There is no division in Turkish society between Kemalists and Muslims, and all citizens of Turkey know very well how to coexist with others coming from different religions, races and languages thanks to their roots in an old empire, the Ottoman Empire, according to internationally renowned Turkish intellectual and scholar Fethullah Gülen.
Gülen’s remarks came in an interview he gave to the Deutsch-Türkische Nachrichten (DTN) news portal. Asked whether the divide between Kemalists and Muslims in Turkey will remain forever, the scholar said the question implies that Kemalists and Muslims are two opposite elements or notions. “We can neither talk about two dissociated groups such as Kemalists or Muslims in Turkey, nor we can talk about a ‘divide’ that is impossible to fill. We are heirs of an ‘empire’ society, which possesses characteristics of a mosaic. We have enjoyed the mosaic of different nations, religions, races and languages for centuries. Turkish society is heir to this mosaic and knows very well how to coexist with other people in peace even though they come from other religions, races or ethnicities,” Gülen stated.
Gülen, however, expressed regret that there is a small but influential group in Turkey that is disturbed by the peaceful coexistence of differences in society. “I believe that the small group I am talking about will see the reality some day, and they will realize that their interests lie in melting in a pot of rich differences. For me, this will be to the well-being of the entire world, given the importance of Turkey in its region and the world,” he added.
In response to a question over what attracts people to the Gülen movement, inspired by Gülen, the scholar pointed to the educational activities of the movement. “What probably attracts people to the movement is the importance attached to education, which is one of the fundamental needs of a human,” Gülen said, and added that followers of the movement do not seek any financial gains when educating other people, which also wins over the hearts of many.
Commenting on claims that the Gülen movement has a “hidden agenda” and that its followers work to infiltrate state posts in Turkey to replace the secular order with Shariah law, the scholar said neither he nor any member of his movement have been charged with “infiltrating” a state post in Turkey or in any country in the world. “I have been in contact with the public through my articles, speeches and activities since 1958. Lawsuits were filed against me with charges similar to the ones you have mentioned [infiltrating state posts] after military coups. Yet, no evidence has been put forward to prove the charges, and I have been acquitted in all cases. Furthermore, none of the millions of people who are said to be members of the [Gülen] movement have been sentenced due to the charges mentioned. So, is it not clear that the accusations are inconsistent?” Gülen asked.
Gülen was tried on charges of establishing an illegal organization to undermine the secular structure of the state with the aim of replacing it with a state based on Shariah law and engaging in various activities to this end. But he was acquitted of all charges in 2008.
Asked if he is planning to return to Turkey some day, Gülen expressed his longing to see Turkey after many years. “I long to see my country. Homesickness is a pain for anyone who lives away from his homeland, and it can be cured only with reunion.” Gülen currently resides in the United States.
The scholar also sent a message to Muslims and non-Muslims living in Germany, advising them to see their neighbors as their brothers, whether they belong to the same religion or not. “It is the duty of all Muslims around the world to refrain from any act that stains Islam,” he said.