Tuesday, July 22, 2008

NEWS: Gulen now a US permanent resident ...

Muhammad Fethullah Gulen, an influential Turkish religious scholar and educator, has had the refusal of his application for permanent residency to the United States overturned by a US court.

Gulen is influential in Turkey and Central Asian republics as well as Western China. His followers run a network of schools and educational establishments across the world, including Australia.

Previously, Gulen's Australian followers distanced themselves from Sufism. This was consistent with their claims to being followers of Said Nursi al-Kurdi, popularly known as Bediuzzaman (literally "wonder of the age"). Gulen claims to be a student of Bediuzzaman, although the two men are believed never to have met. Bediuzzaman was known to have had mixed feelings about sufi orders.

Sufi groups have played a controversial role in Turkish politics. Most were banned during the early days of the Turkish republic. One Turkish sufi and religious scholar, Muhammad Zahid Bursawi, was close to a number of conservative and Islamist politicians, including former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan who was overthrown by the military in a coup.

With the election of a new conservative small-'i' islamist government in Ankara and with aggressive secularism in retreat, sufi orders are again becoming influential. Gulen's followers are now beginning to be more open about their teacher's sufi heritage. Gulen is author of a number of sufi works, including Emerald Hills of the Heart, a primer on Naqshbandi sufism.

Gulen was recently elected by two influential publications as the world's most influential intellectual and thinker. Editors of both publications claim the results were skewed by Gulen's followers, who are said to have voted en masse.

However, Gulen's influence in the Turkish-speaking world and in former Ottoman colonies (now modern European states) such as Albania and Bosnia should not be underestimated. Some paranoid observers claim Gulen's growing influence is evidence of Turkey being in the possible throes of an Iran-style Islamic revolution. Yet Gulen has rarely shown signs of support for any Islamist party. Unlike other religious figures, Gulen isn't known to have instructed his followers to get behind any party or coalition in elections.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: