Declaration of the Diwan on Democracy and Participation
This document is the declaration of the Diwan meeting on Democracy and Participation, organized as a Zoom meeting on 3 September 2023, between 15:00 and 19:00 (EST), with 131 participants. This declaration does not pretend to be the last word on “Democracy and Participation”. However, it aims rather to raise awareness about “Democracy and Participation” and encourage action, negotiations, publications, and research.
It is recommended that in matters of “Democracy and Participation”, the Hizmet Movement Members model their behavior to accord with the following general principles:
- Fundamental principles of democracy: Participation, equality, accountability, tolerance, transparency, a multi-party system, controlled use of power, independent media, freedom to negotiate and economic initiative, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, the right to petition, free, fair, and periodically repeated elections, independent courts, the rule of law, public interest, and removing legislative power from arbitrariness are the cornerstones of democracy. The resulting conclusion from these principles is the necessity of showing respect to the people one lives with, and this respect must be applicable not only at the national level but also in a global context.
- Dialectical thinking: Dialectical thinking is precisely defined as the ability to see things from multiple perspectives. It involves examining and understanding complex issues or ideas by considering their contradictions, opposing viewpoints, and nuances. Dialectical thinking nourishes and sustains democracies, allowing them to thrive. It arises from the debates and discussions among different forms of democracies. In this sense, democracies can be seen as dialectical systems. One of the most distinctive characteristics of democracies is that no one’s desires are fully realized, but everyone’s wishes are fulfilled to some extent. This sets democracies apart from totalitarian modes of thinking.
- Democratic Movement: A system that is not libertarian with all its institutions and rules cannot be considered democratic. Even the sincerest efforts to democratize societies within a social structure that is not democratic within itself will be perceived by the general public as a camouflage for other hidden agendas.
- Transparency: As a civil society movement operating in the public and global domains, the participants of the Hizmet Movement should have no thoughts, aims, agendas, elements, or activities they cannot share with their members and the public. In this regard, Hizmet members who bear responsibility and are involved in decision-making and oversight processes are responsible for operating transparently, being accountable to both their participants and the global public they interact with. Furthermore, the Hizmet Movement should make all its structural elements, financial resources, and expenditures, as well as all its actions and activities and the relationship dynamics of its components at the national and international levels, available to the public without censorship.
- The anti-democratic treatment encountered: Individuals who have been subjected to oppression, injustice, and inequality or whose freedoms have been denied have a better understanding of the value of democracy, rights, and independence. The Hizmet Movement has been pushed to a position contrary to its values through anti-democratic processes, especially in the last decade. A wave of mass trials and lawlessness has created an atmosphere of isolation for individuals close to the Movement. Hundreds of thousands of people have been accused of being terrorists, and hundreds of thousands of Movement members have been forced into coercive migration. Interpreting the challenges as an opportunity for individual and collective awareness will make the Movement’s struggle for democracy more sincere and compelling.
- Representation of peace and security: The Hizmet Movement members are always aware they are part of a community representing peace and security. Even if those who come to power through elections violate the fundamental principles of universal law and commit oppression against individuals and members of the Movement, it is never acceptable for them to eliminate governments through anti-democratic means. The Hizmet Movement members are fully convinced that democracy cannot be achieved and preserved through unlawful and unjust practices such as coups, violence, terror, and suppression, and they declare their stance against actual or verbal anti-democratic actions, both in practice and in words, to the whole world in a democratic way.
- Limitation of power: One of the sine qua non of democracy is to limit not only political power but also all forms of control, including societal, bureaucratic, and civil. Adopting rules on how power will be sustained and transferred within specific procedures is crucial. To claim to be democratic, the Hizmet Movement must first implement these principles within its structure.
- The need for change: Social movements are born and grow based on certain goals. They are open to changes, compromises, guidance from social events, and similar influences throughout their journey to achieve their goals. The Hizmet Movement should equip its participants with universal democratic values in line with the changing demands of its members and evolving geographical and temporal contexts. Drawing on sources rooted in revelation and prophetic traditions and through democratic mechanisms such as consultation (meşveret), it should also reference humanity’s cultural and moral heritage. The Hizmet Movement should undergo a renovation involving all stakeholders and elements to renew its claim of being a pluralistic, democratic, freedom-loving, and global goodwill movement.
- Local democracy: The meanings of democracy, both in ideology and as a system, vary. Democracy should be understood through its structures and culture, and the question "What kind of democracy?" should be explored concerning different democratic models. Universal democratic principles can be applied in a national context rather than on a global scale. In doing so, approaches incompatible with democracy, such as authoritarian models, standardization, and marginalization, should be avoided.
- Consultation: A culture of consultation should be established to strengthen collective action by enhancing collective reasoning and creating a societal environment where tolerance is valued and ideas can be freely expressed. The embedding of a culture of consultation necessitates questioning the extent to which principles of participation, pluralism, representation, justice, and consultation are adhered to, both at the individual and societal levels.
- Obstacles to democracy: The uphill climb of democracy continues. The Hizmet Movement followers should be aware that even in democratic societies, problems such as human rights violations and trampling of values can exist. Assuming intentions, the belief of "I am an exception, I don’t have to follow the rules," bureaucratic system failures, abuses committed in the name of democracy, the suppression of minorities through anti-democratic means, restrictions on people’s beliefs and values, the transformation of increasing nationalism into racism, and a lack of understanding of the difference between equality and equity are all problems that hinder the formation of an ideal democracy in practice. These issues include cultural, political, military, or religious abuses.
- Reconciliatory education: Education is a platform where different ideas can come together, and dialectical reconciliation can occur. Education plays a critical role in promoting democratic values, increasing social participation, and raising the political awareness level of society.
- Democracy culture through education: The Hizmet Movement’s contribution to democratic culture is the Movement’s effort to present a model with its civilian nature, education-centered approach, the atmosphere of reconciliation and tranquility it brings, and its internal dynamics, such as a sense of responsibility. Education brings together different segments of society and creates a crucible of reconciliation.
- Democracy awareness: Individuals should be educated about democratic freedoms, rights, and responsibilities. It is important to move beyond being mere beneficiaries of the benefits democracy provides and become active participants in society. Especially for young people, awareness-raising camps, leadership training, and social responsibility projects should be organized in this regard.
- Representation in governance: The blending of different cultural, ethnic, and religious values in educational materials and curricula is an approach that supports social reconciliation. Ensuring representation of various segments of society in governance bodies, especially enabling women to take on democratic leadership roles, is critical in creating a healthy democracy. New-generation migrants’ participation in policy and governing positions would bring different perspectives and dynamism. For this purpose, steps such as forming clubs and school councils can be taken.
Spiritual Nourishment and Development Activities
- Spiritual democracy: Beyond ideologies, a connection should be established with the soul and spiritual roots. The importance of human rights in Islam should be emphasized, and a sustainable and non-theoretical understanding of democracy should be developed in light of the Quran and Sunnah with a non-partisan perspective. The quest for freedom that does not include Quranic principles carries the risk of personal enslavement. Efforts to help Hizmet members understand freedom with a focus on the hereafter are important.
- Spiritual nourishment: In recent years, Hizmet Members have exhibited a positive example of societal piety by avoiding the forbidden acts by the command of Surah Furqan, verse 63, in the face of the events that have occurred to them. This non-action, which could be one of the best examples of civil disobedience in world history, has effectively contributed to the culture of democracy.
- Democracy education: We need to compare our foundational sources, primarily the Quran and Sunnah, with other sources that strengthen a democratic and rights-oriented civil perspective. The Hizmet Movement Members make efforts in areas such as strengthening their reflexes towards democracy, being open to criticism and learning to listen to different opinions.
Dialogue (Peace and Harmony in Society)
- A common table: Sitting at a common table and cultivating a culture of listening to unfamiliar and opposing views without prejudice is a fundamental goal. Approaches that are providing conscientious and rational explanations for events while remaining free from taboos and patterns based on traditional norms, where everyone can express their views without the fear of being judged should be aimed.
- Transnationalism (Supranationalism): The overseas activities of the Hizmet Movement can be viewed as a transnational endeavor and a quest to provide a cultural model. Supranational movements can construct commercial and cultural processes through the international interconnections they bring.
- Secularism: Since democracy requires pluralism, democracy can only be achieved in secular systems. Secularism here does not mean French secularism, which prescribes restrictions on religious activities and institutions, but rather a secularism that guarantees freedom of thought and expression and does not impose religious restrictions through state procedures.
- Participation in democratic processes: Hizmet members should be encouraged to adapt to actively participate in multi-vocal democracies. Democracy should also be understood from our sources, but young people should be enabled to learn democratic codes through practical experience.
- Immigration experience: Ghettoization resulting from waves of migration negatively impacts democratic values. On the other hand, Hizmet members who have experienced immigration at various levels collaborate with modern democracies to overcome the migration crisis within the framework of democracy and human rights. Therefore, it is important to follow the issues of the host country, take an active role, and be individuals who can have a say in the civil sphere. While doing this, it should be remembered that it may only sometimes be possible to contribute to the established systems of the host countries and that there are also valuable practices to be learned from these systems.
Humanitarian Aid, Social Welfare
- Interaction with communities: The period of injustice has matured the members of the Hizmet in terms of empathy, solidarity, and peaceful coexistence with communities that have suffered injustice.
- Civil society organizations: Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): Governments and other decision-makers should constantly dialogue with various segments of society. NGOs encourage participation in democratic processes and act as a balancing force against government policies. The Hizmet Movement inspires the community with exemplary projects and seeks solutions to problems.
- Being part of the solution: Since its inception, the Hizmet Movement has provided concrete examples of living together peacefully and harmoniously. It will continue to make significant contributions to countries experiencing forced migration or voluntary migration and strive to be a solution to local problems. Aid organizations dedicated to this purpose should be established and supported.
Culture, Arts, Sports
- Cultural interaction projects: Cultural interaction projects can be developed to promote respect for different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups and to protect the rights of these groups.
- Steps in publishing: Independent media must be able to operate freely to contribute to the oversight of governments and other centers of power. Media outlets established for this purpose should align with democratic principles and reach a broad audience.
- Civil movement charter: Organizations that claim a presence in the public sphere always have a charter that declares their core principles to the public. This charter is a social contract between the organization’s members, the audiences it addresses, and the general public. Any purpose, element, action, or decision that goes beyond or contradicts the scope of the agreed and publicly declared charter constitutes a violation of this social contract.
- Women in publications: Content should be produced on issues that particularly affect women and children, such as human rights violations and experiences of migration. Furthermore, when telling stories, a way of communication should be followed in which individuals tell their stories themselves. It is essential to give space and opportunity to women in this regard.
- “Post-truth” media: In the face of the dangers of misinformation and misleading media, education programs that enhance media literacy skills should be provided, and conscious and critical-thinking individuals should be raised in society.
- Call to the Diwan: Articles must be written, panels, and programs should be organized for deliberative democracy, and working groups should be established that encompass various age groups and cultures within society. Events like the Diwan, where experts are brought together, and Abant-style meetings are held, will increase the exchange of ideas and productivity, providing a platform for raising and advancing democratic standards