When we look at the recent discussions and debates surrounding the Hizmet (Gülen) movement especially in the Turkish media, I observe that some writers are inclined to see the movement composed of a few relatively autonomous groups with sometimes clashing visions and practices.
I do not think that behind this there is a mala fide intention of confusing many people who sympathize with the Hizmet movement, but who are not close enough to be able to reject such flawed observation. Nevertheless, as someone who has been working on the movement in my academic capacity for more than a decade, I feel responsible to try and set the record straight. The Hizmet is composed of many different individuals with all sorts of backgrounds, tastes, preferences, views and so on. Yet, there are not autonomous groups, classes or sects within the movement that differ from other groups. Let me concretize what I am trying to say.
For instance, a writer who is a friend of mine, referred to the civilian and official wings of the Hizmet movement. By official, he is referring to an alleged group of civil servants who have allegedly formed an autonomous group within the judiciary and the police. The allegation goes that this group does not obey the orders of their superiors, laws and democratically elected politicians. This group is alleged to be also autonomous from the so-called civilian wing of the Hizmet and these two different wings have clashing worldviews and practices. Another claim is that Fenerbahçe supporters within the movement, especially those who live in Anatolian cities resent and critically question police officers who are allegedly affiliated with the Hizmet but don’t support Fenerbahçe.
First of all, no one denies that there may be several civil servants who sympathize with the movement. Yet, they obey the law and if they do not, the state must take action to punish them. However, until now, despite countless accusations and allegations by anti-Hizmet people, Ergenekon-lovers, Islamophobes and others who are disgruntled with the Hizmet for one reason or another, no one has been able to come up with any concrete evidence to substantiate their claims.
It is wrong to think of Hizmet-sympathizing officials as identical robots that form a monolithic autonomous entity. Some of these civil servants may not even be practicing Muslims but may just like the Hizmet movement and even donate money solely because they love the educational activities of the Hizmet. The link of some with the Hizmet movement maybe only based on them sending their children to the Hizmet schools, especially in Anatolian where the Hizmet schools are the only quality alternatives. Some of them may be Zaman readers; some of them maybe readers and listeners of Fethullah Gülen. These civil servants may have all sorts of backgrounds, lifestyles, preferences, football team associations, political party affiliations and so on. Nevertheless, this is equally true for the unofficial participants and sympathizers of the movement. A police officer influenced by Hizmet’s ideas may have many more common points with a doctor “Hizmet-person” compared to a fellow police officer “Hizmet-person.” It is only natural that there would be many Fenerbahçe football club supporters that are police officers and also related to the Hizmet movement, but there might also be supporters of other football clubs. The movement does not expect individuals to jettison their individuality, originality, uniqueness and preferences to become identical zombies or robots. Hizmet only offers general guidelines, principles, motivations and purposes and leaves the individuals to freely pick and choose and also leave whenever they choose to do so.
Another so-called observation tries to differentiate grassroots Hizmet people from the so-called elites of the movement. Anyone who is a little bit knowledgeable about the workings of the movement would know that there is no elitism. There are different projects that require different commitment levels and there are also many professional workers that work for Hizmet-affiliated or inspired companies, publication houses or schools. But administrators of these projects or institutions do not necessarily form an elite group, and it is possible that their subordinates may be more committed to the Hizmet movement. Another crucial aspect is that in Hizmet projects, volunteers who are small businessmen, workers, teachers and so on come together to run and maintain these projects and they have equal say. They transparently and in most cases unanimously make decisions together. There are some elders who have been part of the movement for decades; they act as spiritual guides and moral role models.
All in all, the Hizmet is composed of different individuals with different commitments, but there are not different Hizmet groups.