Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Journey to Turkey Part I

General Overview
This journal summarizes the activities of the Muhammad Mosque No.45 – Nation of Islam delegation that traveled to Turkey July 30 thru August 11, 2008. Brothers Lawrence, Durce, Robert, Danny, and Isaiah Muhammad (right to left), were guests of the Raindrop Foundation and the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue. Our general itinerary was as follows:

07/30-31/08 Travel from Houston to Istanbul
07/31/08-08/3/08 Istanbul and vicinity
08/3-5/08 Bursa
08/5-7/08 Izmir, Ephesus
08/7-8/08 Urfa
08/9/08 Konya
08/9-10/08 Istanbul
08/10-11/08 Travel from Istanbul to Houston

Brother Harun Alacadag, a school teacher who resides in Houston, Texas served as our main host, guide, and translator. Brother Harun and the sponsors of the trip are followers of M. Fethullah Gulen. They have taken nearly 200 delegations to Turkey from Texas and the Southwest region during recent years. Their leader Mr. Gulen was born in Korucuk, Turkey in 1938. He was an Imam and religious teacher in the cities of Erdine and Izmir. His underlying philosophy is one of Islamic spiritual and intellectual enlightenment with a strong emphasis on tolerance and dialogue. After several years as an itinerant preacher, his ideas caught hold with the younger generation of the late 1960’s.[i] Because of the secularism of Turkish political life, Mr. Gulen’s movement strives to be apolitical. They appear to have succeeded in building a movement in Turkey that has touched people in all walks of life without incurring the wrath of the military or secular elements within the government.

According to those we met, their movement has built close to 1,000 private schools around the world, many of which are in Africa.

Their school curriculum strongly emphasizes math and science. Many of their students have taken top honors in university placement test and International Knowledge Olympics. Some of their schools are adorned with billboard size pictures of their graduates who have achieved academic honors. In addition to the schools, we visited a hospital, university, television station, newspaper, publishing house, and businesses built and operated by his followers.

[i] Fethullah Gulen (1999). New Millennium Message. Istanbul: Kadim Dialogue Center for International Studies.

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