(Video Duration: 3 mins 13 secs)
Fethullah Gulen is one of the most important Muslim clerics alive today. Throughout his life, Gulen served as a model for interfaith dialogue and encouraged ideas to overcome ignorance, prejudice and misunderstanding. But, one hardly ever sees the world renowned scholar in public. Since 1999, he has been in a self-imposed exile in the Poconos. Major media networks and journalists have tried to interview him but were denied. It's a rare opportunity that Australian-born journalist Jamie Tarabay managed to secure.
Five years ago, Jamie embarked on a project on 'Muslims in America' and heard about Gulen's international movement.“The idea that he's been living here and never really introduced himself to Americans I thought was so strange. But I'm glad to have the opportunity to do it,” she said. Her persistence paid off. She is one of the first to have a face-to-face interview with the activist. “I was extremely happy to have finally gotten the interview. He was very generous. Very welcoming. I was served tea and he was telling me to drink it. I never for a second felt unwelcome there,” she said.
In response to a question about the role of women in Islam, Gulen told Jamie that Muslim women contributed to society. The wives of the Prophet Muhammad even taught men. "It's always very encouraging when you hear a leader who is so influential say things that are extremely moderate and encouraging of women. You don't hear spiritual leaders of movements say those sort of things,” she said.
Jamie discussed Turkey's political situation with Gulen. "Turkey needs to make use of certain dynamics to take on a more active role in the region. Good relationships and influence depend on love, respect and good will and collaborating around mutually agreeable goals,” Gulen said. She even had an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Gulen's simple lifestyle. “His living quarters are extremely modest. It's a little bed - not even a double bed. He's not married, he doesn't have a family but he has a lot of people around him because they love him.”
Gulen's lectures have inspired business and community leaders to open 135 schools in 26 states. “They're academically focused. They're not religious schools. It's really about building intellectuals, intelligent and business leaders for the future,” Jamie said. Up until now, Gulen remained a mystery to the public and only appeared on video webcasts. Jamie's interview has served as a bridge for Americans to become acquainted with the reclusive scholar.
Video and transcript retrieved from Ebru News