Brian Desbiens is speaking about his visit to Fethullah Gulen

Canada News

brian-desbiens-fethullah-gulenThank you so much for the invitation to. to be here this evening Fatih asked me.  if I would share a little bit about our. journey the first trip and I see several.  members that were on that journey. with us and it’s great to see you again.  and we had another trip this summer and also to share a little.  bit of the opportunity I was given to. visit with Fethullah Gulen in June and so.  that’s what I’m going to do but before I. do that I I am from Peterborough and.  Fatih did raise the issue that that we. experience I just like to make a couple.  comments on that first of all you know. during the election we had a young lady.  Maryam Monsef who is a refugee from. Afghanistan who ran for office and was.  successful was an extraordinary young. lady extraordinary to see in our.  community and we are so proud that she. was elected given her story and the.  story of her mom along with Maryam and. two sisters you know came to Canada and.  was supported and raised in our. community.  Sadly the events took place which was in. fact that the mosque in Peterborough was.  attacked you know and what and you know. it was interesting that the night before.  that event my wife and I were watching. Peter Mansbridge interview mariam monsef and tell the.  story and I was so proud you know of our. community that evening listening to her.  story being presented nationally and. listening to her say that she ran.  because she wanted to give back to our. community because of all support of it.  was and then the very next day I was. embarrassed and saddened because just as.  in every community there are some that. do things that are just simply wrong and.  it happened at our community and for. several days in many of us felt very sad.  about that but then the community. responded community responded and in.  couple of ways I think we’re.  important one was to raise the money. to be able to restore the mosque but the.  other as is important and perhaps even more. important were that the fellow churches.  opened their doors the United Church the. Jewish community and others so that.  those from the mosque could come those. people could come and continue.  their prayers in a place of welcome Then. again I felt proud of what  our community thats.  Peterborough but it’s also in a sense an. analogy for our country that we have.  some sad moments but we also have. moments where we can be proud of our.  responding back in  I was at home. with my wife retired and lived in.  Peterborough I get this phone call. asking me to be a speaker the dinner.  IDI dinner here in Toronto I couldn’t. believe that they’re asking a white guy.  from a las community to come and talk. about diversity and Toronto What.  happened was quite interesting that I. was sent the works to Fethullah Gulen to read and I was.  sent the information of the IDI I and its. purpose and goals and I read that and I.  reflected on it might try to share some. things on that evening and I must not have.  done too badly because few months later. we got a call saying would you like to.  go to Turkey? I kind of thought I was the. only one in town until Fatih said  of.  you know I guess I don’t feel so. unique but it was an amazing.  thing but I gotta tell you that we were. skeptical that for sure we had a full.  agenda and we couldn’t go that first. year in  but we were skeptical we.  weren’t sure what is this movement and. we needed to think about that and.  reflect on that and read more about it. and then in  we agreed that we would.  go and we were fortunate enough to have. Fatih.  as our guide as we were this year with. Fatih and Ayse and we thank them.  so much for their their guidance. Guidance is not just in terms of the trip.  and taking care of the largest expense. guidance in terms of their gentleness.  with us as we learned about you know. this place Allen and I decided I think to.  go because we are interested in Turkey. learning about Turkey historically.  about Turkey Secondly we went because we. had never really had the time to spend.  in a Muslim country where we can learn. from the people who lived in that.  country and the IDI provided that. opportunity for us to visit with those.  families and to be able to talk with. them and dialogue with them and learn.  from the people on the ground rather. than through the kind of commercial.  things that you know we had been on a. cruise and gone to you know to places.  you know but that was the commercial. side this was the opportunity and so we.  went and we found a country that many of. you have and I’m sure that’s a.  observation I’m gonna make it in  was. really quite interesting you know Turkey.  was a country that really quick.  surprised us It surprised us because of. how modern it was clean and neat and the.  infrastructure was really quite striking. you know the airports the train stations.  the buses you know the roads were quite. modern no yes they were history but all.  the buildings that but the cleanliness. of the country the friendliness of the.  people the openness were really quite. amazing to us and we were really struck.  by that Obviously also we were struck by. the families that hosted us and welcomed.  us even though we were not of the same. religious beliefs or cultural.  backgrounds it was that openness of the. families and their willingness to.  talk with us We found a country that. was in an economicly very good place it had.  really.  over the previous few decades the. economic prosperity had come to Turkey.  and it was a country that had hope and. even in its government it at that time.  they were really quite hopeful about. what the future is ahead for them there.  there was a you know really open to us as we. visited the media still places as you.  probably did and we read the newspaper. and thank goodness we had to every day.  you know Fatih would give us the paper and. we could learn about what was going on.  and there seemed to be open speech and. open dialogue and opportunity At the.  same time we also saw that there were. storm clouds you know about it was not.  all pretty.  you know they had a president who had an. aspiration and aspiration to get a.  super-majority and to be able to change. the constitution so that they could.  could have other powers it wasn’t all. rosy either because in fact Fethullah Gulen.  had been charged in the court cases but at. that time in  it had been settled.  and it seemed to be a little bit behind. those circumstances and so it was such a.  beautiful country had a chance to visit. and a beautiful place and a place where.  we weren’t about you know the roots of. the Muslim religion and where it were.  given books and things so we could read. and continue education after our trip.  and that trip was a trip that we did. with people that we had never met before.  but we kind of came together and we. explored and change exchanged ideas and.  it was really quite an education and. really quite transformers of I believe.  and so from  we’ve been. following Turkey we’ve been watching.  what’s been going on we’ve been thinking. about it and we’ve been talking about it.  and we’ve attended a few of the events. and and and i certainly continue the.  dialogue between IDI Allen and I.  but we did come back to you. know in  the summer we went to the.  event that they just announced that. Fatih just announced then and he was.  invited to form a new group and we. invited friends of ours people that we.  had our colleagues community leaders. people that we knew and had.  relationships for a long time so that. was a little bit different and we were.  asked long work and it was a wonderful. opportunity for us to to continue to.  share with people you know that we’re. friends of ours So that was one of the.  fundamental differences from the first. trip to the second trip was a brand new.  group of people to meet and then this. last trip was one where we shared it.  with friends and colleagues We last. trip also we had a chance to not only.  visit Turkey had a chance to visit. Azerbaijan and that was a.  wonderful two days that we spent there. Extraordinary country you know a former.  Soviet country Again a country that we did not. know anything about but we kind of the.  group said well Fatih and I should. think it’s a great place to go we’re.  gonna go Totally none of us even knew. where it was I can honestly tell you.  even when we got on the plane to go. there I don’t think we knew.  geographically where it was but when we. landed in the spectacular glass airport.  it was just you know we had gone do you. know how you see Canada we you know we.  have these ice castle hotels it was like. landing at an ice castle airport it was.  all this class at night it was. spectacular and we drove there just.  finished having the you know European. games in Azerbaijan and so they had just.  the road the road from the. airport into town was made up.  renovated Russian buildings it just. refurbished and these spectacular new.  buildings new museums in new stadiums. and new concert halls and sculpture and.  My God this is Russia this is a. former Russian Soviet states away and we.  had a wonderful time visiting with. family there and the university and.  others but there was a storm cloud there. too in that the oil prices it was a.  predominantly an oil-rich country that. was had prospered based upon the hundred.  and twenty dollars per barrel and of. course we now know that it’s at $ a.  barrel and they are having to face up to. the economic by the way everywhere we.  went everybody wanted to offer Fatih a job. it was like I felt like I was on the.  “Fatih” tour you know he is so admired. and they wish him to come back he had taught there and.  introduced to see the university So we. went to Azerbaijan almost immediately.  and then came back to Turkey and so what. did we find when we were in Turkey.  well you know what we found was that you know that. things had really fundamentally got changed.  we found that a country that previously. seemed to have hope was a country that.  really was questioning its democratic. structures a country that previously was.  prosperous was now being having the. numbers I’m not sure about but we were.  told almost three million refugees who. had come into Turkey from Syria We did.  not see street people I know we never. saw them in  nor do we see them but.  we kept hearing about the challenges you. know the turkey was having particularly.  with these people and I just like to. talk about.  the Syrian refugees for a moment because we are . seeing the effects of that the majority.  of those Syrians are Kurds that are. coming in as refugees and we know the.  history of the Kurds Kurdish people have. homeland after the second world war was.  divided up and there was no place for. them and I and the sense I had to spite.  the openness of the people all of the. people we met with from Hizmet movement.  were very very strong but reading the. newspapers and reading other things once.  clearly got the feeling that the Kurds. were not as welcome in Turkey and so.  it’s not a surprise when you see the. majority of people coming into Turkey.  who want to get out of Turkey.  become the boat people because they. sense do not feel that there’s a sense.  of belonging in Turkey for them and so.  Turkey as an escape route rather.  than a destination for them for these. people and that was what made sense that.  and we heard about that and you felt. that in the conversations one of the.  most important things that happened this.  between  and .  of course we followed the election and. we’re delighted to see that the.  government did not get the. majority got minority government.  and the reality of that was that this. people have spoken out and refused the.  president what he wished and we’re. optimistic based upon that and we as we.  followed it was you know government did. then was supposed to create a minority.  government and through a coalition and. it became very clear that their.  intention was not to have a coalition. but in fact to call a quick election and.  that election was taking place when we. arrived this summer and then and you.  could see that the freedom of speech had. been negated and this was a significant.  difference i think between  and .  and how was it negated well you. know the the Erdogan government had.  passed legislation saying that you could. not be critical of the leadership in the.  country That bill was was utilized in. order to dismiss judges from across the.  nation to dismiss police chiefs we. heard a thousand police chiefs all the.  numbers because sometimes the numbers are. here and there but that’s what we were.  told a thousand police chiefs who wanted. to enforce the law were dismissed.  across the country We know that media. people were arrested and jailed and.  prosecuted and then released we knew and. we felt and experienced fear We felt.  intimidation we felt that is fact the. freedom of speech during an election was.  minimized We also felt that there are. people that were hosting us were.  extraordinarily courageous the people. hosting us were people who knew that.  their movement was under duress This was. not something we had experienced before.  even though Fethullah Gulen himself . had been you know charged previously he did not.  feel that the movement in  was under. the same duress you felt optimistic.  about you felt it was moving forward and. it was you know that the effects of the.  building the schools in the country. were having a positive effect will be.  felt this summer when we went was in. fact the freedom of speech was.  compromised we felt that the people were. hosting us where we could could in fact.  the you know there could be retribution. towards you felt that the people you.  know we met we went to the newspaper and. media center and was you know which we.  had done previously and felt wonderful. book this world-class media center this.  summer when we met with we went we went. there we met with one of the editors of.  is the political editor and reporter he. happened to be the reporter who actually.  was the one who.  good writing about the government’s. problems in in the the problems within.  the government and he said to us he said. I get threats every single day he held.  up his cell phone is sort of got three. threats today you know what i’m saying.  there was evidence and the people that. we were talking with this change in the.  nature of what was going on the people. of all the families were still as warm.  as welcoming and as kind as we have. experience in  the people we’re.  still trying to be hopeful because there. was a selection coming and they were.  hoping that there would be again the. people would speak well we know what the.  election would happen and we know that. there was a majority government it.  wasn’t a super-majority and so there is. that is the good news however what we’ve.  seen and read since is that in fact the. government with the majority is.  continuing now to go after the. enterprise section of the his med.  movement which is where they’re getting. them so the business enterprise section.  that you were talking about is under. attack because it is it fundamentally a.  threat I think because it is its funding. the charitable works that are going on.  so there’s a push back on so while all. this is happening I got a phone call.

Invitation from IDI to visit Fethullah Gulen

IDI and he said well you know Brian.  Mr. Gulen is willing to host and and. a couple of Canadians and so I was.  invited to go to New Jersey and meet. with him I was able to go and and we.  drop we flew down to New Jersey and. spend an evening with some of the IDI.  equivalent leaders in the us- and talked. about the movement and what was going on.  and then the next morning we drove about. an hour into pennsylvania into civilian.  the countryside and then to the compound. which Fethullah Gulen is living as you.  know he’s been living there for three. decades and originally went there and.  still is because of his health but I. don’t believe it’s only health it’s also.  because of the circumstances he finds. himself in  The reality is that it.  was a former camp summer camp location. it’s got residents is its relatively.  humble place  it’s quite a. residential it’s got you know buildings.  where people can come and visit and we. were hosted ;as you know the movement.  really believes the way to your heart is. through his stomach as we experience.  tonight was that’s the way they treated. us we had a wonderful lunch and then we.  had an opportunity and we saw people. coming and going.  his day was full of coming and going and. we went to the room in which the.  building in which he lives he lives in a. single room very humble location and.  humble abode outside of his room is a. large meeting room.  which we met with him  going in we were. we were told we had an hour and we took.  we were told that he’s quite quiet and. we needed to you know kind of try him.  out I said that wasn’t a problem being. an extra person with that we were.  brought to us by the area and I happened. to be the first one to go into the room.  the others were coming behind I don’t. know what happened to them to be honest.  and I walked into the room in this. little fellow you know he’s quite short.  came up to me it was about my age you. know so we felt comfortable and it came.  up and we welcome you know and he took. me by the hand over to his seat and.  asked me to sit in his seat and i said. im sorry that your seat he said no no no.  I want you to see them I see I’m getting. chills even remembering it the Cheshire.  of him giving me his seat I think was. very symbolic and important to him and.  it certainly was to me it was moved by. it he said to my right hand and the.  other Canadian film from Saskatchewan. used to be the attorney general there.  was with us and we had our own members. and there were in the room there were.  five people on the one wall and they. were like moms in training or disciples.  in the sense almost felt like they did. not speak to through the whole hour and.  there was another gentleman who now at. four tool coolants sheet who was his.  translator.  you can tell you understood everything. in English that we spoke but he chose to.  speak in his tongue he also and the. translator he would consult with the.  translator we later learned that the. translator was actually a professor I.  think the University of Denver.  scholar unto himself what was amazing. and each question and we had a night.  before we had prepared our questions cuz. we wanted to use the time effectively.  and I was asked to start and I started. off and I thanked him for the.  opportunity and I thank him for being. the beacon of hope and all of which you.  totally rejected he did not want to. accept for a moment that he was any of.  those things he he was so humble about. about the opportunity was extraordinary.  the man is physically he’s he’s like us. is a human being but his eyes were quite.  deep and when he answered a question and. you know that we asked he took you on a.  journey it was a journey it was clearly. a journey and it was a journey back into.  history he would go back to the roots of. his own beliefs and his own training you.  take you forward into what how we saw. the world possibly unfolding it took you.  up in terms of like really high level. perception of the world and he took you.  down to the micro level it was like and. so you went on this journey to each of.  his is is quite as answers and you found. yourself kind of floating on one point I.  close my eyes listening to him it was. his so congruent with his writings and.  I’m sure all of you who read his writing. it was like he was speaking in the same.  kind of way as he’s written so as a. psychologist I love Congrats I think.  that’s you know that shows you who who. is real and he was absolutely real but.  he also gave you such perspective like. each of the answers he is from Canada.  was.  legal person and presented some. perspectives on Canada and the world.  that we’re relatively pessimistic you. know that we weren’t for the free nation.  that we should be you know and that the. rooster how we felt we had treated the.  Aboriginal peoples who was certainly. something that we should not be proud of.  and of course you know the way they. treated him in Turkey was inappropriate.  and he dismissed it he actually said you. know the reality is that Muhammad where.  God has given us these tests is our test. and these tests we have to live with and.  it’s up to us how we deal with those. tests so he was optimistic is answers.  too pessimistic questions we’re. optimistic when he was asked about her  to God it was the world is full of all. kinds of people the world has put people. are placed here to test us that we have. to cope with British drastic tremendous.

Question to Fethullah Gulen

Belief in the people of Turkey and the people of the world he truly and went and I asked him about education his. answers I thought we’re quite brilliant.  first of all he is truly a teacher. teacher at heart he’s a theologian.  philosopher historian but he is a. teacher and that’s why the answers were.  from all these different perspectives. and when I asked him about education he.  said that he really believed that our. greatest purpose in life as parents and.  as well as citizens is in fact to. educate it is in fact you know and I.  asked specifically about our school. system and he said it isn’t about you.  know literacy and numeracy it’s about. helping that child reach their potential.  it’s about helping the whole person and. education starts in the face.  family and in the community not just in. the school and that it was a really.  about character education not content. education and he really that’s what he.  wants hope that his schools would do and. he talked about and this is where I a.  business kind of development model three. elements that he talked with us about.  was the people development and that he. really believed that the school’s one of.  the reasons why he really inspired. people to build the schools is he felt.  that that’s the place where we’re going. to build the Golden Age he talks about.  it’s the place where leadership is going. to be developed and if we can help.  people develop the right kind of. character the right kind of fully.  developed personalities and and and. people then our world would be a better.  place and that’s what he saw as the. purpose of education and that he hoped.  that would happen and he believes that. if that was happening in Turkey he.  believed that in the future we may have. the challenges of the immediate moment.  but he believed in the end that the. schools and education will in fact lead.  to greater citizenship and greater. leadership and therefore better.  civilization better community and that’s. what we took away we left you know and.  it was one of those things where you. just want to just sit and just be there.  and stay there you didn’t really want to. leave but our time was up and and we.  thank him again cut quite humbling he. thanked us and for our commitment we.  went from there to school in New Jersey. a brand new school and university and.  was just created.  by one of his people who must have been. one of those disciples because we met  with the leader and the school was in. his first year and that’s cool in New.  Jersey is it was created as a theology. school and is to create two moms of the.  future and it was quite interesting they. were quite interested in our perspective.  on post-secondary education but Fethullah Gulen had inspired this person to create the.  school which was going to be able to. create an opportunity for the Imams for.  the united states and for the world to. be there in New Jersey what struck me as.  I was driving away was you know saying. that some people’s freedom fighters.  another person’s terrorists have heard. that phrase I just couldn’t imagine.  anybody seeing him as a terrorist.  how could this person who I saw so. homely this person who I saw you know so.  wise who had inspired people who want to. build a thousand or two thousand schools.  who art inspires you know the emergency. response to two people in the greatest.  deed this person be a terrorist.  how could anybody even imagine there. just seems so incongruous to me and you.  know the other part of it is how could. this person sitting in a little compound.  in rural Pennsylvania inspire people all. over the world and he does his message.  is one of hope this whole of love of. belief that we can make a difference and.  so that’s what I took away my meeting. with him and from our two trips thank  you very much.


You can watch the full speech here: Intercultural Dialogue Institute YouTube Channel