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On the “Structure” of the Hizmet Movement

Hizmet-MovementIn his 2013 book, “Toward an Islamic Enlightenment-The Gulen Movement”, Hakan Yavuz examines the “structure” of the Hizmet Movement by analyzing the authority, networks and opportunity spaces perspective. According to Yavuz, Fethullah Gulen argues that salvation cannot be found in the exit or withdrawal from social life. On the contrary, he advocates salvation in the midst of social and economic activities. The movement is an important case study for examining how religious ideas is put into practice and also how the followers of the movement give subjective meaning to their economic activities. To understand the movement, Yavuz looks at Max Weber`s idea of elective affinities in terms of the mutually constituted formations and rationalization of economics and religion. Weber argues that “the human mind is driven to reflect on ethical and religious questions, driven not by material need but by inner compulsion to understand the world as a meaningful cosmos and to take a position toward it” Yavuz analyze this from social and instrumental ties perspective.

The Gulen Movement is made up of a bundle of networks of ideas, practices, and instruments of mobility with the purpose of creating the necessary conditions that would allow the realization of their definition of “being a good human being”. Thus it is constituted by social networks in which followers form bonds through shared norms and goals. These bonds affect the relations between followers of the movement. In the networks the bonds determine the norms an patterns of behavior and lifestyle. These networks in turn form the community, or the movement, which blends the Weberian notions of social ties based on shared values and belief (gemeinschaft) and impersonal and formal instrumental ties(gesellschaft) of society.

Fethullah Gulen, Gulen Movement and Media

As the Hizmet Movement continues to pursue success in various venues, it draws wider groups into its activities. Yavuz states that, although being a spirituality based one, the movement is no longer only a faith movement. Rather, it is increasingly becoming a useful network for mobility and profit making by providing the necessary means and networks.  According to Yavuz, One of Fethullah Gulen`s most remarkable achievements has been shifting Muslim energy away from mosque building and political Islam towards building educational networks to overcome ignorance, establishing dialogue institutions and cultural centers to combat disunity, and founding humanitarian aid organizations and relief agencies to alleviate poverty. Building public consensus via media and economic power through building competitive companies and financial institutions are also important to mention.

The Gulen Movement has organized itself in several areas. Its followers have established regional, national and international business associations to network among business community. With the support of these entrepreneurs, the movement has opened hundreds of schools and colleges in Turkey and around the world in 160 countries. It has the second largest media conglomeration in Turkey, the two largest daily newspapers, in Turkish and in English, six TV channels, two radio stations, a worldwide news agency, numerous publishing houses and a number of periodical magazines and journals. The movement also has private hospitals and health clinics, and has set up an insurance company and a non-interest-bearing bank.

Yavuz underlines that the Gulen Movement does not issue membership cards or offer an official joining ceremony. The movement leaves the door open for those who want to join its activities, or alternatively, leave if they are not satisfied. This free and flexible affiliation structure helps the movement to project itself as a voluntary civic association.  The religiously rooted social and civic associations of Hizmet Movement take part in the public debate and expand the boundaries of the public sphere by incorporating diverse ideas and worldviews into discussion, which makes it unique.