The Gülen Hizmet Movement in Turkey: An Islamic Movement to Reduce Violence and Promote Tolerance through Education and Intercultural Dialogue*
D. Paul Johnson
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 79409-1012
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This research reported herein is based on an exploratory study of Turkey’s Gülen hizmet movement, a social movement whose participants are dedicated to the advancement of scientific and moral education, plus intercultural and interfaith dialogue leading to increased mutual understanding and respectful tolerance. The movement is grounded in the universalistic teachings and charismatic leadership of Islamic scholar Fethulah Gülen. Specific projects to pursue movement goals include the establishment and support of private schools (and related institutions) throughout Turkey and in other countries, sponsorship and organization of trips to Turkey for guests invited from other countries, and various other social service and civic projects (including, for example, hospitals, a television station, a newspaper, and numerous local charitable activities serving the poor).
Focused interviews were conducted with a sample of businessmen who help fund movement projects and with Gülen hizmet school teachers and administrators in southeastern Turkey to obtain information regarding the organizational patterns and underlying motivations of movement participants.
The results suggest an informal and decentralized network structure in which participants are motivated primarily by their religious beliefs. They also believe that Gülen schools help deter young people from violence and terrorism, and that tangible commitment to intercultural dialogue as exhibited by participants has the potential to increase tolerance among people of different cultural and religious backgrounds. These results are crucial for helping to overcome negative stereotypes of Muslims that are widespread in American society.