Hizmet, the social movement inspired by the neo-Sufi thinker Fetullah Gülen, is currently being dismembered by the autocratic president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He accuses Gülen of ordering a coup attempt on 15th July 2016, saying it was was led by Hizmet members in the army. This is strenuously denied by Gülen and Hizmet, but the crack-down has nevertheless been enormous in its range (see here for more information and for Hizmet’s response).
I am a supporter of Hizmet. Since 2006 I have enjoyed meeting their members (some of whom did their PhDs at my university), learning about their work and experiencing their hospitality. In every encounter, in Leeds, London, Istanbul, Seoul and São Paulo, I have found their members (male and female) to be sincere, intelligent, open-minded, humorous and kind.
In May this year (2016) they invited me to speak at their academic conference in Brazil on the role of Hizmet as a social movement. Because they are a huge, world-wide social movement inspired by Islam but largely engaged in educational and charitable work (Gülen has said we have enough mosques, what we need is more schools), I wrote a paper which suggested they enlarged their remit to address five challenges facing the world today:
• Climate change
• Globalised economies that are increasing the polarisation of wealth and income
• Mass migration
• Increasing political violence, claiming religion as its justification
• Decreasing social solidarity
Here is the paper I wrote up after the conference: Hizmet Conference paper It includes more detail of my work with Hizmet; more importantly it contains a lot of detailed factual information on the scale of these challenges.
Already Hizmet does important work on some of these issues. If it survives Erdogan’s onslaught, it will no doubt do more. As a movement inspired by religion but committed to secular, democratic government that respects universally-agreed human rights and prioritises modern, high-quality education for all, Hizmet can contribute to progressive change in Islamic countries. It has much to offer to multicultural society across the globe. I do not believe that Gülen ordered the coup attempt.
(To save time on reading the paper, you could look at the slides I used in the presentation Max Farrar Hizmet Conf paper slides PDF.)