Prof. Helen Rose Ebaugh is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Houston. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University. She served as president of the National Association for the Sociology of Religion. In 2009, she published a book on the Gulen Movement. She is past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.
I think that the Movement is doing a lot of good in the world. That’s what I see. I think that people in the Movement are very authentic. They’re very sincere about their religious commitments, they care about the world. I was very impressed with the schools and the hospital, and Kimse Yok Mu, which is the outreach relief organization. They send money to disasters all over the world, and the kind of spirit behind the Movement is what really impressed me. Lots of enthusiasm, a lot of sincerity. And it’s just wonderful now that the Movement is spreading around the world, and that we have them here in Texas.
I think Mr. Gülen is a very charismatic individual who came to the fore in Turkey at a very tumultuous time. And he preached sort of a new breath of fresh air on Islam. His main message was that Turkey needed more schools. But not madrasas. He really encouraged the building of schools that would emphasize science, math, technology, all in the spirit of spirituality, and connecting spirituality and science. So it was a breath of fresh air in Turkey. And I think that breath of fresh air is being felt now around the world. So I look at him as a very charismatic person.
I think the Hizmet Movement is one of the moderate voices condemning terrorism and violence of any sort, and I’m hoping that now in the light of this increasing terrorism around the world, we’ll hear more of the moderate voices.
But I think what they’re doing in terms of interfaith dialog is wonderful. For example, the Ramadan dinners, in which they invite people of all religious traditions, and have a program, and have people from different religious traditions sitting at the same table, you know, eating a meal together. It’s wonderful. I’m a big believer that the best way to do interfaith dialog is one-on-one. Getting to know someone, personally, of a different religious faith.