Dr. Philip Clayton is the Ingraham Professor of Theology at Claremont School of Theology. He received dual PhDs from Yale in philosophy and theology and held posts at Williams College and the California State University, as well as guest professorships at the University of Munich, the University of Cambridge, and Harvard University. He is a leading advocate for interreligious dialogue, comparative theologies, and the internationalization of the science-religion dialogue. He authored or edited 22 books.
In his speech, Dr. Philip Clayton acknowledges both the “geopolitical significance of Turkey as a cultural and political bridge” and “the extreme importance of Islam for the shape of the world in the 21st century”, going on to state his opinion that, “until Fethullah Gulen, there has not been a single figure who could represent that attractive face of the teachings of the Prophet, for the entire West.”
Speaking of Islam as a priceless gem that holds the Qur’an at the core and ‘builds out upon layers of deeper understanding’ from classical Islamic philosophers to Sufi mysticism, leading to what all ‘this’ means to the entire planet. Dr. Clayton comments, “What Fethullah Gulen has done, what the movement has done, is to take that understanding, that classical tradition of Islam, and to make it relevant to the 21st century.”
“This gentle teaching,” he says, “this teaching of the Prophet without violence, comes as an antidote to a very small minority of Islam which seeks violent routes…” He commends the Movement’s “global reach” adding that, “No movement has been as organized and as devoted to the project of service itself, as has the Hizmet movement.”
Fascinated by the schools in some 160 countries, Dr. Clayton comments, “This is a way for followers of the Prophet, for Muslims, to take a position of leadership in every country of the world, to bring the teachings of the Prophet to the 21st century, to make them relevant to the world’s situation.”
Dr. Zaman Stanizai is a Professor of Mythological Studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California and he teaches Political Science at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He has written on political theory with emphasis on the viability of third world states encountering globalization, and on political identity focusing on the politicization of ethnic, national, and religious identities as a contributing factor in regional and world conflicts.
Relating the problem with most movements as being the fact that “they wear their piety and religiosity on their sleeve”, Dr. Zaman Stanizai notes that the Hizmet Movement actually “acts upon what matters rather than talking about what doesn’t really matter”.
“The Hizmet Movement is doing the thing that matters and that is to serve humanity. The Prophet had said that “the best of you is those whose fruit of labor benefits other human beings”, and the fruit of labor is labor, its service, its not talk.”
Dr. Stanizai states that if the claim that the Prophet was sent to all of humanity is true, then ‘the focus or field of operation must include all human beings’.
Referring to the Hizmet Movement as a pioneer in the forefront of making a difference in the world, Dr. Stanizai called attention to a ‘forgotten’ sunnah, or tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, that concentrated on interfaith dialogue.
“Most of the problems that we experience today in the East-West conflict and the South-North conflict, economic and political; they are due to the lack of communication.”
Critizing the Muslim world for lack of education, he notes, “The reason we, our “Islamic Movements” are so backward, so rigid, so xenophobic, so self-centered is because we don’t even know our own religious ways.” And in conclusion, he states, “So, that is why if the Hizmet movement or the Gulen Movement, in general, is pursuing social reform through education, I don’t think there would be any sound mind to object to that.”