Hakan Yesilova spoke about how Gulen’s thought regarding the “other” contributes to our societies and overall human life. Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
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Among many of those ideas upon which the educational movement (aka Hizmet) inspired by Fethullah Gülen operates, I find the “other-indicative” perspective very relevant to our contemporary age and the overall human life. The “other-indicative” perspective refers to a life philosophy in which the “other” becomes a means for personal discovery and social peace, whether it relates to one’s faith for the Ultimate Other as God in the theological sense or for fellow citizens of the globe in the secular sense.
Based on my personal experience with the Hizmet movement over the last two decades, my observations of their institutions across five continents, and my professional engagement with The Fountain magazine over the years, I argue that this perspective, which is deeply embedded in a theological philosophy, has produced a very successful culture of education in the Hizmet-related schools, dialogue centers, and other Hizmet initiatives, even if it is not an officially declared methodology. The benefit of this approach is the key to the academic and social achievements these schools have obtained around the world.
Hakan Yesilova is the Editor of the U.S based Fountain Magazine. Working between the United States and Turkey, he has gained many years of publishing and marketing experience. As a graduate of a Hizmet school, he has focused on studying language and political science. His main focus however, lies in what he most frequently writes on—civil society and human rights. In addition to being a writer, he is responsible for organizing international conferences concerning issues related to what the Fountain covers, such as media ethics, education, and religious coexistence.
The Fountain is one of the many magazines, dialogues, schools, or other such institutions affiliated with the Hizmet Movement. It is a unique publication covering science, poetry, history, education, and philosophy, among many other subjects. Covering such a broad range of subjects, one must wonder why there is such a great variety and how they are all connected. Mr. Yesilova’s response is that the Fountain is “as nebulous as life itself” and reading such a diverse range of stories is beneficial for our holistic understanding of the world, which goes beyond the relevance of our specific academic pursuits. Understanding the diversity of issues ensures we are not encumbered and lost in the superfluous details of everyday life, so that we are empowered to find meaning in our lives and pursue our purpose as humans.
As humans, Mr. Yesilova says that we often forget why we are here on this Earth, or what our purpose is. The Turkish word for human, insan, is derived the Arabic nisan, which means ‘to forget’. This word serves as a reminder of our nature, of our need to continue to find our purpose, he said. “The Fountain serves a similar purpose: to remind ourselves that we are not just here for our academic careers. We are not here for our business, we have a global more universal mission.” The philosophy behind the Fountain Magazine is a manifestation of the philosophy of Fethullah Gülen, the founder of the Hizmet Movement. The goal of the Fountain is to connect to a global community at the human level, not to a specific faith.
By understanding the ‘other’, one can begin to analyze how it impacts society as well as the Hizmet Movement. The Movement “addresses ontologically the human existence” and human self-awareness. Its goal is not to promote a certain sect, nation, or religion but to restore universal human values. Employing the notion of reserving “a seat for everyone in your heart” the Movement does not restrictive itself to one sector of society or aspect of being, not only speaking with one nation or system of belief, but extending its reaches far beyond this into 160 other countries where inclusiveness and learning are valued. It is important to note that two-thirds of the 160 countries where the Hizmet Movement is present are non-Muslim countries–demonstrating the broad range of the movement, and its universal attraction. This conforms to Gülen’s statement: “I am first a human being, then I am a Muslim.” Though in the Islamic world there is a commonly understood dichotomy between the dar al-harb (non-Muslim lands) and the dar al-Islam (Muslim lands), Gülenist philosophy encourages the transcendence of this into dar al-Hizmet – a world of service. Rather than identifying ourselves in relation to another group (which often generates animosity that results in conflict), Gülen believes we should aim to create a world of service to others for our mutual benefit and recognition of the oneness of humanity beyond religious disparities.
Referencing the theologian Said Nursi, Mr. Yesilova said, “Nursi thus avoids the dichotomy of the religious versus the secular by positing a world in which all things and behaviors are able to be sacred so long as they are approached from the ‘other’ indicative rather than the self-referential.” In other words, it is important to recognize that all creations are “manifestations of divine attributes”–they are sacred, and therefore worthy of respect. The ‘other’ is a notion used to identify oneself in relation to another essence or thing, rather than identifying other things in relation to oneself – a crucial distinction that facilitates interfaith communication. Believers might identify themselves in relation to a religion while nonbelievers might do so in relation to any other entity. Regardless of whether or not one is religious, approaching all creations and behaviors from the ‘other’ indicative facilitates the cultivation of trust and peaceful coexistence, as this perspective prevents a confrontational dichotomy of contrasting beliefs from forming.
Mr. Yesilova went on to explain how the secularity of science does not contrast with the spirituality of religion. As Dr. Phillip Clayton of Claremont University wrote in his book, Religion and Science: the Basics, science and religion are compatible, not conflicting. The Fountain aims to promote this compatibility by presenting a wide range of subjects – scientific and spiritual. To fully appreciate spirituality, Mr. Yesilova said, we must recognize the grand array and diversity of creations, and the science behind them.
When the floor opened up for questioning Javier Rupérez, the former Spanish Ambassador to the United States, asked questions regarding the Hizmet movement’s relation to Islam, its translation into politics, and the enmity for it in Turkey. Mr. Yesilova responded by stating that the Hizmet movement is opposed to violent interpretations of Islam, such as what has developed in Nigeria. Conflicts like these stem from the disregard of prophets and the literal interpretation of religious texts. “Islam should not be abused for personal and political interests,” Mr. Yesilova stated, using the current political climate in Turkey as an example. “Islam doesn’t need a government. It doesn’t need a political party to manifest itself.” He said, referring to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the majority leader in Turkey, who has utilized Islam as a political tool in the past. In addition, Mr. Yesilova emphasized that the democratization that was promised by the party has still as yet to show its face, as civil liberties become stricter in the country. Mr. Yesilova hopes that the Hizmet Movement will bring an end to this political exploitation of Islam.
Hakan Yesilova is the editor of the US-based The Fountain magazine. With an education in languages and political science, Yesilova is a professional publisher since 1995 with an experience in various editorial and marketing positions in Turkey and USA. In addition to his editorial position, he organizes international conferences on themes explored in The Fountain, such as media ethics, education, peaceful coexistence, and intercultural dialogue. He writes on civil society and human rights.