Giving Precedence to Common Points: The Limits of the Otherness in Fethullah Gülen’s Dialogic Methodology for Interfaith Encounters

Abstract

This paper examines Fethullah Gülen’s teaching on interfaith encounters highlighting his dialogic methodology proposed for a globalised world in which Samuel Huntington’s idea of the ‘clash of civilisations’ (Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, 1997) is still prominent. This idea, concludes Gülen, stems from the lack of trust in the religion of the “Other” and, rather often than not, from easily passing over the common points. According to Gülen, dialogue is not a superfluous endeavour, but an imperative (“Dialogue is a must”) and it should start by “Giving precedence to common points”. Gülen holds that the tendency toward factionalism exists within human nature. A meaningful and nonetheless necessary goal, he says, should be to make this tendency non-threatening and even benefi cial. To fully appreciate the significance of Gülen’s accomplishments, one must understand the perspective from which he approaches the subject of interfaith dialogue. Based on his thinking as noted above, the purpose of this paper is to set out in some detail the way in which this renowned Islamic thinker limits the “domain” of the Otherness (Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 2004; Nation and Narration, 1990) to make dialogue possible through overcoming both Orientalism (Edward Said, Orientalism, 1978) and Occidentalism (Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit, Occidentalism: the West in the Eyes of its Enemies, 2004). Challenging the discourse of conflict and focusing on common points may be an important strategy when mutual suspicions are still prevalent and when the field of postcolonial studies stand witness to conflicting processes of refraction (Patricia Crone, Medieval Islamic Political Thought, 2005; Amin Maalouf, Les Croisades vues par les Arabes, 1986).

by Dr. Ali Ünsal