CMEPF: the Gulen Movement

For the final CMEPF meeting this academic year, Dr Caroline Tee will be speaking about her research on the Gulen Movement, which is shortly to be published in monograph form.


Tuesday 7th June, 1700-1900; Alison Richard Building (Sidgwick site)

Introductory Article:

Stefano Bigliardi, ‘The Contemporary Debate on the Harmony between Islam and Science: Emergence and Challenges of a New Generation’

Research Presentation:

The Gulen Movement in Turkey The Politics of Islam, Science and Modernity

Presentation Abstract:

The Gulen, or Hizmet, movement in Turkey is the country’s most powerful and affluent religious organisation. Its central tenet, advanced by its founder, the charismatic Sunni preacher Fethullah Gulen (b. 1941), is that Muslims should engage positively with modernity. A prime means of advancing this philosophy has been education: at hundreds of Gulen-run schools and universities, not only in Turkey but also worldwide, instructors aim to cultivate the next generation of Muslim bankers, biologists, software engineers and politicians. But how does the Gulen movement resolve the sometimes conflicting positions of Sunni Islam and contemporary science for example, on evolutionary theory? Drawing on sustained ethnographic research conducted among Gulen communities in Turkey, Caroline Tee analyses their complex attitudes towards secular modernity. She focuses on education, science research and industry to explore how pious Muslim practitioners engage in science at high levels, arguing that the Gulen movement’s success in this critical area of modernity has facilitated its rise to prominence in recent decades. Considered against the backdrop of Turkish politics, and particularly the acrimonious power-struggle between the Gulen movement and its erstwhile ally, Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Gulenist engagement with modern science is revealed as a key source of its influence and success.

Researcher Biography:

Caroline Tee is Research Associate on the project Science and Scripture in Christianity and Islam at the Faraday Institute, University of Cambridge. Her project explores the ways in which Muslim and Christian scientists from different contexts relate their scriptures and traditions to the scientific worlds in which they operate. Prior to this project she was postdoctoral research assistant in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University. Her research there focused on a major Turkish religious organisation, the Gulen Movement, and explored its engagement as a pious religious group with modern science and science education.
Caroline originally studied for an undergraduate degree in English Literature at Durham University, before living and working in Turkey for five years. She subsequently gained a Masters degree in Islamic Studies at Exeter, before continuing for her PhD in Social Anthropology and Religious Studies at Bristol. Her doctoral work focused on the Alevi community in Turkey, and examined the urbanisation and reformulation of the Alevi tradition that has been on-going since the end of the 20thcentury. Caroline also has research interests in the broader field of Islamic mysticism and the Sufi poetic tradition, and teaches regularly on Islam at various academic institutions in the UK.