The Islamist political movement led by Fethullah Gülen in Turkey and abroad strives toward the creation of an eccentric "Turkish Islam" that is Qur'anic but also "pluralistic," "tolerant," "secular," and "scientific." The global Gülen network, with over 500 companies, hundreds of schools, thousands of loyal teachers, and followers numbering in the millions, poses the single greatest challenge to the Kemalist ideology in Turkey today.
The editors of this timely volume on the Fethullah movement (as it is known) introduce Gülen as a "Turkish spiritual and social leader" and rightly place his movement within the context of the Said-i Nursi phenomenon. The collection includes an introduction by Yavuz and Esposito and twelve articles (two by Yavuz). Presented with a colorful dust cover glorifying Gülen and with three glamorous photographs of him inside, Turkish Islam presents a positive image of his movement.
Yavuz and Esposito correctly state that according to the Kemalist project of modernity, Islam "was neither secularizable nor privatizable," and that it "had to be either kept under strict state control or confined to personal conscience." (p. xiii). This was indeed one of the most significant principals of the Kemalist revolution; it is also one rapidly fading away with the growing strength of the Islamist movements in Turkey. In the standard style of postmodern academia, Yavuz and Esposito claim that "the forced modernization in Turkey has made Islam an important resource for challenging the secularist project," and that the Islamic movements use Islam to resist the Kemalist "hegemonic system."
Perhaps the most important assertion of this collection is that the Gülen ideology (called here "Turkish Islam") represents a "moderate Islamic/democratic" alternative to other radical Islamist movements of our time. There are, however, significant signs spread throughout the book to warn otherwise, such as gender inequalities and segregation; the rapid and contradictory changes in Gülen's sayings regarding Islam, secularism, and other issues; and the mysterious structure of the Gülen schools and dormitories.
Scholarship on Fethullah Gülen's teachings and preachings is in its infancy. Especially when scholars start paying close attention to the leader's texts themselves (something missing from this volume), we will have a much better understanding of this spiritual leader's multiple faces and internal contradictions.