Are there any countries, which do not allow the [Hizmet] schools to be opened? If so, which ones? Have schools been established in countries experiencing social or political problems, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippines, and Bosnia Herzegovina? If so, have the schools made any positive contributions in terms of peace and prosperity?
There are [Hizmet] schools* in Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippines, and Bosnia Herzegovina. The most concrete example of these schools’ contribution in terms of peace is that the children, whose fathers were fighting outside against each other, were receiving education at the same desks. The countries, which do not allow the schools to be opened are the countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. At this moment these countries do not allow them. (1)
At this stage, Fethullah Gülen feels the need to touch upon the adversarial and negative conduct of Iran:
Iranians never wanted us. We have friends who did their doctorates there. They are teaching faculties in our universities. We even sent a friend for the last time, in the latest period, when Turkey was developing a policy of good neighborliness. We said: “We would like to open up some schools. Let us together raise the architects of tomorrow.” They responded: “If you would like to undertake some educational activities, then support us financially. We will do it ourselves.” Yes, this response is something prudent and wise from their perspective. (2)
But in the final analysis Iran, since it always carries a doubt and worry that the prevailing theocratic regime will fall through outside interference, considers opening the way for a movement which has another interpretation of Islam objectionable:
In our surroundings, there are several places where we could not enter. Syria did not give that chance to us; Saudi Arabia did not act with reasonableness at all. They were not fair…. But since there are Turks in Northern Iraq, we said, “Let us open a school for the Turks there…” What are the considerations of our state regarding this matter? I requested the President to be asked about this matter. I said through the intermediaries: “If we do not do something like this, others would do it. Some secret agents set local people against one another. They start quarreling. If we enter there, we would be setting the balance…. The Northern Iraq is our neighbor. We have to enter there so that there would not be problems. We have to enter with our own culture and values. Let us not go into the future as two strangers. Let them know us and let us know them…” Dear President had said we could open up schools. Then, we opened a school in Arbil. They asked us for a second one. Neither Talabani nor Barzani made a serious objection… But Iran did not give us the opportunity in that matter. (3)
These words make it inevitable to reconsider the proposition that Islam is a religion of tolerance and open to every kind of ideas, as Gülen describes. The problem is not in the faith, but with those who carry that faith in relation to losing their power.
The authorities that had already apprehended the administration of Iran act out of their anxiety to continue their rule, rather than for their religion. When the matter is approached from this perspective, it becomes clear that the respect for the tolerance, understanding, and the differences, which are implicit in the religious principles, should be strengthened and consolidated by the legal regulations of a political regime. Even the most tolerant faith in a regime ruled by religious leaders could become a setting for legitimacy of fundamentalism and a regime of dictatorship, if it is not supported by the separation of powers, democratic participation, and the rule of law. Gülen is aware of this fact in terms of displaying the difference between the Islam of Turkey and other Islamic understandings and interpretations.
(1) Exclusive answer given to Dogu Ergil by Fethullah Gulen
* Hizmet schools are called in social sciences literature also as Gulen schools, Gulen-inspired schools or Turkish schools, if they are opened outside of Turkey. All these schools are financially supported by the Gulen movement businessmen. Read this article for more information about the history of these schools “Brief history of Gulen Movement’s educational activities.”
Ergil, Doğu. 2012. Fethullah Gülen & The Gülen Movement in 100 Questions. New York: Blue Dome Press. Pages 304-305.
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