Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Gülen

Gülen interview

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Fethullah Gulen: Powerful but reclusive Turkish cleric
Tim Franks; BBC News; January 27th, 2014

Fethullah Gulen has been called Turkey’s second most powerful man. He is also a recluse, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US.

An apparent power struggle between his followers and those around the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has reached a new pitch of intensity and loathing.

Since arriving in the US in the late 1990s, Mr Gulen, 74, has not given a single broadcast interview. What rare communication there has been with the media has almost exclusively been conducted via email.

But now, the BBC has had exclusive access to the Muslim cleric. I travelled with Guney Yildiz from the BBC Turkish Service to a remote part of Pennsylvania to meet the man.

Written by M. James

January 28, 2014 at 12:12 am

Posted in News, Politics, Religion, Turkey

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The winds of change

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Two truly unique events have transpired over the past week in Turkish politics, which has been otherwise marked by arrests, investigations, dismissals, resignations, an assassination, and a call, from within the party, for Erdoğan to resign.

The first unique event is Gülen’s heretofore unprecedented diatribe. The second is the AKP’s outright implication of the U.S. in the events of the last week (e.g., from today).

The “facts” are now widely available in your favorite newspaper, so I won’t go into detail. Here’s a good executive summary.

And here’s a chart worth watching in the coming months.


Worst ratio since 1981.

Written by M. James

December 25, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

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Gülen declines invitation

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Gülen says prefers staying longer in US to avoid ‘harming positive things’
Today’s Zaman; Jun. 17th, 2012

Turkish and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said he prefers staying in the US longer to avoid damaging positive developments in Turkey in a first public response to Turkish prime minister’s invitation to Turkey.

Written by M. James

June 17, 2012 at 4:34 am

Hizmet: “Important Clarifications Concerning Current Debates”

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At the suggestion of a reader, here is a statement from the Gülenist “Journalists and Writers Foundation” (the folks who organize the Abant Platform) on “current debates in Turkey.” It is concise, and highlights what appears to be the matter of greatest contention about the Hizmet (Gülen) movement—is it really apolitical?

Their response:

Hizmet, as a civil society movement, operates with a strictly civic character. It is not an organor an affiliate of a government program, political party or agenda. Likewise, this civil movement is not an opponent of any political party.

But here is another critical point: As in any other social movement, some participants in the Hizmet movement may act contrary to the movement’s core value of civic volunteerism. However, these mistakes cannot be attributed to Hizmet.

Establishing this, the statement goes on to address more “concrete matters”:

  •   What are Hizmet’s expectationsof politicians and political parties?
  •   What is the nature of the relationship between Hizmet and the Justice and Development Party(AKP) government?
  •   Does Hizmet have “people” within the state?
  •   Is there a crisis between the movement and the AK Party?
  •   What is the response of Hizmet to its alleged manipulation of ongoing judicial and bureaucratic processes?
  •   What is Hizmet’s position regarding freedom of the press?

Read more.

Written by M. James

May 21, 2012 at 7:35 am

Posted in Politics, Religion, Turkey

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Who is Fethullah Gülen?

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Countless websites sing the praises of Fethullah Gülen. Some of them take out ads.

I have, of late, begun to realize the absurdity of authoring a blog on Turkish politics, religion, and culture without significant attention (save an ominous reference) to what I will call the “Gülen movement” (sometimes called the Hizmet [service] movement).

From what I understand, Gülenism—a questionably apolitical movement within the Sufi strand of Islam—is the paradigmatic expression of Anatolian Islam. Though it has a distinctly Turkish pedigree, with roots in the late Ottoman Nur (Light) movement of Said Nursî (1878–1960), it by no means limits itself geographically. The movement has become notable more recently for its support of non-religious as well as religious education through an international school system, and an overarching attitude of tolerance—especially toward other religions.

Gülen (en.fgulen.com)

Muhammad Fethullah Gülen, after whom the movement is named, is an adequately interesting character to lead what has become a globally significant phenomenon. Born in 1941 near Erzurum, Gülen seems to have been a largely self-taught scholar, knowledgeable in subjects ranging from Qur’anic exegesis to Western existentialism. After a long preaching career in Turkey, which was met with great success since the ’80s (when Islam was seen by the state as a tool to fight socialism), Gülen eventually fled to Pennsylvania, of all places, in 1999. The overt reason for his flight was a legitimate fear of arrest for challenging the “secular nature” of the state.

He currently resides somewhere in the Poconos (in a “compound,” as some call it), issuing statements through an enormous, sophisticated (and easily recognizable) network of media outlets. Here is how a recent NYT article describes Fethullah Gülen:

… a charismatic preacher who leads one of the most influential Islamic movements in the world, with millions of followers and schools in 140 countries. He has long advocated tolerance, peace and interfaith dialogue, drawing on the traditions of Sufism, a mystical strain of Islam generally viewed as being moderate.

But this is where the concerns spring up. With a network of media outlets, millions of dedicated followers, a vast associated system of private schools, and the simple fact that most people have never heard of the movement, the Gülenists—to those who have heard of them—face some well-deserved suspicion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

May 16, 2012 at 2:48 am

“A new era of repressive authoritarianism”

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The Changing Objects of Fear: The Arrest of İlker Başbuğ
Gareth H. Jenkins; Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Silk Road Studies Program; Jan. 9, 2012

In the early hours of January 6, 2012, General İlker Başbuğ, who served as chief of the Turkish General Staff from 2008 to 2010, was arrested and imprisoned on allegations of “founding or directing an armed terrorist organization” and “inciting the overthrow of the government of the Turkish Republic or the prevention of it fulfilling its duties.” …

… in today’s Turkey it is not the military but the Gülen Movement that people need to fear.

Written by M. James

January 14, 2012 at 12:47 am