Fethullah Gulen Headquarters

Clarion Project
Article Source: Clarion Project

Article Source: Clarion Project

Gulen's movement is widely credited with paving the way for Turkey's Islamist AKP party to take power electorally in 2002.

Fethullah Gulen’s website describes him as an “authoritative mainstream Turkish Muslim scholar…who supports interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, democracy and spirituality and opposes violence and turning religion into a political ideology.”[1]

He is based out of the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center.

Gulen’s movement is called Hizmet and it began creating a parallel state inside Turkey in the 1970s through a network of schools, media outlets and businesses and recruitment of supporters in the security services and government.

His movement is widely credited with paving the way for the Islamist Justice and Development Party to take power electorally in 2002. Gulen and the Justice and Development Party had a falling out afterwards.

In 1999, Turkish television aired footage of a secret sermon given by Gulen where he told followers to secretly infiltrate the institutions of power. Gulen says the footage is doctored.

The tape showed him saying:[2]

“You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers … until the conditions are ripe, they must continue like this. If they do something prematurely, the world will crush our heads … The time is not yet right. You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it.”

“You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institutions in Turkey … Until that time, any step taken would be too early—like breaking an egg without waiting the full 40 days for it to hatch. It would be like killing the chick inside.”

“Now, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all in confidence … trusting your loyalty and secrecy. I know that when you leave here—[just] as you discard your empty juice boxes, you must discard the thoughts and the feelings I expressed here.”

Gulen fled to the U.S. in 1999 when the Turkish government planned to prosecute him for allegedly trying to undermine the secular nature of the state. The Islamist government of Turkey acquitted him of the charges in 2008.

Experts disagree about whether Gulen is an Islamist. An article republished on Gulen’s website says he is “vehemently opposed to the use and abuse of Islam as a political ideology and party philosophy while the latter [Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan] sees the religion as an instrument to channel votes and to consolidate his ranks among supporters.”[3]

It compares Erdogan to the Iranian regime and even blasts “Erdogan’s creeping Islamist agenda” and “top-down imposition of Islamist values.” Another article on his website discusses his “rejection of Islamism.”[4]

Another scholarly article says he “does not favor the state applying Islamic law, the Shari’a,” but still describes him as an “example of liberal Islamist thinking.”[5]

The feud is giving momentum to the anti-Islamist secularists. The opposition Republican People’s Party is blasting Erdogan for protecting “thieves.” It is an open question whether this signals an ideological shift or whether Turks simply want to swamp one Islamist with another.

Gulen lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania on a compound that is over 25 acres in size. He now has a network of 135 charter schools in the U.S. that receive public funding.

The FBI is reportedly investigating the charter school networks due to evidence of a possible kickback scheme to fund the Hizmet movement.[6]

The New York Times reported in 2011 that some schools had come under investigation for abusing special visa programs in order to hire foreign employees of the Gulen network. The newspaper also questioned whether the schools were using public money to pay Gulen-linked businesses and organizations.[7]

Multiple Gulen charter schools have been investigated, raided and/or have had their charters revoked.[8] To date, there is no proof that the schools have been involved in terrorism or Islamist indoctrination, but teachers are known to have been given literature about Gulen during trips to Turkey.

Former teachers have alleged that the schools discriminate against non-Turkish personnel, going so far as to terminate staff members so lesser-qualified Turkish replacements could be brought in.[9]

“We are troubled by the secretive nature of the Gulen movement,” an unnamed senior U.S. official said in 2012.[10]

“It is clear they want influence and power. We are concerned there is a hidden agenda to challenge secular Turkey and guide the country in a more Islamic direction,” he explained.

60 Minutes did a special on Gulen and reached the same conclusion:

“[Gulen] does lack transparency—its funding, hierarchy and ambitions remain hidden—leading our State Department to wonder in cables between Ankara and Washington if Gulen has an ‘insidious political agenda,’ ” reporter Leslie Stahl said.[11]

[1] “Introducing Fethullah Gulen,” FGulen.com, April 8, 2010. https://www.fgulen.com/en/introducing

[2] Sharon-Krespin, Rachel. “Fethullah Gulen’s Grand Ambitiom,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2009, p. 55-66. https://www.meforum.org/2045/fethullah-gulens-grand-ambition; citing Turkish channel ATV, June 18, 1999.

[3] Bozkurt, Abdullah. “Why Mr. Gulen Was Targeted,” Today’s Zaman, December 31, 2013. Republished on FGulen.com. https://fgulen.com/en/press/columns/37813-abdullah-bozkurt-todays-zaman-why-mr-gulen-was-targeted

[4] “Progressive Islamic Thought, Civil Society and the Gulen Movement in the National Context,” FGulen.com, November 12, 2005. https://fgulen.com/en/gulen-movement/conference-papers/the-fethullah-gulen-movement-i/25569-progressive-islamic-thought-civil-society-and-the-gulen-movement-in-the-national-context-parallels-with-indonesia

[5] Aras, Bulent and Omer Caha, “Fethullah Gulen and His Liberal Movement,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 4, No. 4, December 2000. Republished on FGulen.com. https://fgulen.com/en/press/review/24899-fethullah-gulen-and-his-liberal-movement?highlight=WyJ0dXJraWZ5IiwiaXNsXHUwMGUybSIsInR1cmtpZnkgaXNsYW0iXQ==

[6] Woodall, Martha and Claudio Gatti. “U.S. Charter-School Network with Turkish Link Draws Federal Attention,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 20, 2011. https://articles.philly.com/2011-03-20/news/29148147_1_gulen-schools-gulen-followers-charter-schools

[7] Saul, Stephanie. “Charter School Tied to Turkey Grows in Texas,” New York Times, June 6, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/education/07charter.html

[8] Mauro, Ryan. “U.S. Charter School of Influential, Turkish Islamist Raided by FBI,” Clarion Project, December 12, 2013. https://www.clarionproject.org/analysis/silence-surrounds-fbi-raid-gulen-school-louisiana

[9] Mauro, Ryan. “U.S. Charter School of Influential, Turkish Islamist Raided by FBI,” Clarion Project, December 12, 2013. https://www.clarionproject.org/analysis/silence-surrounds-fbi-raid-gulen-school-louisiana

[10] Bilefsky, Dan and Sebnem Arsu. “Turkey Feels Sway of Reclusive Cleric in the U.S.,” New York Times, April 24, 2012. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/world/middleeast/turkey-feels-sway-of-fethullah-gulen-a-reclusive-cleric.html?_r=0

[11] “U.S. Charter Schools Tied to Powerful Turkish Imam,” 60 Minutes, CBSNews.com, May 13, 2012. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-charter-schools-tied-to-powerful-turkish-imam/