dinsdag 13 september 2016

The Pluralist Vision of Fethullah Gülen, between Europe and Indonesia?

Fethullah Gülen has been compared to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi , the 'caliph' of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS. The debate about Gülen has now reached  the Netherlands as well. As far as I know, there is not much debate about him in Indonesia, although there are some 8 Gülen schools in the country and a Gülen chair, or 'Gülen corner' in the UIN of Jakarta.
In 2015 I published a chapter on Gülen ethics (together with Gürkan Celik, in the book: Gülen-Inspiered Hizmet in Europe). Our argument was that, besides Islamic ethics as shari'a with very detailed and precise prescripts, there is a more general ethics based on a formulation of virtues, psyuchological goals to be attained (like self-control, modestymagnanimity, amiability, obedience to God). In his four-volume book on Sufism, Gülen has in the style of al-Ghazzali, many descriptions of virtues.
Now a Dutch philosophy journal asked for an update of this review of the thinking of Gülen, concentrating on social philosophy and ethics. I cam,e across a quite interesting perspective of the role of Turkey in the modern world. Gülen compared his time to that of Alexandre the Great, the Greek who conquered Persia but also accepted much of Persian civilisation. This resulted in a hybrid civilisation that dominated not Mediterranean world, until Persia and Arabia from 300 BCE until the arrival of Christianity and Islam. Angelika Neuwirth  qualified the Qur'an as a 'Text from the Late Antiquities'.
The process of Turkey's membership of EU, strongly supported by Gülen, is seen by him as a new opportunity to mix European and Asian cultures: 'Turkey's membership in the EU may yield a new cilizational mix rather than leading to a clash of civilisation.' (Gülen-Inspired hizmet in Europe p. 134).
The picture above present a quite common image of the idea many Europeans have about the 'integration' of Muslim in Europe. They simply should adapt to all aspects of European society. Gülen promotes the idea of Turkish membership of the EU but ion a way, where somthing new has to be started.
He condemns ISIS and now also the Erdogan government for a policy that should create a monolytic, uniform society. Instead he defends the Ottoman rule, with its millet policy where so many etnic and religious communities should be allowed to live according to their own rules.
The colonial Dutch rule in Indonesia created a state of apartheid, where different rules were valid for white European, for Arabs, Chinese and native populations. There are many weak points in this undemocratic and uneven society. We never should hope for its return. But the Turkish Ottoman rule also had some degree of tolerance. Martin Luther, who separated from the Roman Catholic Church, even once stated that he would rather live under Turkish rule than under the Pope. Also French critical philosopher Voltaire stated in the mid-18th century that Turkish rule was much more tolerant than what he experienced in France and Italy of his times. Also under Kemal Atatürk there was a tendency to create a strongly unified country where local languages and cultures (especially of the Kurds, but also the Alevi tradition in Islam) were banned.
Lherefore it is the more a pity that the liberal and plural ideas of Gülen are now forbidden in favour of the monolythic culture as promoted by President Erdogan. One of the accusations against Gülen is that he did not obey the exclusive administration of Islam by Diyanet.
NKRI, Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia somtimes sounds to me as the opposite of Bhinneka tunggal ika, a support of pluralism together with an open unity.

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