In the mid-90s, Turkey was at the brink of a civil war between its religious groups. Fethullah Gulen almost singlehandedly stopped that blood-shedding mascaraed by reaching out to Turkey’s Alevis and other religious minorities including Christians and Jews. He met with all of the religious leaders publicly, commented on the problems that people were facing. Fethullah Gulen reminded Turks that they could live together despite their differences, as long as they accepted the “other” as they are. Turkish people took to Gulen’s dialogue discourse and avoided what would be another catastrophe for an already ailing democracy.
In thankful remarks to well-respected Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, Cem Foundation President İzzettin Dogan has said that Gulen supported the construction of cemevis (Alevi houses of worship) when signature campaigns were launched against the cemevis in some regions of Turkey.
Dogan was speaking during a panel discussion on Saturday at İstanbul’s Aydin University. Stating that nearly 2,000 cemevis have been built in Turkey in the past 50 years, he said that signature campaigns were launched to prevent their construction in the early 2000s. Noting that there were places where more than 50,000 signatures were collected, he said an interview with Gulen featured in an American daily played a positive role in slowing down these campaigns. In the interview, Gulen said cemevis should be built next to mosques and that failing to build cemevis for Alevis was unjust. Doğan said he witnessed that “such negative moves decreased following the interview.”
Gulen is a Turkish Islamic scholar well known for his teachings that promote mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures. One of the world’s most influential Islamic scholars, Gulen came out at the top of the list of “The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals” by the magazines Foreign Policy and Prospect in 2008. Now residing in the US, Gulen has pioneered educational activities in a number of countries along with efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the world.