Why a Muslim Scholar in Pennsylvania Matters to the World
Information about Turkish Muslim Scholar/Cleric Fetullah Gulen, and author Jon Pahl’s visit to SCU
On Saturday evening, October 26, nearly 200 people gathered on the SCU campus for a program co-sponsored by the LRC, the Religious Studies Department, and The Pacifica Institute. Pacifica is a local organization promoting intercultural exchanges in Silicon Valley. It was founded and is run by members of the Turkish diaspora here in the bay area, and takes its inspiration from the subject of the book that was discussed that evening, Fetullah Gulen.
Profs. Philip Boo Riley and Teresia Hinga from our department “book-ended” the program: Riley drew on the inaugural address of our new president, Kevin O’Brien, SJ to welcome the audience and introduce the program, and Hinga drew on her experience collaborating with Pacifica over the years to close the program with words of appreciation and inspiration.
The program consisted of an interview by Susan Santiago, a Marin county radio journalist, with Dr. Jon Pahl, the author of the recently published book, Gulen: A Life of Hizmet--Why A Muslim Scholar in Pennsylvania Matters to the World. Pahl holds an endowed chair in the history of Christianity at United Lutheran Seminary (Pennsylvania), and has written widely in the history of Christianity in America. While there is plenty written about and by Gulen in the English-speaking world, Pahl’s is the first critical biography of this important and--in some circles—controversial figure. The interview explored Pahl’s motives for committing to what turned out to be a 10-year research project, how he conducted the research, his impressions of Gulen from his own personal encounters with him at Gulen’s retreat in Pennsylvania, and what he thinks about the future of the Hizmet movement. Pahl was able to share anecdotes from Gulen’s childhood in a remote village in Turkey as well as offer insight into the current Turkish regime’s efforts to suppress the Hizmet group in Turkey, where thousands of people have been removed from leadership positions in the military, media, education, business, and many of them have been jailed. Pahl also addressed questions from the audience about the future of the movement. In response to one question, Pahl suggested that the next leader of the Hizmet movement would be a woman.
Hinga and the Living Religions Collaborative (LRC) are to be thanked for arranging this program on campus, and Pacifica for bringing Dr. Pahl to the Bay Area. Members from the local community as well as individuals from campus enjoyed a thoughtful and informative discussion of Pahl’s work on the life and thought of an important Muslim leader in the 20th and 21st centuries.