Reinterpreting Islam as a Source of Toleration: Case of the Gulen Movement in Europe

Dr. Ahmet Yukleyen
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Secularization theories assumed that religions would be privatized and eventually disappear in the modern world. However, in the post-Cold War era religious beliefs in general and Islam in particular have been involved as part, if not, cause of conflicts. This paper examines the limits and possibilities of Islamic teachings as a source of accepting “the other” and promoting peaceful inter-communal relations in Europe through the case study of a Turkish Islamic transnational movement. Their reinterpretation of Islamic beliefs in theory and Islamic activism in practice show the Muslim minority and state authorities in Europe that Islam can be a source of toleration, dialogue, and further integration with the larger European society.

Transnational Islamic movements and organizations are the major religious authorities that define Islam and Muslims’ relations with the larger society in Europe. They do not simply transplant religious extremism from their countries of origin, nor do they necessarily conform to all European liberal values. Rather they play an intermediary role, negotiating between the social and religious needs of Muslims on the one hand and the socio-economic, legal, and political context of Europe on the other.

The Gulen movement is a faith-oriented Sunni Islamic movement focusing its activities in education, media, and inter-faith dialogue. Their reinterpretation of religious concepts such as hijrah, jihad, and neighborly relations create Muslim sense of belonging to their European home. Their inter-faith dialogue activities challenge Muslims’ perception of the “other”. Nevertheless, they also face both conceptual and practical limitations. Thus, this paper examines the sources and boundaries of Islamic toleration in Western Europe.

Keywords: Religious Toleration, Islam in Europe, Gulen Movement
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr. Ahmet Yukleyen

Croft Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Sociology and Anthropology Department
Croft Institute for International Studies, University of Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi, USA

I received my BA in international relations at Bilkent University, Ankara and completed my MA degree at the Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver, where I focused on socio-political development, civil society, and Islamic movements in the Middle East. I received my Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Boston University in the spring of 2006. My dissertation research focused on Turkish Islamic communities in Germany and the Netherlands. I taught a course on “Islam in the West” at Tufts University in spring 2006.

My research focuses on how Muslim immigrants interpret and practice their religion in Western Europe. I completed a year long fieldwork among the various Islamic groups in the Netherlands and Germany in 2003-4. Islamic movements active among Muslims in Europe have diverse interpretations of Islam. I examine the various factors (i.e. religious authority, class, ethnicity, state policies etc.) on how Muslims make sense of their religious tradition in Europe.

I co-authored a book published in May 2006, in Turkish titled “Avrupa’da Islam, Laiklik ve Demokrasi,” which analyzes how the state and Muslims approach Islam, secularism, and democracy in France, Germany, and the Netherlands. My research interests include anthropology of religion, ethnicity, Muslims in Europe, Islamic movements, and multiculturalism. I teach two courses for Fall 2006 Semester: “Multicultural Europe: Ethnicity, Religion, and Identity Politics” and “Cultural Anthropology.”

Ref: I07P0263