Film on Turkish Muslim leader to be screened at SJU

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March 7, 2018

The award-winning documentary ”Love Is a Verb,” which examines the life and teaching of the renowned Turkish Muslim scholar and poet Fethullah Gülen and the social movement that he inspired, will be screened at 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 19, in room 264, Quadrangle Building, Saint John’s University.  

College of Saint Benedict junior Danica Simonet, an interfaith leader with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, will interview Tolga Misirli following the screening. Misirli is a volunteer in the Gülen Movement. 

The event, which is sponsored by the Phillips Center, is free and open to the public. 

Time Magazine named Gülen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, as one of the most influential leaders in the world in 2013. The movement that bears his name, and which is also known as Hizmet (the Turkish word for service), began in Turkey in the 1960s and now has millions of followers worldwide. 

Although Gülen’s followers and many others view him as an inspiring religious and ethical leader whose message is one of love, service, peace and interreligious cooperation, he and members of his movement are viewed by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as enemies of the state, responsible for the 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey.  

Since that coup attempt, thousands of Turkish citizens involved in the Gülen Movement have been imprisoned and thousands of others have been purged from governmental and educational positions. 

Gülen has denounced the coup attempt and has repudiated the charge that his movement played a role in it. 

”Love Is a Verb,” which is narrated by renowned actor and political activist Ashley Judd, was written and directed by Terry Spencer Hesser, who describes the film as a “story of Muslims who are working toward bringing the kind of change we would all like to see in this world.”  

Hesser said she gave the film its name “because the generosity of Gülen volunteers is an act, not a feeling or a word” and that “the concern that they have for others is a physical manifestation of love as a verb.” 

Misirli is executive director of both the Turkish-American Society of Minnesota and the Minnesota branch of the Niagara Foundation, whose mission is to promote social cohesion by fostering civic conversations and sustained relationships between people of different cultures and faiths. 

“Since coming to Minnesota several years ago, Dr. Misirli has spearheaded important interfaith initiatives,” said John Merkle, the Jay Phillips Center’s director. “His service is inspiring and he is a most valued partner in interfaith dialogue.” 

Following Simonet’s interview of Misirli, audience members also will have the opportunity to ask him questions. The program will end by 6 p.m.