Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fethullah Gulen on a Global Scale

(Video Duration: 5 mins 33 secs.)

Fethullah Gulen's legal journey: James C. Harrington (*), director of the Texas Civil Rights Project and a law professor at the University of Texas, wrote a book titled “Wrestling with Free Speech, Religious Freedom, and Democracy in Turkey: The Political Trials and Times of Fethullah Gülen” on the trial of renowned Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in Turkey, which ended with his acquittal being upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2008.

This book, based on research and three weeks of personal interviews in Turkey and interviews in the United States, explores the political trial of Fethullah Gülen, a moderate Turkish religious leader, and how that trial, which began in 2000 in an Ankara state security court (now disbanded) and ended in 2008 in a civil appeals court in his favor, helped to greatly expand civil liberties and democracy in Turkey.

It likewise examines the trial's interplay with the evolving process of Turkey's efforts to enter the European Union and how the EU's insistence on expanding civil liberties in Turkey and reforming that country's judicial system affected the outcome of the trial, and vice versa.

This little-discussed and little-known part of the Gülen movement outside of Turkey had a great impact on that country's understanding of how civil liberty and religious freedom can co-exist with secularism and strengthen democracy in Turkey.

The book also has a coda, discussing the unsuccessful efforts to block Fethullah Gülen's application for immigrant status in the United States as a religious scholar, which occurred during the same period of time as his on-going political criminal trial in Turkey.

* James C. Harrington is the director of the Texas Civil Rights Project and a professor of law at the University of Texas. Born in Lansing, Michigan, Harrington received his law degree in 1973 from the University of Detroit, where he had also earned a Master’s degree in philosophy in 1969. Upon graduation from law school, Harrington worked for 10 years as the director of the South Texas Project in the Rio Grande Valley near McAllen. Much of his legal work there involved asserting the rights of farm laborers and poor people in the valley, especially in its colonias. He handled major cases involving police brutality, discrimination and the United Farm Workers. Harrington moved to Austin in 1983 to become legal director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc., a position he held for seven years. During this time, he handled ground-breaking cases involving free speech, privacy and equal rights for farm workers. He also helped organize the East Austin Pro Bono Clinic, which continues to operate to this day.

In 1990, Harrington founded the Texas Civil Rights Project, a statewide, community-based, non-profit civil rights foundation that promotes social, racial and economic justice and civil liberty, through the legal system and public education, for low-income individuals. The project has offices in Austin and San Juan, Texas. Harrington has handled numerous landmark cases involving grand jury discrimination, police misconduct, privacy, voting rights, free speech and assembly, and the rights of persons with disabilities.

Since 1994, under Harrington’s guidance, the Texas Civil Rights Project has published human rights reports on such issues as pervasive racial and ethnic discrimination by Anderson County law enforcement, hate crimes in Texas, accessibility of courthouses and courtrooms in Texas for people with disabilities, peer sexual harassment in Texas schools and the employment practices of the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals.

Harrington has served on human rights delegations to Honduras and Nicaragua (1984), Chile (1987), Israel and Palestinian territories (1988), Guatemala (1992 and 1998) and Mexico (Chiapas, 1999). He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Texas’ Law School and teaches undergraduate writing courses on civil liberties and famous American trials. He has also taught at St. Mary’s University’s School of Law.