The Gülen movement is a transnational religious and social movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar and preacher Fethullah Gülen. The movement has no official name, but it is usually called simply Hizmet ("the Service") by its followers and is known euphemistically as Cemaat ("the Community/Assembly") to the broader public in Turkey.The movement has attracted supporters and critics in Turkey, Central Asia, and increasingly in other parts of the world. The movement is active in education (with private and charter schools in over 140 countries) and self-described interfaith dialogue. It has substantial investments in media, finance, and for–profit health clinics.The movement has been described as a "pacifist, modern-minded Islam, often praised as a contrast to more extreme Salafism." Others have described it as "having the characteristics of a cult" and likened its secretiveness and influence in Turkish politics to an "Islamic Opus Dei". The exact number of supporters of the Gülen movement is not known, as the movement is rather secretive to some but to others there is no official membership structure, but estimates vary from 1 million to 8 million.The movement consists primarily of students, teachers, businessmen, journalists and other professionals
To make a distinction between the two, different concepts are employed, such as political Islam/civil Islam or Islamist and Islamic movements, etc. These categorizations mostly reflect the difference of methodology between them, however, these two movements differ in their goals. That is to say, while the Hizmet movement aims to "spread" Islam, the AK Party, Milli Görüş (National Outlook) or political Islam aims to "protect" Islam.
Since purpose of the Hizmet is to spread Islam, each non-Muslim is a potential Muslim for Hizmet-inspired people. On the contrary, since the target of political Islam is to protect Islam from Western imperialism and capitalism, every non-Muslim is an enemy for Islamists. This is why dialogue activities of the movement are approached with suspicion by the latter.
Islamism or political Islam represented through the path constructed by former Prime Minister and leader of the Felicity Party (SP) Necmettin Erbakan in Turkey, though imported from abroad, is actually a synthesis of anti-imperialism, Islamism and Ottomanism. While other Islamist movements like in Pakistan, Egypt and Iran concentrated more on a nation-state structure, Turkish Islamism wanted to re-establish the caliphate or at least an "elder-brother" role over the other Muslim countries, as in the time of the Ottomans. In this regard, Turkish Islamism not only clashed with Turkish civil Islam in internal politics, but also with other forms of Islamism of the Middle East in external politics. This is because each form of Islamism merged with the national traditions of its particular country. While some of the Islamist movements of the Middle East like Ihvan reaped the benefits of the Ottoman past in many ways, they never supported the idea of going back to the Ottoman times under the leadership of Turkey.
Though they differ in some points, broadly speaking, Islamists reacted to Western imperialism and tried to protect Islam from the West, which they associated with Christianity or anti-Islamism. On the other hand, the Hizmet movement did not adopt a hostile attitude towards the West since it was an movement of Anatolian origin mostly inspired by Sufi leaders like Rumi, who is reported to have said, "Come, come whoever you are." Thus, the Hizmet movement believes in the power of tolerance to spread Islam, while Turkish Islamists believe the power of state to protect Islam. For Hizmet-inspired people, obtaining state power is not important as long as the safety of the movement is assured. But for the Turkish Islamists, state power is necessary to protect Islam from Western imperialism and capitalism.
The dilemma and despair of Turkish Islamists manifested itself when they got the state power they longed for. Their target was clear but how to reach this target was not. They could adopt either the liberal state model or the Shiite model of Iran. The Shiite model seemed to be the only successful model in the Muslim world in the 20th century since the Sunnite state model of the Ottoman Empire was not efficient due its lack of adaptation to the needs of the modern world. Firstly, they tried the liberal state model with hopes of EU membership, but when they realized that Turkey would not be taken to this union, they turned back to their original National Outlook movement and inevitably moved closer to Iran.
The Hizmet movement, on the other hand, always had to consider the "bad image" of political Islam in the eyes of Western circles since this image would harm their aim of spreading Islam. Thus, whenever Turkey starts to be associated with political Islam, as in the case of Mavi Marmara, the Hizmet movement will not be at ease as a global movement. Hence, whenever this "perceptual threat" of political Islam or the existential threat of Kemalism is not in effect in Turkey, the Hizmet movement will care nothing about who or which party is in power.
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