I’m Professor Roberta Rosenberg** and I teach at Christopher Newport University, which is part of the state university system in Virginia.
I have been here for a number of years. I teach in the English Department. I teach courses in multi-cultural American literature and Women’s Studies, and I co-direct the Women’s and Gender Studies program. I also started the Civic Engagement Center here.
My views on the Hizmet Movement are very positive because Hizmet, of course, means service and service is something that I think is extremely important for all people. It’s something that I’ve started on my campus too.
What I like about the Hizmet Movement is its belief and commitment to interfaith dialogue. My feeling is that there isn’t enough of that cross-cultural dialogue. Very often in the United States, people who have one view only speak to people who have that view. They only read newspapers and magazines of that one view. It’s especially important for young people. I teach young people and most of them don’t read modern, contemporary newspapers. So, they very often don’t get the viewpoint of people who might be different.
One of the things that I know from my field—which is multi-cultural literature—is that if students don’t interact with people from different cultures in college, the research suggests that they never will. So, this is a really good time for that to happen.
And the Hizmet Movement is—because of its commitment to interfaith dialogue—is extremely valuable.
My views on Fethullah Gulen are also very positive. I know that he is someone who will speak out when he feels that something is not right and that takes a lot of courage, particularly if you represent a group and they feel maybe you shouldn’t say something about a certain situation, and he does.
I think what I like about him very much is his commitment to the common good but also a sense of … I read an article where he talked about education and metaphysics, reason and spirituality. Very often, I think, in our culture there are the people who feel that religion is extremely important and they’re maybe not as interested in education and then the people who are interested in education and don’t have any patience for religion. And I think that what I like about him is his commitment to balance, the interests of the spiritual and the interests of the logical and reasonable.
And, that is unfortunately rare. So, I think that that is a very good thing. For instance, I know that just recently Mr. Gulen spoke out about the abduction of Nigerian girls, and this is something I’m very concerned with since I’m very committed to the education of girls. And I thought it was courageous of him to speak out about it since the abduction of girls would have nothing to do with Islam, just the opposite.
From my point of view it would be, I don’t want to say a perversion of Islam, but it is a misinterpretation of Islam. And, I feel that when he speaks out on it that that is very important.
He has started many schools, and the Hizmet Movement has schools in—last time I looked—in a hundred different countries, and I know that girls are welcome in these schools and they’re educated. And the education of girls is extremely important to the common good as well as the ability of the modern state to do well.
I know there’s been criticism, by the government, of the Hizmet Movement and I think that that is so unfortunate. My experience with the Hizmet Movement has been that it is committed to the most idealistic notions of dialogue, education and social justice and not at all really political in its orientation.
So I find, sometimes when—and this is true in the United States as well—when leaders get themselves into political trouble they look to blame someone.
I find that sometimes in this country as well as in other countries, when leaders get themselves into difficulty they might look for a scapegoat. They might look for someone to blame.
And this is very unfortunate because I think that Mr. Erdogan—if he wants to work with the West and wants to work with countries outside of Turkey—would find a real help and aid in the Hizmet Movement because they’re a catalyst; they make it possible for people who might not know much about Turkey and might not know much about Islam to understand something about the country as well as the religion.
And that would be past of the usual stereotypes—and some of them are sensational stereotypes, negative—that we read in our press.
So, it is really unfortunate that he would not see the Hizmet Movement as an ally because it certainly could be.
I know that Mr. Erdogan has criticized the Hizmet Movement—and I suppose he’s criticized the Hizmet Movement for speaking out—but in the United States, we are very committed to free speech. We actually believe that it’s the duty of every citizen who cares about the country to speak out and to express a view.
And sometimes you criticize your government but you do it with love, in the same way that you might criticize someone in your family that you love because what you want to do is to make the situation better.
And it won’t get better if people just sit and take what they feel is not right but not do anything about it.
So, I think that free speech for us is considered a first amendment; it’s one of our primary goals, and it’s one of our primary rights.
And, in a contemporary society, we would hope that that would be true in all societies so that it’s important for a government to understand that. And I wish that Mr. Erdogan realize that when people speak out and disagree with him that they’re not disagreeing with Turkey, they’re actually trying to make life better for everyone.
**Profile: Professor of English, Department of English, Christopher Newport University (CNU), Virginia. She is the Director of CNU Women’s and Gender Studies Program. She completed her Ph.D. in English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She teaches Multicultural American Literature, Women’s Literature, Native American Literature. She authored Native American Literature in the South.
*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!.