Dr. Peter Bechtold sharing his thoughts about the Gulen movement and Gulen-Inspired Schools

  “I think globalization brings people together, and that can positive or negative effects. Sometimes if you get to know somebody, we always hope that it will build bridges, sometimes you discover you don’t like that other person, as can happen on a personal level or ethnic or a national level, so I think one has to be aware of both dimensions of this. What I have learnt about the Gulen movement is that it has done an exceptional job in dealing with this issue, not only, you know, a handful of us coming here is wonderful for us, and I hope we can make a tiny contribution; as I said I will lecture and include in my lectures from now on. I am already scheduled for the public diplomacy lecture on understanding Islam, and I will definitely mention the Gulen movement as an example of a very successful and a very positive movement. I already knew that Turks were kind people, you know because of my unusual profession very few people have been twenty some different countries, and the Turks used to have the reputation of being very hard, actually have come crossed to me as being very soft and gentle, and even walking on the streets, you know everybody always make room if you walk on a narrow street; they don’t bump into each other. There is no shouting going on, if somebody is shouting it is usually an American, umm, and these things are very impressive to me. Even when we were in the crowded places like in Konya, at Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi’s tomb it was very crowded, but everybody who was Turkish was very polite; you could see that, and to me his is very impressive. Now about the history, I have seen some new things that I didn’t know about, and that has impressed me too, especially the Anatolian part; it was new to me…

… the (Gulen-Inspired) schools, first of all, on the outside, the ones that we saw were amazingly clean and modern. One does not expect this, not at schools that age level. The scientific equipments we saw, in addition to the prices that were in the front at the bottom of the school s, this of course is a source of great pride, and the teachers, the parents, the students and the movement have every reason to be proud of this. I have been a teacher myself more than forty years, and what you dream about is to have students who are motivated, and clearly the movement is doing this…

…the media in the West are trying to understand Islam and they are getting better if you compare it to twenty years ago or thirty years ago. They know more about the practices, but they don’t know the theology, that is to say more people in America and in Europe are aware of Ramadan, and of Eid and end of Ramadan, that something is happening with Muslims. At least where I live they are respectful of that; there are no problems. What they don’t know is the theology, for example tawhid, never heard of it; how Muslims approach Quran, many people think it is like the Bible; no it isn’t like the Bible, it is the word of God itself. So the media have improved but they also have deteriorated because they associate Islam with violence. This is what I hear all the time, when I ask people at the beginning of my lecture: What do you think and what questions do you want me to answer? Most of the questions are about violence and Islam, and then I immediately tell them that this is a false image; it exists but it is a false image.

What impresses me is this: A lot of people talk about things that sound idealistic, but often they don’t have fruits. You know Jesus of Nazareth is considered a Prophet in Islam and a Holy figure in Christianity. He said in one of his famous parables: There are many who claim to be messengers but some are false prophets. When he was asked how you can tell the true prophet from a false prophet, he gave the answer, you will tell them by the fruits. You know if they bring good fruits you can say this is a true prophet, and if they bring bad fruits then they will be the false prophets. And to me the fact that the thoughts and inspiration of Fethullah Gulen has generated so many followers but the more important part is not the numbers. To me the most important part is to see the genuine kindness in the eyes of the people and in the actions that we have seen. But every single person that we’ve met has been exceptionally kind, and you can see it oozing out of their eyes. Having been in so many different countries, I feel, I notice this. So it is that kind of an example which I think will probably been over more people in the end…”

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