The Patriarch and Fethullah Hodja

by Cengiz Çandar, Sabah on . Posted in Repercussions from Gülen–Bartholomeos Meeting

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I felt happy when I read in yesterday's Zaman about the meeting between Fethullah Gülen Hodjaefendi and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos I. Zaman gave the news and a picture of the Patriarch together with Fethullah Hodja under the headline: "A Step Toward Interfaith Dialogue." They did not forget to mention that the Patriarch requested the meeting …

One reason—but not the most important—why I was happy was my indirect connection with this meeting… Last year when a witch's kettle was boiling, especially in the Islamic media regarding the Patriarch and the Patriarchate, they were searching for dialogue but could not decide with whom to meet. In one of my discussions with Patriarchate officials, I fervently recommended that they "definitely meet with Fethullah Hodja," who is at the head of those representing the "Islam of the people" in Turkey.

Naturally, I felt good when I saw the Zaman headline: "A Step Toward Interfaith Dialogue," which pointed out that the meeting had taken place and that there had been negative views in the press regarding the Patriarch and the Patriarchate.

The meeting's location also was interesting: The Istanbul Polat Renaissance Hotel. This hotel belongs to Adnan Polat, Fethullah Hodja's "fellow-citizen from Erzurum" who happens to be an Alawi. The famous 1994 Ramadan dinner, which was a vehicle for Hodjaefendi presenting his "reconciliatory personality" to the public, also was held at this hotel.

It is interesting that during this meeting, this symbolic dimension was not neglected. Holding such a meeting at that place is more important than the meeting's content, regardless of what was discussed. In addition to the tolerance among religions dimension, it holds great value for tolerance in the general sense or, in other words, in respect to the culture of tolerance in Turkey.