nor any political or religious leader, has the authority to snatch them away," he said, adding that respecting diversity is the essence of the Islamic faith.

He also asked Muslims to provide educational opportunities in their communities -- something the Hizmet movement, which he founded, is very good at -- and urged governments in the Muslim world to design school curricula that nurture democratic values. In addition to this, Gülen argued, providing religious education to Muslims is critical to depriving extremists of a tool that they use to spread their "twisted ideologies.”

"When religious freedom is denied, as it has been for decades in parts of the Muslim world, faith grows in the shadows, leaving it to be interpreted by unqualified and radical figures," he wrote.

It is imperative that Muslims support equal rights for women and men, Gülen noted, adding that women should be given opportunity and be free from social pressures that deny their equality. Characterizing terrorism as a "multifaceted problem," Gülen said the solutions to it should address political, economic, social and religious aspects. He urged world governments to avoid making statements and actions that result in the alienation of Muslims.

"Violent extremism has no religion," Gülen said. "Mainstream Muslims do not endorse violence."

He recognized the "immensely difficult" task of restoring the "blotted image of Islam," but Muslims, Gülen asserted, can be beacons of peace and tranquility in their societies.

Published on Today's Zaman, 28 August 2015, Friday