Saturday, July 18, 2009

When will the Gulenists reveal their Turkey vision? (IV)

-Published in Hurriyet Daily News on July 17, 2009-

-Hurriyet Daily News'te, 17 Temmuz 2009 Tarihinde Yayinlanmis Makalem-

This is the final part of the series that I have been writing on the Gulenist movement in light of the recent presentation that was given at an important think tank in Washington, DC. I have been also receiving quite a few emails regarding this series. The majority of the e-mails have been from curious minds ranging from Turkey to Europe, and to the United States. Some of these e-mails are from non-Turkish readers, and apparently they have also come across Gulen institutions in different countries and cannot make up their minds about what they see.

These emails once again showed me that people who have no affiliations with any organizations or specifics agendas, without knowing exactly what this movement is all about, have genuine concerns about the movement and what it strives to accomplish. Only a few years back, while working mostly within Turkey, the movement did not attract this much attention. However, especially since the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power and Turkey has been changing and apparently becoming more conservative, the average person has also started to ask questions more intensely. And it is true that for an outsider, to know and understand the Gulen movement would be almost an impossible task to accomplish. The movement has many references and multiple levels to comprehend. Thus, the movement has to sincerely start thinking about how to explain themselves in better terms. And I will give some start points here.

On the one hand, the old way of ruling is not working in Turkey. Circumstances that have been in place for a long time now are cracking. Therefore, in these historic times, the Gulen movement needs to be integrated into the system and to do that we need sides to step up. And, luckily, I am here to tell how this integration can be started and try to lay out a constructive path to follow.

As Alp Aslando─čan mentioned in his presentation, the movement cannot just be wished away. And let's be honest: such movements cannot and should not be stopped by force or anti-democratic campaigns. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have believed in and given just about everything they have for this movement for decades. Only for this reason, not to disappoint the supporters after all their hard work, can the movement take on many challenges now.

At the same time, Turkey should not be forced to go through another painful chapter either. The representatives and guardians of Turkish State regime, first of all, need to start loosening up a little bit, sit and talk. This does not mean and should not sound like I suggest for anyone to accept the surrender, if it is implied in any sense. This talking has to have a purpose to reach common understandings for a way forward. One of those common grounds must be, for example, a secular democracy. The movement seems to be at ease with spelling out the terms of the republic and democracy since the 1990s, though we never hear anything about secularism. Or other specific issues that effect many average people. Such as, how will minority rights be protected? While targeting equality in new times, how can we ensure that there will be no vengeance?

In order to ensure that everyone will have rights in the future and make everyone feel safe, the Gulen movement, as the largest Islamic one in Turkey, will have to reveal their vision and principal pillars for all of Turkey. The movement has every means to explain its Turkey manifestation, and now’s the time to do it. It can be done by giving a simple interview by a leader or one of its spoke-persons. Millions of people in Turkey and many curious observers and lovers of this country would like to hear from this impressive faction about the country that they are dreaming of, in real and tangible fashions. And one could find that the majority of these millions would agree to change the distorted secular system that has been applied in the country, because many are aware that secularism depressed an awful a lot of people. Though after getting rid of this distorted secularism, will the new Turkey have a real secularism that will separate the state from the religion? Will there be the kind of secularism that will not impose any one religion on another and protect the people of a minority being imposed upon by the majority?

The movement’s schools impress everyone around the globe, and apparently the members of the movement know what they are doing. So why can’t we also talk about the education system? Or how will we uphold the law and what kind of law, and make sure that the independent judiciary, free speech and media are in place? Yes, military personnel should be free to practice or marry to anyone, with headscarf or not, if they wish, but will this military also hire young kids from Alevi or Kurdish segments of society? What is more, can any minority live free from pressure and rise up in military or State ranks in that planned vision? Many people cannot be sure if this will happen and because of this suspicion, they would rather play for a safe hand, the one that they already know with its weaknesses and shortcomings than the one they have no idea about. And the emails I received show just that.

The members of the movement do not like to hear harsh criticism and respond that they are not hiding anything. And these average citizens of Turkey would like to believe that. Though, this does not happen with only words. For example, as one of those unbiased intellectual brains asked me to ask: once the headscarf issue is resolved and being pious does not prevent anyone from working or living wherever, only one’s success does, then what else is there that the movement will wish to see changed in the country.

Again, let’s be honest, today’s Turkey stinks when it comes to human rights issues and lags desperately behind. We can all agree on that. Though the question is, once we get rid of these stains, how can average people be sure of not coming across new stains? More openly, how will the new conscience be able to help maintain a neutral governing system in which people would not be pressured for not fasting, or going to Friday prayers, etc.?

Even now, many of conservative and religious writers still do think there is no neighborhood pressure in Turkey. How will these writers be more objective and sensitive to the members of other religions or non-religious in the future, leaving aside gays or atheists? This last column is mostly addressed to the members of the movement who ask me why I ask these questions, because the truth is already out there! And if the truth is out there, how about writing those truths on a piece of paper and passing it on to everyone. If there really is nothing to hide, which many wish to believe and support much great work that the movement has done around world, then why not spell it out openly, at least the fundamental truths. So that, if God forbid anything happens in the future, responsible people can be held accountable. And for the last time, I am not siding with anyone, nor part of any grand conspiracy. I am just a citizen of Turkey. I have, along with millions of others, the right to ask and to know exactly what their plan for Turkey is. These questions are coming from me. Who, I think, does know a thing or two about you.

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