|Karen Fontenot, Ph.D.|
“This was one of the most informative and provocative and useful conferences on the issue I have been to up to date. I’ve been involved in the movement since 2005, and I’m fortunate to live with my coauthor, my husband Dr. Michael Fontenot, and we were asked to present a paper at that conference in 2005 at Rice University. After we were finished, I told Mike: ‘This was such an interesting topic, it’s a shame there is nothing more to write about.’ Well five years ago, we were just finding out we just hit the surface.
There is so much to write about the Hizmet Movement; and in part I think it’s because it’s such a dynamic movement. It’s a movement that is not static, it doesn’t stay still, and as the panelists discussed today, it is a movement that is composed of individuals.
I think that Dr. Ebaugh had a very good point, and I will follow up on that, when she said that members of the Hizmet Movement (which I consider myself one as Father Michel -I agree with him; I am not a Muslim and I am not a Turk, but I believe I am a member of the Hizmet Movement), she said all the members seem to share something in common, you cold recognize them. I think we have to tribute that to Fethullah Gulen, because he is the one saw need, who communicated the vision, who has done it so eloquently, and also who has provided a place for every single member. He is also the one who has allowed the individuals to feel appreciated in every single effort, no matter what you do. Father Michel points out often that the people who greet us at the airport are serving a very important function, the people who contribute money are serving a very important function, and the women who provide the food for iftar dinners are often times unseen and unrecognized, they are providing a very important Hizmet. Although it is a vertical communication, certainly there is no one person that is a leader; there is somebody who has the vision and who has been able to inspire and transform the movement, we need to say that.
To conclude, I’ll give a personal account: A few weeks ago, somebody that I work with on the [Gulen] schools, he looked me and said 'you’d make a very good Muslim wife', and I was immensely flattered; I came home and told my husband. But so flattered because I know these women, I worked with these women and they are among the most accomplished, intelligent, educated, hard-working women, I admire them so much. I don’t know how they find those hours in a day and I asked one ‘you’re a professor, you’re writing, you take care of the family, how do you do it?’ and she said “Well, Fethullah Gulen is writing books and he doesn’t sleep very much, so why should I?” So I conclude on that note. Thank you very much.”
* Dr. Karen Fontenot is Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Southeastern Louisiana University and professor of communication. Before entering academia she worked as a newspaper reporter and magazine writer and editor. She received her Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Louisiana State University and her master’s degree in journalism from the Manship School of Journalism at LSU. Her areas of expertise are cross-cultural communication, organizational communication, and interpersonal communication. She has published widely in these areas, and is the author or co-author of more than sixty articles and conference papers. She is particularly interested in the impact and influence that culture and religion have on human behavior.