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Gülen-Inspired Hizmet in Europe

The Western Journey of a Turkish Muslim Movement


Edited By Gürkan Çelik, Johan Leman and Karel Steenbrink

The Hizmet Movement initiated by Fethullah Gülen in Turkey in the 1960s is today active in more than 160 countries. The participants of Hizmet are often less visible among the Muslim minorities in Western societies. They do not build mosques or hold regular prayer meetings like institutional Muslims or Sufi masters, but establish emancipatory schools without religious instruction, cherish networks of business people, publish the newspaper Zaman in various national editions, and run dialogue charities for intercultural and interreligious encounters. Small groups come together in private houses to hold sohbets, that is spiritual talks on faith, religion and society, and to discuss Hizmet-related projects in the light of teachings articulated by Gülen in his books and talks.
This book provides a broad presentation of Gülen’s thought and practice. These issues are discussed in the first part of this book. The second part presents six case studies from countries where the name of Gülen has been attached to a great variety of social activities in the field of education, media, business, dialogue, and the support of integration and defence of human rights. These countries are Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Albania as the centre of Muslims in the Balkans. Although the participants of Hizmet are quite small in number and work in an extremely decentralised way, they are among the best educated and most socially active of the Turkish-speaking communities in their countries. This is therefore an important study of a group of Muslims who cannot simply be categorized as «conservative» or «progressive», «pietistic» or «political».
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Belgium’s Gülen Hizmet Movement. History, Structures and Initiatives


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Belgium’s Gülen Hizmet Movement

History, Structures and Initiatives


This chapter explores the history, profile and place of the Hizmet Movement in Belgium from 1992 till 2015. How was the movement started? When were the different initiatives created? And the platforms? Is there a logic to the process? What are the priorities? What does membership mean? What is its relationship to society in general? I apply a no-nonsense approach. I entered into contact involuntarily with the Hizmet movement in 2009, volunteering among minorities in Brussels, not as a member of Hizmet. It brought me into contact with one of their schools (Lucerna), after which I met also Turkish students at KU Leuven University in my class who asked me my opinion and advice about the movement. As I understood that the movement was the object of some controversy in Turkey, I wanted to be very careful in my contacts and decisions. As an anthropologist I really wanted to ‘see’ and to judge only after observation. I have a professional career behind me, as former Director of a Royal Commission on Migrant Policy, and as former Director of a Federal Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight Against Racism in my country, that doesn’t permit me to make big mistakes at the end of my career, surely when one proposes me to become chair holder of a Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies (GCIS) at my university. And yes, between...

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