Book Review

Petrulionis reviews B. Jill Carroll’s _A Dialogue of Civilizations_

B. Jill Carroll, A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gülen’s Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse Forward by Akbar S. Ahmed. Somerset, NJ: The Light, 2007. (114 pages) Paperback, ISBN 13: 978-1-59784-110-8.

Who Speaks for a Civilization?
A review by Joe Petrulionis

Theologian, B. Jill Carroll, a lecturer in Humanities and Religion at Rice University, presents a laudable idea. Dr. Carroll wants to set up a hypothetical dialog between civilizations. On one of her hands is the Muslim world; on her other the rest of humanity. Because of her respect for a very prolific Islamic cleric named Fethullah Gülen, Dr. Carroll would like to promote Gülen as the mouthpiece for Islamic civilization, and place him into topical “dialogues” with philosophers representing the rest of the world, specifically, Confucius, Plato, Kant, Mill, and Sartre. Another goal for A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gülen’s Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse is to place Fethullah Gülen “into a context of the larger humanities.”

Read the rest of the review

4 Thoughts on this Post

  1. I am with the publisher of this book. Several points of clarification:

    – In nowhere does the author claim that Fethullah Gulen represents “the Islamic civilization” or the spokesperson for the Islamic world. Her effort is to show that some resonance can be found across different cultures and civilizations on basic concepts of humanity like human dignity, freedom, human responsibility, human ideal, etc. Her take is Gulen and some major thinkers of the history. This book is nothing more than an example of cross-cultural dialogue, with claim of being the only one.

    – Mr. Petrulionis misses the fact that Gulen has never spoken against the legal/political regime in Turkey. It is the imaginary threat perceived by the secular elite in Turkey due to the impact of Gulen’s ideas and the movement shaped by his ideas. In any case, unsupported claims about Gulen that led to his eventual acquittal should not be presented as “facts.”

    – We really appreciate his desire to see the “connection” between publisher-subject-author. I don’t think this link is hidden. Anyone can learn about our mission and our specialty by looking at our website, the “about” section. We see it as a priority to make Gulen’s ideas accessible because they provide great amount of hope for a more peaceful world.

    – On the other hand, I am not comfortable with the reference to the “Gulen organization,” which implies that there is a central encompassing organization that controls Gulen-related activities. There are many organizations and institutions founded by the people in the Gulen movement all over the world. However, they differ in their scope of activity and they are independent of each other both financially and organizationally.

    – Lastly, one would expect a reviewer take a look at the substance of the book at stake and spend not too much time on the “background” issues. After all, US Intellectual History is supposed to provide a forum for ideas, not a place to explore and delve into publisher-author relationships that can be easily regarded as gossip-feeder.

  2. As a Muslim, I agree with Joe in that Gulen is not a spokesperson for Muslim world. Besides, his contribution to the Islamic thought cannot be exaggerated to the degree of comparison with those famous non-Muslim philosophers.

    Yet it is true that he is a Muslim activist who has created an enormous capacity in the world to shape the conception of Islam in the next decade. It will be interesting to see how it develops…

Comments are closed.