Reviewed by: Sebahattin Ziyanak, Ph.D.
Research Fellow, Houston, TX, USA
Professor Helen Rose Ebaugh presents a comparative sociological analysis about Fethullah Gulen and a civic movement rooted in moderate Islam that he inspired in Turkey and eventually throughout the world. Ebaugh covers many, many issues, including: Islam and the State throughout Turkish History, the secularism of Ataturk, the major ideas promoted by Fethullah Gulen, interfaith and intercultural dialog, raising money for Gulen-inspired projects, major concepts in Turkish culture related to giving, financing of Gulen-inspired projects, and patterns within Gulen-inspired institutions.
Turkey is a distinctive country in many ways and the author reveals this distinctiveness, mainly after the growth and visibility of moderate or nonviolent Muslim movements. Within these parameters, the significance of the Hizmet movement can be understood in the context of Turkish history. Ebaugh argues that the "Gulen movement is one strong example of moderate Islam in the contemporary world" (p. 2).
The author divides the book into seven chapters in a logical order. In the first chapter, Professor Ebaugh focuses on the recent media attention in the Hizmet movement by narrating how a number of widely and reputable journals' note of Mr. Gulen and his many service projects; such as schools, dormitories, and hospitals.
Professor Ebaugh opens the book with these questions: "What is the Gulen movement that now claims millions of followers worldwide and is attracting such financial resources that suspicions are being raised that some government must be behind the movement?" and "Is Mr. Gulen a Gandhi as some followers claim or a Khomeini as many critics fear?" In this book, she seeks to answer these questions. To understand the Hizmet Movement's success and growth both in Turkey and internationally, she uses Resource Mobilization Theory and Organizational Commitment Theory. She believes that these theories shed light on human and financial resources within Turkey.
Chapter 2 opens the concepts of ``the separation of Islam and the state'', "the secularism of Ataturk", "the multi-party system in Turkey" and the headscarf ban. She laid out Turkey's general history, starting from the Ottoman Empire to understanding both significance of the life of and teaching of Fethullah Gulen and the fears and accusations aimed at him... The author believes that this movement has been the most powerful and contentious issue in Turkish politics, both historically and currently. (p.22). She notes that Fethullah Gulen developed the ideas that the movement sprang from and that is now thriving globally, but draws criticism from those secularists who fear that he will eventually create an Islamist state in Turkey.
In Chapter 3, the author focuses on Fethullah Gulen's life story, his beliefs and the Gulen movement. Ebaugh also says that Said Nursi's writing is very influential in Mr. Gulen's education and forms the basis of his later teachings and writings. She also mentions that the Turkish public has been caught in the dilemma of wishing their children educated but fearing the highly politicized atmosphere. To address this dilemma, Ebaugh investigates how the Gulen movement's service and houses of light became a hope to remove the politicized environment.
In the fourth chapter, Professor Ebaugh presents a critical analysis of the structure of local circles. She demonstrates that the local circles of businessmen, professionals, and workers in Turkish cities that, having attracted large numbers of citizens, were typically organized according to location education, or type of job. Comparing to the male circle meet, she mainly details given reasons for the segregation of women, since women prefers to meet earlier in the day because of safety reasons and meeting their children after school. She particularly emphasizes the roles played by women in movement activities and the treatment of women within the the Gulen movement. The author thoroughly discusses and puts forth arguments about how men lead the events and only men serve as presidents of local groups(p. 50).
In Chapter 5, the author seeks for the motivations behind the movement's service commitment and financial support. She argues that cultural and religious practices related to philanthropy, self-sacrifice, and charity in Turkish history will help in analyzing how millions of Turkish people to give so compassionately to the Gulen movement's social activities. The author presented the concept in Turkish-Islamic culture, that of giving.
In Chapter 6, the author found no evidence of official ties between "Mr. Gulen and the board of directors of the bank, the bank officers, or clients of the bank" (p.85). She concludes that there are estimated to be over 1000 Gulen inspired schools in approximately 100 countries throughout the world, including Turkey. For the building, renovation or maintenance of schools she found that their support came not from the government but from a group of businessmen and local sponsors who see to the needs for each school in an area.
However, she fails to show how other social movements in Turkey differ from the Gulen movement and women's segregation in the movement's social activities was only briefly discussed. These issues need to be elaborated on.
Finally, in the last chapter, the author summarizes why the Gulen movement is spreading into a transnational movement, primarily due to commitment and resource mobilization within the local circles.
Overall, Dr. Ebaugh is very knowledgeable in her field, thanks to her theoretical background on the issues of Gulen-inspired social movement. Her intellectual and cultural experience is evident throughout the pages when dealing with why the Hizmet movement has captured the enthusiasm of millions of Turks within the country as well as in the countries they have migrated to. Her knowledge also makes the book professionally organized. She conveys everything in a specific order, providing a reasonable understanding for Western readers who come from a tradition of activist or protest movement. Undergraduate and graduate departments in sociology, political science, and education could also take advantage of such a book with its candid language regarding spectacular issues. This book also offers an outsiders' view of the movement. In this proposed text, the author strongly lessened her bias. Consequently, I strongly endorse it to be in the core list of the social organization/disorganization seminar.