Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Gulenism as "Religionist" Kemalism

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Gulenism as "Religionist" Kemalism

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT Utilizing Gramsci's conceptualization of hegemonic struggles through both coercive means of the state and also the production of consent in civil society, the article conducts a comparative textual analysis of the writings and speeches of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Fetullah Gulen. In so doing, the article focuses on four main themes: (1) sacralization of modern knowledge, science, and education; (2) militarism and centrism; (3) statism and corporatism; and, (4) ethnic nationalism and Turkism. It argues that the ideology of the Gulen's "service movement" shares the principles of Kemalism in the above-mentioned domains, while couching them within a religious discursive framework. Since Gulenism uses Quranic terminology out of context and for secular ends, the term "religionist" is used instead of "religious" to describe this ideology.

Introduction

Since the 2000s social science literature on the group led by Fetullah Gulen, which was assumed to be a religious movement, has focused on two major themes. The first has been the ideals, values and ideology of its leader. In the post 9/11 atmosphere, most interpretations framed this community as an alternative to Islamist movements which advocate radical change to secular political systems and evincing a worldview that clashes with the Western interests and ideals, most often using violent means. Gulen's worldview, in contrast, has been widely seen as an example of "moderate" (as opposed to "radical") Islam. This perspective was reinforced by his advocacy of dialogue among religions, apparent acceptance of the Western ideals of multiculturalism and tolerance, and his emphasis on the compatibility of these ideals with Islam. (1) The second line of inquiry has focused on whether, as a religious movement, it could be considered as a part of civil society through the study of Gulen's followers as a social movement.

The interpretations differed according to the definitions of civil society scholars have adopted. Whether it is conceptualized in neutral terms or as having liberal-democratic traits was consequential in the conclusions drawn about the role of the movement in democratization. (2) Thus, there are evaluations of the movement as contributing to democratization, pluralism and erosion of Kemalist statism both in terms of its discourse through studies of Gulen's writings and lectures (3) as well as its practices through analysis of its public activities in the spheres of education, business, trade, the media and health. (4) This article offers a different perspective to both these lines of inquiry by utilizing Antonio Gramsci's conceptualization of hegemony and Ali Shariati's notion of "religion of legitimation" to compare the official ideology of the Turkish Republic (namely, Kemalism) and the ideology of Gulen movement (namely, Gulenism).

It is imperative to conduct a comparative analysis of these two seemingly incompatible ideologies to understand the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, which has been framed as heralding a new period in the history of the Turkish Republic. This article conducts a comparative textual analysis of the writings and speeches of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Fetullah Gulen focusing on four main themes: (1) sacralization of modern knowledge, science and education; (2) militarism and centrism; (3) statism and corporatism, and; (4) ethnic nationalism and Turkism. It argues that Gulenism and Kemalism share these principles, but that the former adopts a religious and spiritual language to mobilize the consent of the pious citizens that "secular" Kemalism had hitherto been unable to integrate into the polity as "acceptable citizens." Despite its use of religious language, Gulenism is not a religious movement, but a secular and worldly one that has been used to gain consent of the dominated classes. Thus, since Gulenism uses Quranic terminology out of context and for secular ends legitimized by a quasi-messianism of Gulen, the term "religionist (dinci)" is used in this article instead of "religious (dini, dindar)" to describe this ideology. …

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