Multicultural Mosaic Foundation in Aurora, CO is inspired by Turkey's Hizmet movement that promotes interfaith/intercultural dialog. American intellectuals talk about their perspectives on Hizmet.
Father Alexei Smith served as an elected member of the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for six years, and currently is a member of the Spirituality Commission of the Archdiocese. He served as president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California for five years. In 2007, he awarded the prestigious Religious Leadership Award of the Valley Interfaith Council.
Giving reference to the Pope Francis, Father Alexei speaks of “authentic Islam” to be one which abhors violence and is open to dialogue. “And this is precisely what I see in the Hizmet Movement and certainly in my readings of the teachings of Fethullah Gülen.”
“…one of the things I really appreciate about the movement, is the amount of service you do, not only to your fellow Muslims but to all of us, and the whole aspect, then, of inter religious dialogue and certainly education and learning.”
Father Alexei makes mention of Fethullah Gulen’s approach to the word ‘tolerance’; “He [Fethullah Gulen] talks about, ‘let your heart be as tolerant as the wide open ocean’. And that indicates to me an openness, an openness to allowing the other to enrich you as you enrich them.”
As a “great advocate of inter-religious learning”, Fr. Alexei makes reference to Miroslav Volf in describing interfaith dialogue as an ‘embrace’. He says, “What do you do when you embrace someone? You open your arms to put your arms around that person and opening your arms, you’re making room in yourself for the other person. And that is what we all need to do.”
In reflection his impression about the Hizmet Movement Fr Alexei comments, “I think that Hizmet, amongst the Islamic organizations, movements and such, seems to epitomize that triad of service, dialogue and education.”
In expressing his regret for any attempts to curtail Hizmet Movement’s activities, Fr. Alexei notes, “…because I look upon them, I look upon Mr. Gulen, I look upon the whole movement’s efforts as a shiny beacon in the Islamic world, a beacon of hope for the future.”
Dr. Bradley Hawkins teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at California State University- Long Beach. He teaches courses on Southeast Asian religions, Hinduism and other South Asian religions, and the study of small-scale religions. His current research projects include a religious history of Southeast Asia to 1500 CE, a study of Buddhist groups in the LA area, and a comprehensive overview of small-scale religions in Indochina.
Dr. Hawkins refers to Fethullah Gulen as a wise man and says, “. I think that his form of Islam is a tremendously powerful, modern form of religion and has a lot to teach the world about how we should get together.”
“I think Hizmet goes to the heart of what it means to be a Muslim. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was a man who was not teaching a set of dogmas. He was teaching a revolution of life, a whole new way to interact with the world around them, to interact with God, to interact with other human beings, to interact even with nature…”
Dr. Hawkins feels that “Islam has much to teach the world about how human beings should interact with it…” and notes that Hizmet is doing a good job of putting those principles in place, with its interfaith activities and relief work.
In response to recent allegations regarding the Hizmet Movement, Dr. Hawkins expresses his opinion quite frankly, “Hizmet isn’t a secret society. Hizmet is very straightforward about what it believes, about what it wants to do… What Hizmet is looking for is a change in people, not a change of politics. And, the idea behind Hizmet, and this is something that Gulen Efendi has said a lot, is if you change people, everything else will change with it.”
“Hizmet is just part of the development toward a new, democratic, economically secure, powerful Turkey. Hizmet is fully behind the new vision of the new Turkey. And, in time, I think people will recognize that.”