By Yaseen Kippie
The Hizmet Movement, founded by exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, hosted a panel discussion by its South African branch last weekend. The purpose of the event was to clarify misconceptions about the movement and its involvement in the current political situation in Turkey.
Its philosophies, history and activities, is claimed to be purely “social, and not political,” according to Aydin Inal, regional director of the Turqouise Harmony Institute, a project of the Hizmet Movement in South Africa.
Inal says the movement “does not get involved in party politics”. Rather, it has been pulled into the political context by (Turkish President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan to suppress the movement due the increase in its followers.
“The aim of the panel discussion is so that people may learn more about the movement, from the source itself and not from warped media controlled by the Turkish government.”
The Hizmet Movement has been in South Africa for 20 years, establishing nine schools nationwide. These ‘Star Colleges’ are known to produce excellent results, ranking among the highest schools in the country.
Last year’s coup attempt in Turkey has brought the Hizmet Movement into global political focus, with Turkish President Recep Erdogan blaiming the Movement for the incident.
Lots has been made about the relationship between Erdogan and Gulen, who despite being averse to each other, used to be in a close alliance.
“When the Erdogan government came into power in 2002, they spoke a different language and were pro-democracy. Today, its democracy lacks freedom. They moved away from the values they spoke about. The Erdogan of 2002 and that of 2017 is very different,” Inal remarked.
Aynal Inal feels that those who blame the Hizmet movement for the political situation in Turkey has fallen prey to fallacious arguments and conspiracy theories.
“Hizmet is not beyond criticism, but to say it has contributed to the political turmoil ties in with the government narrative. If it were so, it would be a suicide, because how could we operate in South Africa while our Movement has made a coup in Turkey?
The government says that there are people who have confessed. These people have been tortured so badly, and their bones broken. In Turkey, there is more than 50 000 people in jail, including 17 000 women and 600 babies. So they are not jailing any Israeli agents.”
The Hizmet Movement says that Fethullah Gulen has asked for an international commission to investigate the accusations.
With President Erdogan seen as the heroic future leader of the Muslims of the world, alternative narratives show this may not be the case. VOC