The Gülen/ Hizmet movement in Melbourne and Sydney and its development of social capital in dialogical engagement with non-Muslim communities
thesisposted on 02.03.2017, 02:57 by Cicek, Sureyya Nur
This thesis has undertaken an in-depth analysis of the Hizmet movement in Australia which involves two case studies the ‘Australian Intercultural Society’ [AIS] and ‘Affinity Intercultural Foundation’ [AIF] organisations inspired by a Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen (1941-). These organisations were established by Gülen’s followers in 2000 and 2001 respectively in Australia. Focusing on interfaith/ cultural encounters in Australia, the study examines the role of the Hizmet movement’s dialogical encounters with non-Muslim communities. Drawing on social, historical and theological resources, the thesis studies in detail the development of the movement, its establishment in terms of activities, projects and the dialogical encounters of the movement and try to analyse if and to what extent its activities and projects contribute towards social capital and the formation of trust and reciprocity between the affiliates and the wider society. It endeavours to understand in the local sense what the movement is trying to achieve, how has this process been established, if there are repercussions of the critics in the local context, how has this effected the movement and how have they responded. In order to analyse the social/ civic encounters of the Hizmet movement, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Social Capital Theory and Framework has been adopted to evaluate whether or not the Hizmet movement contributes towards social cohesion and social resilience in Australia. This study takes its theoretical impetus from social sciences with semi structured interviews with research participants in social events organised by the AIS and AIF as a case study of the organisations. The study is based on Putnam’s hypothesis that an active civil society can create social capital, cooperation over ethnic, religious, and other divisions, inclusiveness, and open debate which is conductive to peace and harmony between sections of society. The thesis tests this hypothesis on the Hizmet Movement case and tries to address these questions: In what ways has the Hizmet movement in Melbourne and Sydney, via the educational and dialogical services and through the AIS and AIF, contributed towards social cohesion and social resilience in Australia? The theoretical framework of this study has adopted a holistic perspective of the social capital theory. The data obtained from fieldwork forms the basis of a textual analysis that has been interpreted to gain insights into understanding the contributions of the Hizmet movement in Australia. The empirical perspective highlights and evaluates perceptions, attitudes and actions to understand the norms of the movement, and the disparity between their representations of the activism and its perception by others. The study brings to light the purposive collective altruism of the affiliates of the movement that are a result of public deliberations about various aspects of social issues in society. This they believe are what motivates the affiliates to serve to raise public awareness on social justice issues to facilitate a more ‘informed’, ‘educated’ and ‘cohesive public’, which in turn develop ‘self-esteem’ for supporting and contributing to the host society in matters of ‘democracy’, ‘freedoms’ and the ‘rule of law’. Finally, the case study of the AIS and AIF has proposed the role of interfaith/ cultural dialogue in building understanding, resilience and social cohesion in Australia.