Hizmet, politics and political parties

Recent days have brought about many baseless allegations in reference to the Hizmet (Gülen) movement and its relationship to politics. Some circles are interpreting requests, criticisms and announcements made by individuals involved in the Hizmet movement as attempts to formally enter into politics, with them asking something along the lines of “If you want to enter politics, why don’t you form a party?” But the reality is, the stance on politics taken by both the Islamic scholar who inspired the movement, Fethullah Gülen, and the entire movement itself has barely changed over the years. Where this point is concerned, it is necessary to underscore three main points.

The first point is that the Hizmet movement has always been, and will always be, opposed to attempts by some to form political parties in the name of religion; it has always been and will always be thus opposed to attempts by people to claim a monopoly on religion and spread the word that anyone not voting for a certain party is not a real Muslim. In other words, the movement will always be opposed to the use of religion as a tool for politics. For to wit, these are actions that — as we are seeing once more today — wind up being more destructive to religion than anything else. These are actions that essentially dirty and destroy the true messages inherent in religion. Politics are, as Bediüzzaman noted some 100 years ago in his book “Münazarat,” a worldly business, and for those involved in politics to allege that they are acting in the name of religion is in fact anathema to the very nature and essence of religion.

The second point we need to underscore here is that the Hizmet movement cannot and will not ever form a political party, because the communities and hearts it wishes to touch are spread all over the country and all over the world. By contrast, it is possible for political parties to reflect the very different kinds of ideas and approaches in life that people quite naturally have. The Hizmet community is a widespread and heterogeneous arena made up of people that embrace every sort of idea, political stance and general approach. Working together, they have put forward all sorts of successful education, media, dialogue, health and assistance-oriented projects. The sheer variety of the different stances and ideas contained within the Hizmet community would make it impossible for this movement to be associated with just one political party, giving just one party its support. In fact, this situation would run counter to the ideal held by the Hizmet movement of reaching out to everyone. At the same time though, it is quite normal for the many volunteers that contribute to the Hizmet movement to support candidates and parties that they favor within the framework of their own senses of human rights, justice, democracy, pluralism, freedom of belief, tolerance and opposition to corruption. Their choices on these matters are completely derived from individual will and volition on their parts. It is perhaps not even necessary to add that the candidates and parties that best reflect these principles are fluid and may change on a regular basis.

The third and final point herein is that while the Hizmet movement has no intent or drive to form a party or some sort of state, it does of course make some requests of both the state and the politicians involved in politics in Turkey. Some of these requests are, as noted above, in direct connection with maintaining a strong stance in support of human rights, the supremacy of law, justice, democracy, freedom of belief, pluralism, honesty and opposition to corruption (to name just a few).

The Hizmet movement is well aware that one of the most critical duties for Muslims is “amr bil ma’ruf wa nahy an al munkar” or “encouraging good and deterring from evil.” The Hizmet movement is aware that this principle has aspects to it that inherently include and involve both society and the political arena, and thus as a civil society organization — within the framework of rights conveyed onto it by democracy and the law — it calls on society and politicians to behave within the parameters of the above-described framework. From this angle, the movement never hesitates to issue criticism where it deems appropriate.

And so, this is precisely how the media organizations with close relations to the Hizmet movement have acted for years. Just as Gülen declared in 1994 that “there can be no return from democracy,” and just as in 2010 he said, “Let even those buried in the graveyards rise and vote in the referendum,” he today only speaks about politics as much as he ever did. Just as the Hizmet movement gained great approval for its criticisms of the enemies of democracy in the past, today it considers its criticisms of those who would wish to shelve democracy and the Constitution — not to mention polarize the country — the duty of all reasonable and an honorable citizens, not to mention believers.

In the past, the Hizmet movement never formed alliances or got involved in an organic relationship with any political party. At the same time, it never ever demanded anything from political parties that strayed outside of the above-outlined principles, or was contrary to rights, the law, democracy, merit or the will of God. The Hizmet movement gains its strength from this fullness of heart and independence. And so, just as it has done through the past, the Hizmet movement will not form any alliances with any political parties. Nor will it, with the permission and belief in God, do so in the future. And so volunteers for the Hizmet movement will use their own free will and volition to decide who — within the above-mentioned framework of principles — is the best candidate. They are able to distinguish the honest from the corrupt, and those who insult and slander their citizens from those who act morally and ethically.

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