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Respect for Hodjaefendi

by Sahin Alpay, Milliyet on . Posted in Commentaries

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There is a very enlightening study regarding the Young Turks' view of religion by our esteemed historian Sukru Hanioglu, a professor at Princeton University. Entitled The Young Turks in Opposition, 1889-1902 (Oxford University Press, 1995], it is extremely important and interesting.

The Young Turks' worldview affected the views of both the Society of Union and Progress and the Kemalists. As Hanioglu's book emphasizes, the Young Turks developed the official ideology of the Turkish Republic. Such a view makes it impossible to differentiate among the variety and forms that Islam has assumed in Turkey, to understand and solve problems, and for religion and politics to find their rightful places. With the help of the freedom and democracy that we have, and the insistence of the people, we are overcoming these shallow perceptions slowly but surely.

In this respect, we cannot ignore the contribution and benefits of Fethullah Gülen Hodjaefendi's recent initiatives. Hodjaefendi is a different "Young Turk," one trying to reconcile Islam with modernism and science.

As far as I can see, Hodjaefendi opposes the use of Islam as a political ideology and a party philosophy, as well as polarizing society into believers and nonbelievers. He calls for those who believe and think differently to respect and tolerate each other, and supports peace and reconciliation. In my opinion, Hodjaefendi's efforts will help us put religion in its rightful place.

According to some secularists, this situation is worrisome. They make several claims: Hodjaefendi is "pretending," that is, he is trying to establish an Islamic state and is lying for the sake of his cause, or he is working secretly. According to some Islamists, there is no need for concern, for there is a division of labor between Necmettin Hodja and Hodjaefendi. They are walking toward the same goal: Necmettin Hodja on the path of politics and Hodjaefendi on that of education. According to conspiracy theory believers, Hodjaefendi is, of course, "working for the state..."

I perceive Hodjaefendi as a man of religion who separates religion from politics, opposes a culture of enmity that can polarize the nation, and contributes to our understanding of Islam with his tolerance. His efforts should be respected.

Sahin Alpay, Milliyet, 7/29/95