"Hermeneutic of suspicion" has no place in Interreligious Dialogue

The story that a NSW priest has criticised the important development in Catholic Muslim relations that has taken place at the Australian Catholic University shows just what damage an “hermeneutic of suspicion” can do to in inter-religious relations.

It also shows how mistaken it can be to interpret a religious movement outside of its context. Fethullah Gulen’s movement arose in the anti-religious, ultra-secular, context of 1960’s Turkey. It is Islamic in the same sense that (for eg.) Opus Dei is Catholic. (In fact, in very many ways, the Gulen Movement and the Opus Dei movement are similar culturally and religiously, just in different religious and social contexts. Opus Dei has itself often been attacked by its enemies with exactly the same sort of “hermeneutic of suspicion”). As a movement, its intention in Turkey has always been to enable ordinary “lay” folk to live out their Islamic faith in daily life of business and service.

In the original article to which the news story refers, the author quotes from one of Gulen’s sermons:

You must move in the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centres, until the conditions are ripe.

This statement in its context clearly relates to the way in which Gulen encouraged his followers to work against the discriminatory anti-religious system of his own country. It has never been the intention of the Gulen movement to move into other countries and “take over”, as the author of the article seems to suggest.

Unfortunately, the author of the article attempts to interpret the situation in Turkey vis a vis Islam (and religion in general for that matter, including Christianity) through paradigms that we are familiar with in the Western world. Even on the basis of my very brief experience in Turkey (which you can read about in my diary here), I have come to realise that this is not possible. To understand the Gulen movement in its context it is necessary to be familiar with the specific history of the relations between state and religion in the Turkish republic during the 20th Century.

There is much that dialogue with Muslims can achieve in our world today. The establishment of the Muslim chair at ACU gives us an opportunity to work very closely together, in an open academic context. There is no place for the hermeneutic of suspicion here. Only for generous engagement and rigourous academic investigation.

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7 Responses to "Hermeneutic of suspicion" has no place in Interreligious Dialogue

  1. Lucian says:

    Hermeneutic of suspicion has no place in Interreligious Dialogue

    Hmmm … now that’s a very fishy thing to say … wonder what sinister plots You’re “cooking” here; it sounds rather very suspicious to me, at least … :-)))

  2. Schütz says:

    I’m a sneeky character…

  3. Schütz says:

    I’m a sneeky character…

  4. Lucian says:

    Yes, I can see that: the smile, the beard … it all makes sense now … all You need is a fork and some red colour added as a final touch. >:)

  5. Schütz says:

    The twirly moustache helps…

  6. Lucian says:

    Looks like the Pope is definitely up to something … >:)

  7. ganesh sahathevan says:

    Perhaps you should have provided the full statement quoted in the article which includes this part:

    … You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institutions in Turkey … Until that time, any step taken would be too early—like breaking an egg without waiting the full 40 days for it to hatch. It would be like killing the chick inside. The work to be done is [in] confronting the world. Now, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all—in confidence … trusting your loyalty and sensitivity to secrecy. I know that when you leave here—[just] as you discard your empty juice boxes, you must discard the thoughts and feelings expressed here.”

    In another sermon, he said:

    “The philosophy of our service is that we open a house somewhere and, with the patience of a spider, we lay our web, to wait for people to get caught in the web; and we teach those who do. We don’t lay the web to eat or consume them, but to show them the way to their resurrection, to blow life into their dead bodies and souls, to give them a life.”

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