Middle East Studies Association meeting, Denver Colorado
November 17-20, 2012
Faith-Based Conservative Activism in Turkey: Fethullah Gülen as a Social Movement
Session Organizer and Chair: Dr. Joshua D. Hendrick, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Loyola University Maryland
This session is proposed to address Turkey’s on-going intra-elite power struggle by analyzing the collective mobilization and impact of what is known as Hizmet (service), or more popularly, the Movement of Fethullah Gülen. Now Turkey’s largest and most influential Islamic identity community, the significance of Turkey’s Gülen Movement (GM) extends well beyond Turkey’s borders. Its activities in education, media, and business span over 100 countries. Loyalists to the movement’s leader, the retired Islamic preacher and writer M. Fethullah Gülen, control one of Turkey’s largest media conglomerates, a number of the country’s most globally linked companies, and approximately 1000 math and science focused schools throughout the world. Since 1998, Fethullah Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in Saylorsburg. Pennsylvania (USA). Since that time, loyalists in GM network have expanded their operations in the US where they are now very active in intercultural and interfaith outreach, commerce and trade, political lobbying, and charter school education. The GM’s growth and impact both inside and outside Turkey is highly significant for Turkey’s emergence as a regional power in the 21st century. Considering its emergence as a source of social power in contemporary Turkey, the GM is not without its critics. Since the early 1980s, many news columnists and some politicians in Turkey have regularly declared that Gülen’s real aims are to slowly and patiently initiate an Islamic overall in the Turkish Republic. Fears about Fethullahcılar (“Fethullah-ists”) infiltrating Turkey’s civilian and military bureaucracies are common. In response, GM actors in Turkey, and increasingly more often throughout the world, have strategically presented themselves as “selfless,” “service oriented” democrats, peace activists, and headstrong advocates for interfaith and intercultural dialogue. To spread this message, GM loyalists have actively sought to publicize Gülen’s teachings and the activities of those inspired by them to eager foreign audiences. Their primary strategy has been to sponsor and organize a number of pseudo-academic conferences that have all led to book publications, which have, in turn, saturated the academic marketplace on the topic of the GM’s growth and impact. In an attempt to fill a glaring void in the literature on the GM’s collective mobilization as a faith-based social movement, this session hopes to attract well-researched scholarship whose author’s intend neither to promote/praise the activities of actors inspired by Fethullah Gülen, nor to demonize them. Rather, the intent of this session is to begin a long overdue conversation about the GM’s impact from a perspective that foregrounds academic skepticism, critical sociology, and social movements studies through a comparative historical lens.
Please send abstracts (300-400 words) by February 10, 2012 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send your abstract as an MS Word attachment.
Please make sure to include your paper’s title, author(s), and contact information.
Note: Prior to the submission of your abstract, anticipated participants must create a MESA account and pay MESA membership dues. Selected participants in this session will be contacted by February 12, and will be required to upload their abstracts individually by February 15, 2012.