December 10, 2015

Hizmet and countering violent extremism

İhsan Yılmaz

The Hizmet movement is in trouble in Turkey because of the increasingly despotic Justice and Development Party (AKP) regime's persecution of its volunteers. But, ironically, this may be good for world peace.

Our global village has several very serious problems and one of them is unfortunately the violent extremist ideologies that keep coming out in the Muslim world, which has unfortunately been like a fertile swamp for such ideologies for a long time. It seems that in terms of its size and potential global impact, the Hizmet may be the only hope for solutions in eradicating, or at least countering, the perverted ideologies that negatively affect some Muslims. So far, the Hizmet has allocated an overwhelming majority of its monetary, institutional and human capital in Turkey, depriving the world of its potential contribution to a great extent. The AKP's inhumane cruelty that amounts to a sort genocide will hopefully give unintentional fruit to the Hizmet's more balanced spread throughout the world with its peaceful, non-violent, pluralistic, modern and compassionate approach.

The Hizmet's potentially valuable contribution stems from the fact that despite its increasing pluralization in terms of the backgrounds of its participants, it is still mainly a practicing Sunni Muslim movement. And, as you know, unfortunately nowadays almost all those that commit barbaric acts of terrorism in the name of Islam come from this background. The terrorists, similar to the Islamophobes in the West, are vehemently against Muslims' peaceful co-existence in the West and their successful integration to wider society. What the Hizmet offers not only by its creed but also by its conduct is that Islam is compatible with secular modernity, democracy, human rights and secularism. What is more, the Hizmet has been arguing that terrorism is against Islam. Fethullah Gülen, the inspiring leader of the movement, is a Sunni Muslim scholar and he bases all his non-violent philosophy on Sunni Islamic sources. This is the only way that the world's more than 1 billion Sunni Muslims will be positively influenced. The Hizmet's non-violent philosophy is so peaceful that despite its monstrous treatment by the AKP for the last two years, none of its participants have resorted to violence. This has been very difficult for Hizmet volunteers. In passing, I must mention that I am worried that the AKP, which wants the Hizmet to be labeled as a terrorist organization -- and has been unsuccessful so far -- may plot to attempt to show that the Hizmet resorts to violence too. With its newly acquired deep state, the AKP may organize for some of the Hizmet volunteers, who, like me, are hated by AKP members, to be physically attacked or even killed and organize a "Hizmet" counter-attack and kill some staunchly anti-Hizmet AKP members. God forbid...

But even if this plot is implemented, I do not think that the world will buy this cheap manipulation of facts since there is nothing in the Hizmet's understanding that violence is Islamic. The God that the Hizmet people believe in is a merciful one that wants Muslims to be compassionate and decent human beings. On the other hand, its staunch enemy, the AKP, is rumored to support the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. What is more, according to several polls, an important percentage of AKP members do not see these organizations as terrorist ones. All Hizmet participants, however, do consider these monsters as evil terrorists who are not even Muslim any more.

Unlike Islamists, the Hizmet does not divide the world into two -- dar al-harb and dar al-Islam -- but sees it as a single entity which is dar al-Hizmet, meaning that Muslims can and actually must reside peacefully everywhere in the world and continually serve human kind by being good people and by investing their money, time, energy and endeavor into education, dialogue, media, publication, medicine and philanthropy. It is not only the Hizmet's anti-violent philosophy but also its conduct in these areas that is helpful in countering and rooting-out violent extremism. Thanks to the AKP's evil pressure in Turkey, the Hizmet will reallocate its human and other resources to different parts of the world.

Published on Today's Zaman, 9 December 2015, Wednesday