Gülen's Paradox: Combining Commitment and Tolerance

by Lester R. Kurtz on . Posted in Islam in Contemporary Turkey: The Contributions of F. Gülen

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The conscience is illuminated by the religious sciences, and the mind is illuminated by the sciences of civilization and wisdom occurs through the combination of these two."
Said Nursî[1]

Max Weber argues in his famous analysis of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism[2] that the foundations of the modern socioeconomic order were facilitated by the synthesis of two contradictory impulses - economic acquisition and religious piety. The consequences of that union were unanticipated in nature and global in scope resulting in a transformation of the society and culture, first of Western Europe and then most of the planet. As suggested elsewhere,[3] Weber's insights imply a theory of cultural innovation: when opposing tendencies or cultural themes are paradoxically fused, the process unleashes creative energy that facilitates the construction of new paradigms, movements, and institutions. This paper is a case study of that process. The paradoxical fusion by Turkish sage Fethullah Gülen of intense faith commitment with tolerance results in a paradigm of Islamic dialogue. As a movement founded to foster spiritual commitment to a faith tradition, it now reaches out to non-Muslim believers and even non-believers.

As Emile Durkheim demonstrates in his foundational work on the nature of religion,[4] religious belief is usually bound up with social organization. A confession of faith in a belief system is a simultaneous proclamation of solidarity with a social group. A particular religious belief system emerges from and acts back upon a given social organization such as a tribe, ethnic group, or a people.[5] The fact that particular religious beliefs and practices are socially constructed and intimately bound up with the social institutions where they originate is what facilitates the use of religious beliefs, rituals, and institutions for the perpetration of violence and intolerance. The development of new technologies of destruction since the twentieth century has amplified the legitimation of the various holy wars and terrorist attacks that continue to plague human society .[6]

Belief systems provide paradigms for a people's understanding of the cosmos and consequently blueprints for how one is to view oneself, what must be done to prevent the diffusion of evil in the world or the reversion to chaos, and how one is to behave with reference to others. Most political elites attempt to link particular concepts of collective identity and authority to a broader view of the world so that their power appears to be inherent in the very nature of things and thus "God-given" and" natural." One challenges the social order only at the peril of one's own soul, according to this theory, and the social construction of evil labels a particular power elite's enemies as cosmic enemies and the allies of a given political authority as having sacred legitimacy.[7]

What is surprising, if one examines the comparative history of human religious organization, is the sharp contradiction between the universality of many religious teachings, on the one hand, and the mobilization of religious sentiment to support particular regimes, on the other. Virtually every religious tradition, for example, has some version of a "love your enemy" ethic[8] as well as other less radical ethical teachings about living for others as a primary norm for spiritual wellbeing.[9] Nonetheless, faith traditions worldwide are habitually hijacked to serve the political purposes of particular regimes at the expense of the universality of religion.

Human history in recent millennia is thus replete with the cooptation of religious institutions and their rhetoric by political authorities - from the incorporation of the early Christian pacifist movement into the Roman Empire down to recent efforts to justify everything from state terrorism and warfare to suicide bombings as God's will.

Although the combination of religious tolerance and commitment are far from rare in the teachings of the world's spiritual prophets, that phenomenon is seldom witnessed in the pages of popular newspapers and other publications of record around the world or on the screens of CNN and its counterparts.

The purpose of this article is to explore the extent to which Fethullah Gülen has managed to synthesize these disparate concepts in both theory and practice. We begin with a brief review of his religious commitment and then move on to discuss the nature of his advocacy of tolerance and dialogue.

Gülen's Religious Commitment

Born into an Anatolian village family of considerable spiritual fervor within the Muslim tradition, Gülen's parents raised him with a pervasive spiritual perspective on life. Gülen recalls that his mother "taught the Qur'an to all the village women and me at a time when even reciting Qur'an was prosecuted."[10] It is possible that the rural environment of his childhood facilitated the life of prayer and meditation that marked his adulthood. "A pleasant silence and calm always dominated the old villages," he remembers.

The morning sunlight, the mewing of sheep and lambs, and the cries of insects and birds would strike our hearts in sweet waves of pleasure and add their voices to the nature's deep, inner chorus.

In this world - the next-door neighbor to the next world - the call to prayer and the prayer litanies, the language of the beyond would call us to a different concert and take us around in a deeper and more spiritual atmosphere.[11]

He memorized the Qur'an at a young age and testifies that he "began praying when I was 4 years old, and have never missed a prayer since."[12] He dedicated himself early on to a simple lifestyle devoted to prayer, meditation, religious writing and teaching. Eschewing family life he chose an ascetic's path devoting his life to prayer and religious pursuits and owning virtually no possessions. His ubiquitous writings cover a wide range of spiritual topics from questions put to the faith by the modern world to basic introductions to the teachings of Islam and Muhammad.[13]

Gülen's work in Turkey was notable in that it was highly religious in a secularized context as well as apolitical in a highly politicized environment.[14] In this national context - as well as an international environment in which Islamic and other religious rhetoric took on the character of diatribe and ideological denunciations of others as infidels and traitors - Gülen managed to move back and forth between the religious and the secular, between the Islamic and the non-Islamic, promoting his Sufi-inspired emphasis on love of humanity and the compatibility of Islam with "modernity, democracy, and progress."[15]

Gülen's Advocacy of Tolerance

The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, defined a true Muslim as one who harms no one with his/her words and actions, and who is the most trustworthy representative of universal peace.[16]

For Fethullah Gülen, tolerance of others and genuine interfaith dialogue are not simply a pleasant ideal that will be fulfilled in some future paradise, but is something at the core of what it is to be Muslim in the here and now. Indeed, he asserts that the very nature of religion demands this dialogue.[17]

It is possible that Fethullah Gülen's vision of tolerance goes far beyond what is ordinarily understood by the term.[18] According to Gülen one cannot be a Muslim unless one believes in pre-Islamic prophets: "As a Muslim, I accept all Prophets and Books sent to different peoples throughout history, and regard belief in them as an essential principle of being Muslim." In this context he explicitly notes not only the traditional foci for interfaith dialogue in the West - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - but "even adherence of other world religions."[19]

Muslims from the time of the Prophet onward have - in their more generous movements at least - affirmed believing Jewish and Christian believers as having a special status alongside followers of Islam (which is often, however, seen as the culmination of its two incomplete predecessors). Gülen takes this notion much farther, defining religion metaphorically as "a symphony of God's blessings and mercy."[20] It is, of course, the diversity of a collection of notes and instruments brought together in a collaborative unity that characterizes a symphony. Musical harmony cannot consist of people playing the same notes and a symphony cannot be played by a collection of people all playing the same instrument.

Commitment and Tolerance: Defining a Peaceful Islam

Applaud the good for their goodness; appreciate those who have believing hearts; be kind to the believers. Approach unbelievers so gently that their envy and hatred would melt away. Like a Messiah, revive people with your breath.
-- Fethullah Gülen

The process of fusing commitment and tolerance requires that Islam be defined as a peaceful tradition that advocates tolerance rather than setting up the barricades and fighting off anyone who does not ascribe to the same institutional formulas and dogmas as one's own sect. Gülen not only advocates approaching believers with kindness and unbelievers with gentleness, but he apparently does it.

In the final analysis, what religion does is to elevate an individual soul to a higher plane so that he or she can live a life with attention to higher values. As Gülen puts it,

Regardless of how their adherents implement their faith in their daily lives, such as generally accepted values as love, respect, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, human rights, peace, brotherhood, and freedom are all values exalted by religion. Most of these values are accorded the highest precedence in the messages brought by Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, upon them be peace, as well as in the messages of Buddha and even Zarathustra, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, and the Hindu prophets.[22]

Gülen's definition of Islam has a number of components that we will examine in the remainder of this paper, notably his reliance upon the Sufi tradition to highlight the spiritual aspects of the Islamic tradition, the theory and practice of dialogue, his cultivation of a holistic peace through his nonviolent lifestyle, the condemnation of terrorism and violence, and his mobilization of a movement for spiritual and social change in the world.

The Sufi Solution

One of the keys to Gülen's ability to combine commitment and tolerance is his emphasis on Sufism as the spiritual side of Islam, or its "inner life." [23] It is not surprising that Gülen's vision of the Islamic tradition has a strong Sufi flavor - as that has been characteristic of much of Turkish Islam in general.[24]

Islam is seen as having various spheres - the institutional, the political, the personal, the spiritual, etc. The spiritual is viewed as the most important and equated with the widespread mystical tradition of Sufism. Because of these spheres, the Muslim path leads to a kind of openness to others that the institutional aspect of the faith cannot embrace. Whereas it is an institution's task to set up boundaries and emphasize difference, it is a spiritual tradition's task to open up the heart to a force that obliterates difference. From the height of spiritual experience the boundaries disappear in the same manner that national boundaries on earth become invisible when the planet is viewed from the moon. It is this aspect of Islam that Gülen highlights in his ubiquitous writings and lectures on the basis of the faith.

Spiritual practice and morality are, for Gülen, more important than ritual and dogmatism, an attitude that opens the way for dialogue with other faith traditions. The Sufi emphasis on love as a central attribute of a believer shifts the focus from institution and ritual to the diffusion of love for God and for others. Gülen insists that "Love is the most essential element in every being, and it is a most radiant light and a great power which can resist and overcome every force."[25] Out of this burning passion comes an affection for the entire universe that minimizes the differences of creed. If you have the characteristics of a believer, "Whether you're a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, or of another creed, you're carrying a believer's attribute."[26]

As in the Sufi tradition, Gülen asserts that "believers are people of enthusiastic love; in fact, more of a pole of attraction." Gülen refers to the metaphor of the famous Sufi poet Mawlana Rumi to explain how one can be both rooted one's own tradition but open to others:

Using Rumi's expression, such a person is like a compass with one foot well-established in the center of belief and Islam and the other foot with people of many nations. If this apparently dualistic state can be caught by a person who believes in God, it's most desirable. So deep in his or her own inner world, so full of love so much in touch with God; but at the same time an active member of society.[27]

This Rumi-inspired duality of one foot in his own faith tradition while the other roams freely to the faiths of others is a starting point for Fethullah Gülen 's emphasis on dialogue.

The Theory and Practice of Dialogue

Interfaith dialogue is a must today, and the first step in establishing it is forgetting the past, ignoring polemical arguments, and giving precedence to common points, which far outnumber polemical ones.
-- Fethullah Gülen

Gülen's form of Islam begins with tolerance but it does not end there - what is more surprising than his advocacy of tolerance is the extent to which he acts on that principle. It is, in fact, his concrete actions in the implementation of dialogue that have attracted widespread attention to his efforts to define Islam as a force for peace. Most significantly, he initiated dialogues with Christians and Jews, as well as secular intellectuals and civic leaders in Turkey, including Patriarch Barthalemeos of the Orthodox Church and Turkey's Chief Rabbi David Aseo. Eventually he expanded beyond his own national borders to a celebrated meeting with the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II and Israel's Sephardic Head Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron.

It is not difficult to see why Gülen was able to obtain and sustain such a reputation for dialogue if we look at what he considers to be the "pillars of dialogue:' love, compassion, tolerance and forgiving."[29] Such attitudes provide the foundation for Gülen's method of dialogue. He begins with love, which he claims is "the most essential element in every being, a most radiant light, a great power that can resist and overcome every force."[30] He then moves on to compassion, claiming that "the universe can be considered as a symphony of compassion" and that a "human being must show compassion to all living beings, for this is a requirement of being human."[31]

The final pillars are tolerance - "so broad we can close our eyes to others' faults" - forgiveness, which together "will heal most of our wounds."[32] They are basic principles Gülen finds in the Qur'an. He notes that the Qur'an instructs believers not to respond to meaningless and ugly words or behavior with similar words, but to pass by in a dignified manner, as the prophet himself did, showing tolerance and forgiveness even to his bitter enemies. In this sense, it is because of his commitment to Islam, rather than despite of it, that Gülen advocates tolerance toward others.

Condemnation of Terrorism

Muslims are bodyguards of love and affection, who shun all acts of terrorism and who have purged their bodies of all manner of hate and hostility.
-- Fethullah Gülen[33]

Because of Fethullah Gülen's emphasis on love of humanity as characteristically Muslim and a sign of spirituality, he does not hesitate to condemn terrorism unequivocally and to set himself - and Islam - apart from acts of terrorism. "God's Messenger preached Islam, the religion of universal mercy," Gülen notes. "However, some self-proclaimed humanists say it is 'a religion of the sword.' This is completely wrong."[34]

In an effort to set the record straight, as he saw it, Gülen made a strong public condemnation of terrorism following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in a letter to the Washington Post, in which he insisted

I would like to stress that any terrorist activity, no matter who does it and for what purpose, is the greatest blow to peace, democracy, humanity, and all religious values. For this reason, no one-and certainly no Muslims-can approve of any terrorist activity. Terror has no place in one's quest to achieve independence or salvation. It costs the lives of innocent people.

Although some will always exploit religion for their own interests, he boldly goes on saying: Islam does not approve of terrorism in any form. Terrorism cannot be used to achieve any Islamic goal. No terrorist can be a Muslim, and no true Muslim can be a terrorist.[35] He could not have been more blunt and yet he further explains that Islam does not allow the violation of individual rights, even for the community's interests, and that 'the Prophet Muhammad says that a Muslim is one who does no harm with his or her hand or tongue."

Although Gülen is fully aware of the sense of injustice that often fuels terrorist attacks, he does not consider them reason for acts of violence against innocent civilians. Moreover he chose not to use the occasion of the attack as a time to itemize Muslim grievances. Terrorist activity is wrong. It is not Muslim. That is it.

The Gülen Movement

One of the most striking operationalizations of Gülen's fusion of commitment and tolerance is the nature of the Gülen movement, as it is often called, which has established hundreds of schools in many countries as a consequence of his belief in the importance of knowledge, and example in the building of a better world. The schools are a form of service to humanity designed to promote learning in a broader sense and to avoid explicit Islamic propaganda. Gülen claims that he did not start the schools himself, but simply spoke of the importance of education and of creating environments in which young people could be taught to expand their minds and their knowledge. As Gülen puts it, school

Is essentially the 'theatre' in which all the scattered things of the universe are displayed together. It provides its pupils with the possibilities of continuous reading and speaks even when it is silent. Because of that, although it seems to occupy one phase of life, actually the school dominates all times and events. Every pupil re-enacts during the rest of life what he or she has learnt at school and derives continuous influence therefrom.[36]

The fruit of this approach can be seen, for example, in the comments by Dr. Thomas Michel, General Secretary of the Vatican Secretariat for Interreligious Dialogue, about his visit to one of the schools on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao where Muslim separatist movements have been engaged in an armed struggle against the government's military. As he puts it,

In a region where kidnapping is a frequent occurrence, along with guerrilla warfare, summary raids, arrests, disappearances, and killings by military and para-military forces, the school is offering Muslim and Christian Filipino children, along with an educational standard of high quality, a more positive way of living and relating to each other.[37]

The purpose of the schools movement, therefore, is to lay the foundations for a more humane, tolerant citizenry of the world where people are expected to cultivate their own faith perspectives and also promote the wellbeing of others.

As with all high-minded movements, the Gülen movement exhibits contradictions between its founder's rhetoric and the practice of some of the followers. One of the most striking in this case is noted by M. Hakan Yavuz in his discussion of the movement: despite Gülen's advocacy of opportunity for women in the workforce. However, it should be noted that women do work as teachers, professors, and even administrators in certain areas, though Yavuz says: "Gülen's community practices rigid segregation of the sexes and does not permit women to work in high positions. For example, there are no women in high positions in his vast networks or in his media empire."[38]

Aras and Caha report that Gülen's holds progressive views on women's rights and says that "'women can become administrators,' contradicting the views of most Islamic intellectuals."[39] It will be interesting to see if the Gülen movement reaches out even to its own women as it diffuses into cultures with more gender equality than the Turkey of its native soil.[40]

A comprehensive survey of the Gülen movement goes far beyond the boundaries of this exploration but it is helpful to note that the schools are only one aspect of a vast and somewhat amorphous movement that involves anywhere between 200,000 and 4 million people worldwide and has a wide range of organizations. Gülen's followers have created a Journalists' and Writers' Foundation that brings Islamist and secularist intellectuals together as well as symposia that promote interfaith dialogue.[41] Another foundation, the Turkish Teachers' Foundation publishes a monthly journal and two academic journals and organizations symposia, panel discussions and conferences, and the media arm of the movement includes a daily Turkish newspaper, Zaman, a television channel and a radio station.[42] The movement has mobilized and involved prominent intellectuals (especially Turkish) and even set up a non-interest-bearing bank (with $125 million in capital), Asya Finans, to promote economic development in the Turkish-speaking Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union.

It is significant to note that the movement has been so successful in offering high quality education in its schools, which recruit the children of elites and government officials that it is beginning to lay the groundwork for high-level allies, especially in Central Asia where they have focused much of their effort.[43]

Gülen's compassion, it should finally be noted, extends not only to all of humanity, but also to Creation itself. One member of the Gülen movement told me of a time when he was camping with a group of young men inspired by him. When a snake was found entering the camp and was immediately killed by one of those with him, Gülen expressed deep sorrow at its death and fasted for three days in repentance, even though he was not the person directly responsible.

Similarly, in one of his volumes on the prophet Muhammad, Gülen recalls a story in which the prophet reproached one of his companions for deceiving his horse, saying, "You should give up deceiving animals. You should be trustworthy even in your treatment of them!"[44]

Our focus here has been on the paradox of fusing commitment and tolerance, but Gülen has brought together other seemingly-contradictory opposes as well. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement in England, proclaimed "Let us unite the two so long divided, knowledge and vital piety." One of the hallmarks of Gülen's work has been his openness to scientific inquiry as a religious enterprise. Indeed, perhaps in order to avoid the appearance of being religious schools, many of the Gülen-inspired schools have excelled in teaching the sciences, as demonstrated in the prizes their students have taken in many science competitions and Olympiads around the world.[45]

If humanity is to survive another century - and the twenty-first is beginning to appear capable of surpassing the records of violence of its predecessor - voices from the faith communities like those of Fethullah Gülen will no doubt play a role. His perspective is most notable because it comes from one of the two traditions most frequently called upon to legitimate the violence that pervades human politics, the Christian and the Muslim. Perhaps his innovations in cultural paradox will inspire others to help us find a way out of our global conundrum.'s Note: As you may notice there are some references in this paper to some web sites on Fethullah Gülen. The official web site of Gülen is and therefore you may not find the references stated in the footnotes below. Please browse through to view the related articles.

[1] available 5 April 2003

[2] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Talcott Parsons, tr.; introduction by Anthony Giddens. (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1958 [1922-23]).

[3] Lester R. Kurtz, unpublished manuscript, Gandhi's Paradox: The Legacy of India's Nonviolence. Portions available on the web atwww. Cf. Lester R. Kurtz, "War," From Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, ed. Robert Wuthnow. 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1998), 783-789. Available at Indeed, this theory came to me when trying to make sense of Gandhi's legacy and when I immersed myself in Fethullah Gülen's life and work. I began to see parallels between the two, especially in terms of how they transcended ordinary contradictions in life to create new solutions to human problems.

[4] Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Translated from the French by Joseph Ward Swain. (New York, Free Press, 1965, [1915])

[5] Cf. Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures. (New York, Basic Books, 1973); cf. Lester R. Kurtz, Gods in the Global Village (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1995).

[6] See Lester R. Kurtz, "War."

[7] Robert Benford and Lester Kurtz, "Performing the Nuclear Ceremony: The Arms Race as a Ritual." Journal for the Applied Behavioral Sciences (December, 1987): 463-482.

[8] See, e.g., the remarkable compendium edited by Andrew Wilson and posted on the internet at (available 30 August 2003).

[9]Ibid. Wilson's work includes passages from various scriptures that tout the virtues of loving-kindness, serving others, sacrificial love, charity and hospitality, forgiveness and reconciliation, and so forth.

[10] Quoted in Ali Ünal and Alphonse Williams, eds., Advocate of Dialogue (Fairfax Virginia: The Fountain, 2000), 10

[11]ibid., 11. Quoted and translated from Fethullah Gülen, Zamanin Altin Dilimi(The Golden Slice of Time) (Izmir, 1994).

[12]Ibid., 13. Quoted and translated from Fethullah Gülen, Küçük Dünyam (My Small World). Interviewed by Latif Erdogan, Zaman.

[13] See, e.g., M. Fethullah Gülen, Prophet Muhammad: The Infinite Light. 2 vols. (London: Truestar, 1995, 1998) and three volumes translated into English published in the United States in 2000 by The Fountain (in Fairfax, Virginia): Essentials of the Islamic Faith, Questions and Answers About Faith, and Key Concepts and the Practice of Sufism.

[14] See Lynne Emily Webb's work, Fethullah Gülen: Is There More to Him than Meets the Eye? (Izmir, Turkey: Mercury International Publishing, Consulting, Import and Export Ltd., n.d.) which outlines the series of military coups and trends in modern Turkey that provide the crucible in which his spiritual perspective is formed.

[15] Comments by Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit in Eyup Can's "A Tour of the Horizon," Istanbul, 1996.

[16] al-Bulchari, Book 2, Hadith no: 9.

[17] Ünal, Ali and Alphonse Williams. Advocate of Dialogue: Fethullah Gülen. (Fairfax: The Fountain, 2000) pp. 193-94.

[18] It is Gandhi's critique of tolerance that makes me think that it may be an unfortunate term for the ideal toward which Gülen is striving. Gandhi claims that tolerance is inadequate - that we need to go far beyond simply tolerating others. Rather, we should respect, appreciate, and learn from everyone, even our enemies. According to my Turkish research assistant Suphan Bozkurt, "The Turkish word used in Gülen's work for tolerance is 'hosgoru.' Actually I've once heard Gülen saying that the Turkish word "hosgoru" is deeper in meaning than the English concept of tolerance. The word consists of two parts: 'hos' means pleasant, nice, amiable. 'Goru' is derived from the verb 'gormek' which means to see. So, literally, 'hosgoru' means to see something as pleasant and/or amiable.

In daily language it's used like overlooking, condoning and allowing.

[19] Fethullah Gülen. Toward a Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance. (New Jersey: Light, 2004) pp. 75-76.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Translated in Ünal and Williams, op. cit., 23.

[22] Ünal and Williams, op cit., 242. Also available 1 September 2003 at

[23] See the interview with Gülen in Ünal and Williams, op. cit., 358. Said Nursi (1876-1960) was an influential Turkish intellectual who promoted interfaith dialogue long before it became popular.

[24] See Bulent Aras and Omer Caha, "Fethullah Gülen and His 'Liberal Turkish Islam' Movement." Middle East Review of International Affairs 4 (2000). Available 2 December 2002 at Aras and Caha note that "The main premise of "Turkish Islam" is moderation and that the Sufi-oriented Islamic movements influenced Turkish political history even during the reign of the Ottomans when the political system accepted a multi-religious state, "in which Christian and Jewish subjects would continue to be governed by their own laws."

[25] M. Fethullah Gülen, "A Voice of Love: Love" Available at 7 December 2002. Also in Gülen's Toward the Lost Paradise, available 1 September 2003 at

[26] Ibid., 207. Quoted in and translated from Nevval Sevindi, "Fethullah Gülen Ile New York Sohbeti," Yeni Yuzyil, August 1997.

[27] Ünal, Ali and Alphonse Williams. Advocate of Dialogue: Fethullah Gülen. (Fairfax: The Fountain, 2000) p. 207.

[28]Ibid., 244

[29] Ünal and Williams, op cit.,253.



[32] For Gülen's ideas on the ideal human, see Fethullah Gülen. Toward a Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance. (New Jersey: Light, 2004) pp. 81-130.

[33] Fethullah Gülen , "True Muslims Cannot Be Terrorists," Pp. 95-100 in The Fountain, op. cit., 100. originally an article in the Turkish Daily News, 19 September 2001.

[34] Fethullah Gülen, "Islam as a Religion of Universal Mercy," Pp. 44-50 in The Fountain, op. cit., 45.


[36] M. Fethullah Gülen , "Our System of Education." Available 6 December 2002 at

[37] Thomas Michel, "Gülen as Educator and Religious Teacher," Pp. 101-113 in The Fountain, op. cit., 102. Originally from a paper presented at a symposium at Georgetown University, April, 2001.

[38] M. Hakan Yavuz, "Search for a New Social Contract in Turkey: Fethullah Gülen, the Virtue Part and the Kurds." SAIS Review 19 (1999): 114-143.

[39] Aras and Caha, op. cit.

[40] My own observations of the operations of the movement suggest otherwise. Although the wisdom and intelligence of individual women (mostly wives of movement members) are highly respected, they are apparently not explicitly included in the decision-making processes of the movement's organization.

[41] See my own report on an interfaith dialogue focused on Abraham as the founder of the Jewish-Christian-Islamic tradition: Lester R. Kurtz, "Local Gods and Universal Faiths." Pp. 155-160 in Sociology for a New Century, ed. By York W. Bradshaw, Joseph F. Healey, and Rebecca Smith. (Boston: Pine Forge Press, 2001).

[42] Aras and Caha, op. cit.


[44] Fethullah Gülen , Prophet Muhammad, 94; originally from al-Bukhari, Iman 24.

[45] Surprisingly, however, despite the love of Gülen's followers for modern science, they have refuted the theory of evolution and may be in danger of repeating the Roman Catholic Church's mistake of staking a religious perspective's reputation on the line in refuting scientific theories that end up having widespread acceptance (such as the Catholic Church's condemnation of Galileo and evolution, both of which have been corrected in recent decades).

Lester R. Kurtz, The Muslim World, Special Issue, July 2005 - Vol. 95 Issue 3 Page 325-471