October 25, 2015

'Fethullah Gülen Offers Antidote to Terrorism'

Rainer Hermann*

Fethullah Gülen responds as the voice of an intellect, in the name of Islam, to those who engage in brutal terrorist acts. His response is crucially important. Gülen presents a recommendation of culture based on tolerance…

For a long time, al-Qaeda has been in existence as a worldwide terrorist ideology not just a terrorist organization. A war could be waged against terrorist organizations by the police force and secret services. A war against ideology on the other hand requires not the police but intellectuals, not the secret services but open media. Thus far, the war against terrorism has been waged through the obstruction of terrorist activities, spearheaded by security units. It is impossible for Western countries to do more.

Whereas, they require to show some reaction against it because al-Qaeda terrorism is directed primarily at Western targets and prosperity. Meanwhile, Islam remains at the toughest spot in between. This is because al-Qaeda soils the name of Islam, irreversibly. Hence, Abdulahmit Bilici wrote in his article dated March 17 in Zaman daily: “We need to understand that al-Qaeda, if it is responsible, is the greatest threat facing Muslims and more than the rest of the world, we need to find a solution.” The title of his article was: “How Long Will Muslim States Remain Silent to Al-Qaeda?” The Islamic response to terrorism came from Fethullah Gülen. A well-known name in the non-Muslim world, Gulen is also known as a person who advocates tolerance and a decent and constructive dialogue within the framework of understanding each other.

Many have been waiting for his explicit words: Islam sees the killing of another person as equal to qufr [not believing or denial], or, “No one can be a suicide commando,” or, “Individuals cannot declare war.” This means a murderer loses his/her religion. One who commits suicide or kills another person cannot be a Muslim. It is against Islamic jurisprudence if one declares war. Continuing his statement the following day, he said: “One of the people in the world I hate the most is [Osama] bin Laden, because he has spoiled the bright appearance of Islam,” later he added, “It is the guilt of education. Education can prevent this from happening.” That is, Islamic education has failed. It has not taught people that they should pursue good deeds in the name of Allah and should refrain from evil.

Peace Call for World Nations

Gülen’s interview draws attention in many aspects. Gülen condemns terrorism with harsher language than other Islamic leaders. Gülen shows ways to overcome terrorism. In the Arab world in particular, the number of Muslims who see terrorism as a protest against globalization and modernity is not negligible. They use religion as a coverup for this protest and terrorism. Gülen on the other hand recommends opening up to modernity and globalization within this context. He educates the youths at schools close to his line, with the aim of their being able to stand up and to achieve success in this new world.

He calls on Muslims to open up to modernity and globalization. The Western world could learn from him that there are values besides a monotype order, globalization other than in the field of economy. Gülen says that he regards religion as a great energy to shape up the lives of people. He also teaches people that various religions could live side by side under the roof of globalization, away from grudge and terrorism and next to peace and tolerance.

It is said in a Western criticism, constantly voiced, that the Islamic world lacks self-criticism and seeks to blame others. Gülen himself makes the same criticism as well and wants individuals to accept each other as they are. And thus in his interview, he also criticizes people who cannot accept others. Gülen demands solidarity and equality and the development of a non-violent culture based on tolerance. He had stated this previously by recalling the concept of [Prophet] Abraham’s common heritage, his spirit and his trust in God. With his statement, “The wideness in Islam’s spirit has been narrowed down,” he expresses complaint concerning the situation.

‘Gülen, Strong Voice of Islam’

Gülen, as the voice of an intellect, responds to those who commit terrorism and brutal acts in the name of Islam. His response is crucially important because an increasing number of Islamic scholars interprets bin Laden’s video cassettes and formulates these as the ‘Jihad ideology.’

These scholars have transformed the Internet into a kind of ‘Jihad university.’ Firstly, Egyptians such as Seyd Qutb and others, preached hatred, therefore, they paved the way for bin Laden. In recent years, some Palestinians like Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi and Omar Ibn Mahmud Abu Omar (alias Abu Qatadah) have been placed along side these; likewise some Saudis, such as Abdurrahman al-Ezdi and Abdulaziz al-Cerbu have also interpreted al-Qaeda.

The most influential interpreter of bin Laden is Palestinian al-Maqdisi. He is the spiritual leader of the terrorist group called, ‘Bayt al-Imam,’ that was responsible for the [terrorist] activities in Istanbul on November 15 and 20 last year. Even though, the title of his most important book is ‘Millet Ibrahim,’ the path he has drawn is quite the opposite of Gülen’s. Because Maqdisi desires submission to Allah as Ibrahim did and starting from here, he accuses all world leaders of being ‘despots and unbelievers.’ According to him, democracy is the ruling power of idolatry and an invention against Islamic values. In Maqdisi’s opinion, Jews and Christians are not non-Muslim believers, but they have become unbelievers and polytheists by taking part in elections.

Al-Qaeda’s ideology has become more important than the organization itself. Even though, al-Qaeda depends on its network, however, this could gradually become less reachable. The ‘network’ has become loose in itself. Membership changes according to need and time. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda delivers a Jihad message against the West. In spite of this message becoming more popular in the Arab world, the number of the Muslims willing to take sides in bin Laden’s violent war, is none the less, not many. Despite all its popularity, it cannot be said that bin Laden has generated a mass movement.

Wide-range terrorist attacks, combined with al-Qaeda, terrorism and the fear of the West have made bin Laden an unreachable myth. The number of the people who anticipate more horrible bin Laden terrorist attacks is not small. In order for bin Laden to be removed from the mythical state, Western security institutions should be successful in averting terrorist attacks. However, when a war is waged against terrorism, its spiritual roots should be considered. The West cannot do it alone. The initiative has to come from the Islamic world. Gülen gives important hints to both Muslims and non-Muslims. This bears the hope of overcoming terrorism because it is impossible to prevent terrorism without placing Islam as its exact opposite. When terrorism is prevented, Islam will be cleansed of blame.

*Frankfurter Allgemeine Newspaper Turkey Correspondent

Published on Today’s Zaman, 19 April 2004, Monday