November 6, 2014

"Turkey, with the great assistance of Fethullah Gülen‎ has been a model"

Fikir Atlasi*, Episode 14 (Full text)

My name is, Patrick Drinan**, and I'm a Professor Emeritus and Dean Emeritus from the University of San Diego. I taught International Relations at the University of San Diego for many years.

The Hizmet Movement, I became aware of it about, five, six years ago, which is kind of strange because I'm a student of International Relations and a Russian-Soviet specialist, actually, and with Turkey in such close proximity to the Soviet Union and Russia, you'd think I would've heard more about it, but I did not, until approximately, five, six years ago.

The Pacifica Institute here in San Diego had a dinner in which they invited, interested people from the community in, and we learned more about the Hizmet Movement, and about the Pacifica Institute, and the dialog that was so important to the Hizmet Movement.

And both my wife and I were very impressed by the commitments of the Hizmet Movement to dialog and to friendship dinners.

The moderation of the group, you know, was not surprising to me, but I think it's surprising to many people, even fairly educated people in southern California, that they know, not that much, really, about Turkish society and the developments in it, over the last twenty or thirty years.

I've been learning more about Gülen‎ over the last several years, and I have done some reading of his sermons and have taken a look at the kind of commitments he has made building upon commitments of earlier thinkers in Turkey, committing himself to science and education and pro-EU membership, and just a solid message of moderation and cultural dialog and outreach, and the independence he has shown on many topics.

Just as we, my wife and I, went to Turkey in 2010, it was the time of the… it was right after the flotilla had gone down to Israel, and so, to find some of his skepticism about that exercise really told me something about his independence as a thinker and his attempt to have a genuine, moderate position, in a very pro-modern attitude in Turkish society.

I think Gülen‎ has certainly done the kind of outreach in terms of cultural dialog, and the outreach is not only to academics like myself, it's been to local political leaders, um, people from the religious communities, and the like, and, that kind of outreach, in terms of building understanding, I think is one of his greatest accomplishments.

And the fact that he has had such a sustained following in Turkey, and shows a commitment to a moral position in politics, in a moral position that is not extreme, but is based upon trying to do the best of combining tradition with modernity.

I think that is always a difficult, challenge in countries that are trying to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps and enter the globalized world.

And it seems to me that, Turkey, with the great assistance of Fethullah Gülen‎ has been a model for, for that to happen.

And I think we're learning just too late about that, in some ways.

We would hope that, that model would catch on. And we know that there's a whole variety of attitudes throughout the Islamic world; pro-democratic, pro-modern, sometimes more skeptical of modernity in the West. But we know that there are a whole variety of places in the Arab world, in the Turkish world, in Indonesia, that can nurture sensibilities that are very consistent with Gülen‎'s message.

I think, Muslims having dialog with non-Muslims is very, very important, although I know it's very difficult to do. Religious commitments can be very, very strong, and listening to the voices of other religions is not something that comes easy to any religious movement.

And so it takes some training and perspective in order for that to happen. My wife and I both participate in book clubs involving Muslims and non-Muslims, and trying to explore the connections of what prayer life is like in the Islamic world compared to, say, the Christian world, and it's… it takes a while…

There are many points of overlap, of course. In the Christian world, we have an attention to the Virgin Mary, and surprisingly, we found that within Islam, there's lots of attention to the Virgin Mary.

In fact, there's more in your basic writings than there is in the Christian Bible about the Virgin Mary.

So, I think it's gonna be a long, slow movement. It took decades in the Christian world for there to be good dialog between Catholics and other Christians, non-Catholic Christians, and so it's not something that can be achieved easily.

I think it'll take two or three generations of openness and sustained kind of listening and cultural interaction for that connection between Muslims and non-Muslims to really flourish.

But, what I think is that the Gülen Movement, has established a really, a fine base, and the fact that there is perhaps some conflict and debate about the wisdom of doing it, or some of the techniques that are used, I think is very, very healthy.

The Hizmet emphasis on education became very, very clear to us during our Pacifica Institute-sponsored cultural tour of Turkey in 2010.

A small group of us were brought to, not only colleges and universities and secondary schools, but into grade schools. In fact, one of the, best times we had in Turkey was, being at an elementary school sponsored by the Hizmet Gülen Movement, and seeing the volatility and the freshness and the excitement and curiosity of the students there. It seemed very, very healthy to us.

There is a joy there that sometimes we don't associate with other religions, in terms of their practice. We sometimes see the seriousness of some of the practices of the adults, in terms of what they do in prayer, and we don't necessarily pick up the more joyous side of what education can bring, in terms of, stimulating curiosity and laughter, and just the excitement of learning about the world.

And we saw that nurtured when we were in Turkey, and we certainly see it in the product of some of the Hizmet-sponsored schools when we meet engineers here in San Diego, at Qualcomm and other places, and to see the, the warmth, the excitement, and the curiosity that flow from their educational experiences and their professional obligations.

Current situation in Turkey where Erdoğan and his party, seem to be attacking the Hizmet Movement and Gülen and talking about the parallel state and the like, intrigue me. I'm a political scientist; I study politics, and even though I'm not an expert on Turkey, it seems to me that this is like the early difficulties in any democracy.

I think, Turkish politics will outgrow this. I think many of the changes in Turkey—in my view—are irreversible, and, in terms of the economic gains and per capita income gains and the like, are at a point where, further democratization is going to be welcomed.

And some of the internal battles that are going on in Turkey, I think you'll grow out of them, in my view. I think there could be even more difficult times ahead as the parliamentary politics of Turkey end up becoming a little bit more presidential. And so we look at—as a political scientist—at some of the possible changes of the constitution in terms of what a presidency offers, vis-à-vis a parliamentary prime minister-driven kind of situation, and there can be some awkwardness there.

There was awkwardness in France, in the Fifth Republic, in the 1960s, as they moved between a more prime minister-parliamentary system toward a more presidential system. And it took them about eight to ten years to kind of get that right.

And, I'm not sure if Turkey will go down a similar path to what France has done, in terms of, that kind of presidential authority. I'm not an expert in Turkish politics, but I will watch it from the outside with great curiosity and with great hope that the future of Turkey will be everything that people can imagine.

**Profile: Patrick Drinan is the Professor of Political Science at the University of San Diego. He completed his doctorate at the University of Virginia. Dr. Drinan served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Diego from 1989–2007. He has also served as a consultant on academic integrity at the university level.

*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!
Source: Fikir Atlasi (Episode 14), © Spectra Media, 15 April 2014, Tuesday

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