Frequently Asked Questions about Atlantic Institute

Q: What is the Atlantic Institute (AI)?

A: Atlantic Institute is an independent, non-profit organization headquartered in Atlanta whose goal is to facilitate dialogue in the Southeastern United States. For a better community, we would like to develop public awareness for diverse cultures, beliefs, traditions, and opinions. We strongly believe in the spirit of the United States of America that celebrates diversity as richness.. With our  branches in Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina, we have been able to dedicate our efforts and resources for building cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue.

Q: Is Atlantic Institute an Islamic organization?

A: No, AI is open to people of all faiths and our staff shares a variety of different beliefs and values. AI is not a “faith-based” organization but a “faith-inspired” one. 

Q: What kinds of activities does Atlantic Institute conduct?

A: The Institute primarily focuses on three areas: academic activities, grassroots-level activities, and interfaith dialogue. Our academic activities consist of: leadership forums for college and university students, an annual Art & Essay contest for middle and high school students and academic trips. The Institute holds several events that bring local community leaders together; such as luncheons, lecture series and the Peace & Dialog Award Ceremony. The Institute also holds several interfaith events - like Exploring Faiths and the Table of Abraham - that bring people from all backgrounds together to participate in dialogue, education, and culture.

Q: Where does Atlantic Institute get its funding?

A: As a nonprofit organization, the Institute’s funding comes from the generous donations of individual donors. Specific programs also receive corporate sponsorship or grants from other various foundations and funding organizations. 

Q: How is the Atlantic Institute involved with the Gulen Movement?

A: Some of the founders and donors of the Institute are inspired by the values of Hizmet Movement (Turkish for ‘service’) also called Gulen Movement. The Institute is focused on bringing communities together in order to promote compassion, cooperation, partnership, and services. We are dedicated to encourage the study of the global communities’ spiritual traditions from the vantage point of respect, accuracy and appreciation. 

The Hizmet Movement

Q: What is the Hizmet Movement?

A: The Hizmet Movement is a values-driven social movement and philosophy that advances interfaith dialogue, education and community service as tools to build a better and more harmonious society. The movement was inspired by the philosophy and teachings of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish scholar, author, and advocate. Participants refer to the movement as the Hizmet because the ideology is about serving something bigger than one person or oneself. 

Q: Is the Hizmet Movement a political movement?

A: No, the movement does not have political ties or an agenda, and reflects diverse political views. 

Q: Is the Hizmet Movement a religious (Islamic) movement?

A: No. Although the movement originated in a Muslim community, it has grown into a broad movement that embraces diverse religious affiliations and is built on intercultural and interfaith dialogue. Indeed, the movement has been criticized by radical Islamists as “not Muslim enough.” For example, when the Taliban took control in Afghanistan, they closed down some schools that had been founded by people who were inspired by Gulen; fortunately, the new government has allowed them to reopen.

Q: Is the Hizmet Movement a Turkish movement?

A: No. Although the movement did begin in Turkey, it has become  truly international because it speaks to core values held by Americans and others around the world. 

Q: Who is Fethullah Gulen?

A: Mr. Fethullah Gulen is a Turkish teacher, advocate of peace and dialogue and author who is considered by many to be one of the world’s most influential religious thinkers. In 2008, Gulen ranked #1 in the poll of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines. Gulen had a personal audience with the late Pope John Paul II in 1996 in recognition of his contributions to interfaith understanding. He has been praised by the former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, for his contribution to mutual understanding and has received many awards for his advocacy and dialogue projects.

Q: Is Fethullah Gulen an Islamist?

A: Gulen is often misunderstood and mischaracterized because he doesn’t fit neatly into the common stereotypes. Some facts that illustrate his perspective:

  • He has consistently opposed violence and turning religion into a political ideology.
  • He has publicly called Osama Bin Laden a “monster”.
  • He has condemned all suicide bombings unconditionally along with Saddam Hussein’s missile attacks on Israel during the first Gulf War.
  • He criticized the 2010 Gaza Flotilla organizers’ failure to seek accord with Israel before attempting to deliver aid.
  • He has actively advanced the empowerment of ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey, including the anticipated reopening of the Halki Greek Orthodox seminary on Istanbul’s Heybeliada Island and the Turkish government’s return of property to religious minorities.
  • He supported allowing Kurdish citizens of Turkey to be educated in their native tongue (which was at one point in Turkish history, illegal). 
  • He has publicly promoted democracy as the best form of governance and supported Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.